People Are Terrifying (An Apology)

I have done this. And I’m sorry.

“There’s just too many people here,” I whispered to my mom at the beach earlier today.

“I know,” her nose crinkled like mine does, “but it’s nice to share.”

“…Maybe I just don’t like people.”

I promise, I’m familiar with the term “introvert.” I’ve written about being an introvert for Teach For America, and why I think introvert students need to be cared for. I’ve identified myself pretty strongly as an INFP (I even have a hat) for a few years now. Susan Cain’s Quiet (and its TedTalk) meant quite a lot to me.

So, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying my own needs. I’m glossing over a bit because, frankly, I’m worried that my friends and loved ones are tired of hearing me talk about it because I talk/think about it so much. I even feel like “revealing that you’re an introvert” is a cool thing to do now, something that people post memes about on tumblr and say, “omg this is so totally me!”

And maybe it is, and that’s good. I don’t want to be jaded here. I’m glad more people are thinking about what they need and how to advocate for it. That’s clearly a good thing.

It’s good for me to even check myself, since we’ve come to the crux of my matter: I don’t come across as an introvert. When I first wrote about it, I had quite a few people tell me they couldn’t believe it. That’s fair. I teach for a living now, so I’m around people for about 85% of my day (which, I’ll admit, is tiring. More on that later though).

Here’s the thing: I love people. I enjoy, generally, being in front of people, and I try to be a good conversationalist. When I’m in the right mood, I love hearing stories and learning more about people. I am always so grateful when people let me into their lives.

Still, something about new people, when I’m not in the right mood (and honestly, it’s like a 50% chance I’m not), is completely and utterly terrifying. And exhausting. What if they don’t like me? Or I don’t like them and it’s obvious on my stupid, Muppety, heart-on-my-sleeve face? What if they keep asking me questions? Or I don’t know what to say? Or I say something dumb? I’m just tired, and I already deal with people a lot. Can’t I stay home and quietly watch something? Or read? Or even tweet, which is the most introverted way of being extraverted ever?

50% of the time, that’s honestly what it is. Terror. Anxiety. Now, being in a job that requires me to be around people, the stakes feel higher, even if it’s different. I mean, my students have to be around me, so I care a little less if they like me (though obviously I care). Since so much of my time, though, is spent worrying whether or not I’m acting the right way, my me-time only feels more precious.

Looking back, though, on people I’ve met, on friendships I could have formed, on the people on the cusp of friendship I have now– I know what often stands in the way is my own mini-anxiety-attack about people. I have missed out on or straight up avoided seeing people or picking up phone calls because I am worried that I won’t be able to handle the emotional toll of that interaction. It is, often, easier to stay home quietly and avoid the 50% chance that I screw everything up. The only pass is my guy, who (like my students) I hope loves me even when I am a terrible human. Even then, sometimes we have nights that are separate or silent, because we both need it.

He sees me all the time though. What about the people that I’ve given every reason to give up on me because it always looks like I don’t care? I promise I care. I promise I’m grateful, and that I probably think you’re great. I just have no way of telling you that because every time I think about randomly letting you know my throat seizes and my pupils widen in panic.

I wrote in my last post about trying to find balance, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out as I type. What’s the balance between accepting your introversion and not completely cutting yourself off? At what point is claiming “introversion” just a shield for “anxiety about meeting people”? And how do I figure that out?

Anyway, I promise myself in 2015 (resolution post to come!), I am going to try and be better about this. I am going to try and find that balance, to move past my own anxiety and love big and crazy.

And to anyone that might have felt blown off by me, I’m really sorry. I promise it wasn’t you. It was 50% of me.

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