pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
My boyfriend had to leave his last apartment before he could line something else up, is crashing with me while he finds a new place. We took pains to distinguish this from romantic living together: I moved my computer into the living room and turned the computer room back into a bedroom, where he sleeps, and he uses the guest bathroom. He sleeps in my bed and uses my bathroom only on "date nights", as if he lived somewhere else but was spending the night. It's a little awkward to describe, but it works.

When I told friends he was staying with me, even after I explained that it was not Living Together, they looked skeptical and often pained. They would ask "how is that going?" in the same tone you might ask about someone's bitchy mother in law moving in. Not wanting make it worse through the power of negative expectations, but wanting to make it clear I didn't have to pretend everything was okay. I understood this from the ex-boyfriend who lived with me for 2 years, but from everyone else it annoyed me. Why were they assuming it would be so horribly taxing for me? I'm not that anti-social, and we had Taken Pains. I cheerfully told them that it was working out great; not an ideal situation, but I'd miss him when he was gone, although that would probably not be true forever and I wanted him to move out while it still was.

The limit of that feeling turns out to be about two weeks. Starting week three I entered a miniature version of the introvert death spiral, where I both crave time around him/feel bad when he's not there, but also crave alone time and stop being fully present with him. The good news is I recognized it fairly early and we're discussing solutions.* His exact words were "we will get you what you need."

The thing is, I don't know what I need. I feel like I want more time with him, but that seems to be making me unhappy. I feel miserable about the idea of kicking him out for a day when he wants to spend time with me and I want to spend time with him. And yet, I've tried listening to that set of instincts and they are not taking me where I want to go. The only logical response is to reduce contact even while I feel like I'm missing something, and see if it makes me happier. But it would be a lot easier if my intuition was working.

*Before he decided to take me up on my offer of temporary shelter, he worried that moving in might make me resent him. One of my smarter moves was promising to talk to him before it came to that, rather than that that could never possibly happen. Being a grown up is amazing.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm on a recruiting trip for work and have noticed something interesting. To my surprise, the hours of talking with undergrads have not been draining. They've either been outright energizing, or left me with the kind of good tired you get after a good workout. For three hours, I only thought about what I was doing, and that was wonderful. On the other hand, dinner with my co-workers left me wanting to cut my wrists with a spork.

I think I've been misusing the word "drained." Three hours of pitching to sophomores left me drained, but I was really happy I'd done it. I needed to rest afterwords, but I enjoyed the hell out of that rest, like a really good netflix session after weight training. There was no amount of energy that would have made interaction with my co-workers fun. It might have made me less miserable under other circumstances, but honestly, no. They were boring and I wanted to go discuss medieval economics with my boyfriend or creedal vs. non-creedal religions with my friend. Afterwords I needed to recover, not rest. This was like a netflix session while seriously ill- it beats going outside, but I'm still miserable. "Get sick and watch TV" does not sound like an excellent day the way "bike 20 miles and then watch TV" does." Let's call this icky feeling leeched.

Now that I know what good drained feels like, I can see all the interactions I thought were draining but were actually leeching. I thought I could solve those problems by resting more, but I can't. It is time to look at other options. And not just dodging unpleasant things either. No more running, I aim to misbehave.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
In computer networking, there's the concept of a "handshake protocol." You don't just start sending data willy nilly, you send a specific initiation packet and wait for one in return, to establish everyone is prepared to receive and send data. I just realized I wear headphones not to discourage conversation entirely, but to force people to use a handshake procedure. They can't just start talking at me, they have to signal me and wait for me to engage, giving me a few precious seconds to switch gears. It also provides an easy signal for "good, this conversation is over."

At least that's the theory. In practice, people seem to start talking to me even though they can clearly see the headphones, and I enter the conversation one step behind, feeling guilty for "ignoring" them, and resentful for being made to feel guilty. I feel rude putting the plugs back in right away, but not doing so can signal I want to keep talking.

I had a couple of bad run ins with store owners this week. I want to go into their stores and look at things. Getting asked about what I want and shown stuff while they watch feels like pressure. Sometimes to buy it, but sometimes just to have an opinion when I don't.

Now I'm going to depart from abstract pattern and bitch about one person for a minute. My college town has a single comic book store, and the owner is an asshole. He had a real sense of entitlement to our money, and was generally oppositional.

I stopped into the store today, he started talking while I had headphones in. I took one out and said "I'm sorry" in my politest "I genuinely plan on listening" tone. He muttered something about not wanting me to have the headphones in at all something something feeling invisible. Not sure if he was referring to feeling invisible himself or calling out my attempt to be invisible, but my reaction to that was "okay, I'll leave." Which I have mixed feelings about, but there may not be a way to have left that situation feeling perfect.

It was bad enough when the lady at the hand crafted local artisan put a bird on it jewelry store kept trying to engage me, but at least she was pleasant, and she was in a store where a lot of the customers do want to talk. This is a bloody comic book store, and you're bad with people. Me physically walking in to buy something without wasting your time is a bloody gift, because I could have done that cheaper and faster on the internet.

I'm genuinely confused as to how this store is surviving in the age of the internet. The owner makes Bernard Black look like.. I dunno, I don't watch much TV with helpful shopkeeps. There's no such thing as the only game in town now that the internet exists, and most of the town is too young to have any nostalgia for ye olde comic book shoppe. OTOH, the constant influx of new customers may be what shields him- the employees are great people I actually enjoy talking to, and he's not there all the time. Maybe he just hates women
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
You'll notice a rather cryptic "Yet" at the end of my last post. At one point the idea of grabbing extrovert privilege for myself would have been anathema. But over the last few weeks there have been several times I felt the feeling I describe as "introverted out", yet really wanted to see specific people. I had to hold myself back because I knew if I went out I would disengage and everyone would be miserable, but that that was an intellectual understanding, not a gut level call for hibernation.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I was not sick of people, I was in sensory overload, and people happen to be highly stimulatory. This would explain why I keep telling people I'm going to relax by playing video games and then spend four hours doing a puzzle, and why I kept "wasting" my bus commute just listening to music instead of efficiently watching TV, or at least listening to a podcast. It explains why my misophonia has been worse lately, to the point I'm wearing earplugs to meetings and I don't even care if my co-workers think I'm weird. It explains why I'm intensely picky about touch some times but not others.

These explanations aren't exactly antithetical- there's a lot of evidence that introverts find life in general and social interaction in particular more stimulating than extroverts (which is why extroverts are more likely to have adrenaline-junkie hobbies, and introverts solo hobbies trend towards the quiet). And I've undoubtedly had genuine needs to introvert in the past. But trying to recharge these last few weeks felt like trying to force in a peg that wasn't quite fitting, and now it feels smooth. I feel more true to myself, and more hopeful about finding ways to make myself happy.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)

Finally, people are talking about introversion and extroversion and how they interact with the rest of the world, rather than keeping them in their own isolated bubble. Privilege exists. Introversion and extroversion exist. Except for extrovert privilege*, your orientation does not affect the amount of your privilege, but it does affect its expression. And it's vastly easier to notice that in opposite-orientation people than in yourself or people like you.

*which is the worst privilege because it's the best one I don't have. Yet.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
In American culture, it's rude not to give someone 100% of your attention. I think this is the root of a lot of the problem. Extroverts people who have bought into the American value system, who can be of any persuasion because culture is like that, think they are simply asking for an acknowledgement when they say hi, and I agree with them that a lack of any acknowledgement would be rude. But I feel like what they are actually asking for is for me to drop everything I am thinking about and give them 100% of my attention until they choose to return it, and that is horrendously unfair. It's like walking into a factory where people are working and demanding they scrap everything they are doing (including widgets that are 95% done), pushing one whosit through the production line (necessitating leaving workers idle or throwing away unfinished whosits at the end), and then letting them go back to the original widgets. And being mad at them for being inefficient, although that's probably internal pressure in my case.

If people would agree that a distracted nod was sufficient to fulfill my social obligations when they held the door for me, I would not resent when they did so.

It's an issue even with people I like though. I have a good friend with whom I have many fascinating discussions. I tend to clean my house while we're talking. She herself is notorious for having a variety of fidgets in her house. I've taken to doing puzzles while talking with my boyfriend sometimes. It looks like multitasking, and I do feel somewhat less responsive. But what I'm actually doing is taking the energy they're giving me and turning it into something else immediately, so I have more room and can keep talking to them. Going back to the assembly line metaphor, I'm keeping a full pipeline going so I don't get a pile up at their station.

This makes me wonder if context-switching is less expensive for extroverts than introverts. Maybe they can hold things in their head better, maybe they find it less costly to wind up and spin down. Maybe they are more like craftsmen than assembly line workers, so trashing all in-progress work is less costly.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I am tired of hearing "alone time" and "social time" referred to as distinct, fungible buckets. There are lots of different kinds of alone time and people time and they cost and give different things. A teacher friend has described teaching as rather lonely because even though you're surrounded by people all day, they're children, and the energy flow is almost unidirectional. I don't play MMOs because they invoke the worst parts of dealing with people- having to negotiate with them to get a thing I want- without making me feel connected.

There are kinds of social activity that I need other social activity to recover from. Most noticeably when I'm around my parents for significant lengths of time, I start reaching out electronically. My first choice is chatting with good friends, followed by posting to facebook and livejournal, but when desperate I'll resort just to reading blogs and commenting on them. If you think of all social interactions as energy exchanges: I can't participate in the kind of exchanges that make me feel like me with my parents. It's not even a matter of hiding who I am, it's that they are incapable of seeing it and therefore can't react proportionally. Participating in exchanges with my friends makes me feel more whole.

Incidentally, I'll do the same thing when pushed into the introvert wall and forced to socialize (such as at work). Work is not such a violation of my sense of self as talking with my parents, but I am more actively suppressing certain aspects. As is appropriate for a professional situation and is totally fine as long as I have the cope, but when I'm depleted than g-d damnit, someone is going to hear the funny innuendo about what my boss just said.

Alone time that I've planned or deliberately turned down an invitation for is scored differently than incidental alone time. It feels worse, because everyone is hanging out without me/I'm a loser for wanting to stay in/I'm missing an opportunity I may never get again/I genuinely wanted to do that fun thing. But if I'm able to fight through that, it's also more restorative. There's is more flow when there is an event I have separated from than when I am merely adrift.

So if you assume everyone has some equilibrium they wish to maintain, and no one can balance those perfectly immediate, extroverts whose ballast or rebalancer tends to fall under the broad category of "social time", and introverts are those whose ballast or rebalancer falls under "alone time".
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm dissatisfied with the current discourse around introversion. I'm glad we're noticing that the rules for expressing love and respect in America were written by extroverts, and that introverts have a set of internal mechanics such that following these rules exacts a huge toll. I'm glad that the internet has given introverts a way to feel belonging and solidarity without exhausting them, and if the forums tend to get taken over by the problems of the socially anxious and misanthropic... oh well, they need belonging too.

But I think it's time we moved on to some more interesting questions. For example, it is great that we have explained to our extroverted family members that we don't hate them, that we need alone time after family gatherings even if we had really excellent times. But that doesn't change the fact that many people live far away from their family, that plane tickets and hotel rooms and time off of work are expensive. Reality being what it is, introverts need to spend a lot more money and travel time per unit interaction with their family. Assuming a respectful if imperfect family, how do you get the most out of your relationships with them at minimal cost? How do you steel yourself to stay home alone when everyone else is having fun together, and you want to join them but need time alone? How do you recharge "efficiently"? How do you know when the desire to do so driven is by an extroverted culture that allows us alone time only in service of together time, versus really wanting to do specific social things and not being able to? How do you separate culture pressure that says you're a loser for staying in from a genuine desire to go out? Do other introverts genuinely feel like they have a battery, with a clear indicator of remaining charge and shut down upon depletion, or are they like me, where they can overshoot and not notice for, worst case scenario, weeks?

I would also like to see more pieces like this video from zefrank, explaining how his extroversion feels to him

or Howard Stern on his introversion (long, but the relevant part is right at the beginning)

because I want to get past this idea of a linear spectrum of introversion and extroversion and into a framework of accepting individual needs and wants with neither judgement nor obligation.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I was really baffled as to how Robert Patterson (Edward from Twilight) became a sex symbol. His candid shots look like a man who spent the last 36 hours in bed drinking beer and playing xbox. Not playstation, not wii, definitely xbox. As Edward, I felt they overdid his death-palor make-up. Even when he cleans up for premiers he looks like he just walked into a wall. I will admit that his willingness to bite the hand that feeds him is refreshing, but not funny enough to make him a sex symbol. Most of the time I hear Twilight news coverage I just feel introvert sympathy for Kristin Stewart.

And then my friend sent me video of him.

Somehow, in the four years this whole Twilight thing had been happening, I'd never heard his voice, much less seen an interview. From the first syllable, he just has presence. And once he gets several syllables in a row, he's funny. He is hilariously self-effacing yet supremely self-confident, without seeming disingenuous. I feel strongly that I should breed with him to secure good genes for my offspring.

I usually find extroverts stressful, because they are always wanting attention and expecting answers before I have all the information, and while I know they're not consciously trying to steal from me, the net effect is that I lose energy and they gain it. But sometimes people become so extroverted (or secure, or attention whorey) that I find them both comforting and fascinating. Comforting because their need to be the center of attention takes the pressure off of me. Fascinating because they're doing things that would take me tremendous build up recovery time, and it's not only effortless, it's giving them energy back. It's like watching an alien eat rocks.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
EA defends always on DRM ruining SimCity by claiming playing alone is pathetic and soulless. With bonus classic extrovert mistake "you can only have variety if you involve other people."

In other news, did you know that survival horror games are absolutely brilliant for recovering introvert points?


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May 2014

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