I have a confession to make: while I absolutely love humanity, I really don’t like people very much.
That probably makes me sound like a bitch. The truth is that I find people really exhausting most of the time. They expect so much from you. They expect a smile and small talk. I don’t always feel like smiling and small talk makes me want to gouge my eyes out. It’s not people, really, I guess. It’s the social expectations that go along with being in a group of people.
That said, I’ll take a lazy day with my people any day. Give me quiet on a sunny day with one or two of my best friends and we’ll dissect the world together. Or make inappropriate jokes all day long. It could go either way and that’s just fine by me.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t really allow you to walk around in a bubble of only the people you choose. Well, I guess you can if you’re a hermit or you invest in one of those bubble soccer get-ups (Seriously, have you seen those? They are amaze-balls and I totally need to play that game. Anyway….). For the rest of us, you can’t cocoon yourself away from the world and still function.
I’m facing a few weeks of having to be “on” a lot. Like, a lot a lot. My youngest just started kindergarten, my oldest is in third grade and a social butterfly, and this is the week of back to school activities. Or as I like to call it, Introvert Parent Hell. There’s the Kindergarten meet and greet where they have fun activities for the kids and the parents get to schmooze (read: small talk). There’s back to school night where you walk around a crowded school and cram into children’s desks with thirty other parents to listen to the teacher talk and schmooze some more. And then the week is capped off with the back to school picnic. More schmoozing.
It’s not so much that I don’t want to be involved in my children’s school life. I do. I just wish I could do so from my house without all of that schmoozing. There’s no way to be in a big group of people without having to small talk your way around. Unless, of course, you sit in a corner and just stare at people. Believe me when I say this: it is tempting.
Being “on” for me means smiling and faking small talk with a bunch of random strangers. The truth is, I enjoy learning about people’s lives and talking to them about meaningful subjects. I love exploring what makes people tick. But how often do you get past the weather and how picky an eater your child is when you’re in a group of four or more people? Rarely, if ever.
There’s nothing I can really do to change this. Interactions with strangers will always be superficial at best. Even if I run into a like-minded individual, it’s rare that we get past the pleasantries. See, most people like me are also hesitant to push too much because so many people find our probing questions intrusive and weird. It takes time to get to the level where we’re comfortable and large groups don’t provide that kind of time.
So I’ll be spending the week outside of my comfort zone. That can go one of two ways for me. If I’m smart, I’ll take time for myself to decompress before and after each event. And I won’t get so overwhelmed that the week’s events pile on top of me like a herd of angry elephants. If I’m not smart, well … angry elephants are assholes.
I’m already thinking of ways that I can decompress somehow. Time with a friend in the middle of week, maybe. Or coffee and writing by myself one morning. Just something to balance out all of those people with all of their demands. I’ll get through it. Won’t be the first or last time, I can assure of that. What are your strategies for getting through rough patches? Do you have coping methods that work for you? I’d love to hear what you do to get through.