Monday, September 20, 2010

Living on an Island

Today, I was having a conversation with someone where I expressed my aversion to interactions with humans who I don't know and the person said to me, "You need to go live on an island somewhere."  It seemed to me, even in that moment that they were thinking that I didn't like/want ANY human interaction. That's not entirely the case - I just don't want to interact with people I don't know in an artificial and uncontrolled manner - such as cashiers who want to talk to me all day or people in line who want to tell me their life story.  I have a magnet that draws people to me who are not necessarily the folks I want to have in my inner circle, if you know what I mean.

I thought about it for a while, though, and I do think that a month off in some deserted location with very little to do and very few people to come into contact with could definitely do me some good. I am in introvert with extroverted tendencies. What this means is that I can be around people and I can manage and maintain, but it really takes all the energy I have to keep it up for long periods of time. To quote my six-year-old self, "It's hard to be good all day." Smiling and nodding and trying to see everyone's point of view all the time is exhausting - it always has been for me. I don't feel that I'm being disingenuous, I am actually pretty good in people-oriented situations, but again, it takes a lot of energy.

When I was a freelance interpreter, lots of crazy things happened that I could make into some funny story, so often, the way that I coped was to tell a funny story. It breaks the tension, it allows me to breathe for a minute - stories come as naturally as breathing to me. Now, I work in an office with all the same people. They are busy doing what they do and I am busy doing what I do. The work is confidential on all sides and it seems to have removed that mechanism for me.

Another thing about stories - often, stories mock the storyteller. When I was younger, I was okay with the kind of self-depreciation that comes with really funny, edgy storytelling. After awhile, I started to shy away from giving that power to people. If you tell them a story about yourself and expose a weakness or a sensitivity, it often comes back to haunt you. Also, I realized that I wasn't always being painted in a good light - whether I deserved that or not. Sometimes because I did a not-so-smart thing or made a decision at 25 years old that I certainly wouldn't make now. The stories are still funny and they are a part of who I am, but I am more cautious about who I share them with.

The other thing that stops me from telling stories is that I don't necessarily have shared history with some of the people I am around regularly. Shared history provides so much context. Telling a story without shared history or at least shared experiences or parallel experiences is like having to explain why a joke is funny to a different culture. It doesn't work. Sometimes it might, but it would take so long to give the back story that it hardly seems worth it.

Anyway, I would love to go to an island for a month and read and listen to music and do art and maybe just sit and stare out at the water and listen to the waves. I could definitely handle that.

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