Introvert, Interrupted

– Alexia Larcher

Often, in interviews, I tell my future bosses that I have spent most of my life honing my focus and, in doing so, my ability to flit from project to project is dulled. I can’t handle having a million ideas on the go and stay healthy at the same time. Many bosses don’t believe me until they see it, until they see me struggle grimly and quietly under the weight of too many emergencies. I don’t say anything because it’s not in my nature; asking for help on my workload is something that I have recently learned for my own sanity and even then, it’s not my first impulse. If I carry too many counter-balancing ideas in memory for too long, I will topple and break down.

It’s the nature of my work as well. Most of my days are spent thinking or trying to think and interruptions slow me down, which frustrates some. One colleague only talks to me to place large and further disruptions on my entire week’s routine. I spend a lot of energy trying to diplomatically negotiate his interruptions.

“I cannot do X *right now* because I’m doing Y, Z, A, and B for our boss and your X will take up the next few days. However, I can start doing X at *time*.” He frowns. He’s never done my job but believes, for some reason, that he knows my entire schedule. You’ll always meet people like this in life. He comes back days later, having ignored what I told him today. I hold my ground. He’s not trying to pull rank on me, he genuinely chooses not to understand. Every time he interrupts me, it slows me down. It keeps his work from getting done. He chooses to get annoyed at me instead of trying to understand. We can’t help our neural pathways. I have the same problem with strangers.

When I meet strangers, I’m always in the middle of some thought that regularly leads to bizarre What-Ifs like this one or this one. It’s my default mode. I’m well aware that sharing such thoughts off-cue makes for a disconcerting (or negative) impression. For instance, just before I wrote this part of the post, I was thinking about reading a few more pages of a book I’ve borrowed, on the future of wild fish reproduction, and generally pondering whether we could “re-wild” certain areas of the globe for that specific purpose. Now that’s not too strange of a thought for me. Neither is what I thinking about a few hours before that: the general decline in the quality of affordable women’s shoes and how it reflects the ever-growing greed of speculators, of which most of us are unwittingly part of, public pensions et al. And then I wonder whether public pensions could live beyond an era of continuous capitalist growth, followed by wondering how we could possibly sustain modern comforts in a post-consumerist, post-capitalist, non-communist society and what that society would look like if it weren’t The Culture. That’s where it starts getting weird.

The internet has worsened this introvert trait because of the ease with which we can get fast answers to easy questions. When I was younger, I regularly spent most classes daydreaming because I understood the material fast enough to complete my homework in class. Now I spend several hours at my job flipping between 4 or 5 entirely different computer programs with entirely different internal mechanics, adding information to databases and possibly worsening the info glut. It’s the modern datastream workflow combined with as-flat-as-possible hierarchies. After work, I indulge in link-jumping free from the tracking gaze (and potential judgement) of the IT department. Another colleague once asked me the origin of Newfoundland dogs and next thing you know, I’m reading the history of cross-breeding large dogs in the Americas.

This vast, internal, self-sufficient landscape is also a con for introverts in respect to our relationships. We are sometimes so wrapped up with our thread of thought that we give the impression we don’t care about others. Unfortunately, as a rule of thumb, people care less about you if you seem to care little about them when you first meet. (And if you appear laid-back, they start thinking they might be able to take advantage of you.) The pool of people I end up leaving an impression on is much smaller than I’d like because of my relaxed silence. I’m definitely a Canada.


3 thoughts on “Introvert, Interrupted

  1. Aging Introvert

    This post describes in detail what I have been trying to articulate for years. Just one news story for me can lead to hours of speculation on 10 other topics that I think are related to three main world problems, that can be fixed by . . . on and on. In one of my last jobs, the email program that the IT department set up for me made a noise whenever a new email came in. Each email would distract me from whatever I was working on, hence I got very little accomplished. My last job was perfect, I worked at home on projects that required almost no collaboration. This allowed me to finally create an impressive body of work.

    1. introvertfiles Post author

      It’s great when you learn what works best for you, how you work best, etc. Of course, we’re always learning more about ourselves everyday. And it doesn’t help that we’re always changing. At least it goes easier when we accept that we all have our own ways of doing things and don’t try to copy someone else’s style just because it’s supposed to be the “best” way.


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