I have been, for a great many years, an introvert. I would say I was nearly off-the-charts-introverted when I was 16-18 years old. That does not mean I did not have friends, but that I chose them deliberately and with much consideration of thousands of attributes and scenarios. I was messy, but then again, that was how I saw people. I still do to a great extent to this day.
Last night, my shrink (I call him that, but he’s really a psychologist that is great with “normal” people) had some insight to some extraordinary changes we are seeing in me. Today, I peel back my mask and show you what’s underneath partly as a result of SOBCon07.
I have what is called “a hatred of humankind.” Not my words, but his. People are messy. They hurt you, demand things, give you things, and then demand more because of it. After years on the playground, on team sports, and playing office politics, I was wounded. People sucked and I didn’t care much for any of them aside from my family and people I already knew. I wanted people to be like machines, like I saw and still see myself as. Weird, I know, but that is how I have operated for years. Until I met my wife, that is.
Five years ago, my life changed. I suddenly became more interested in how someone else felt than myself. I sacrificed my time, my money, my gas, and my energy for the well-being of another person. It was wonderful. Until I got hurt.
Now that I am happily married for almost 8 months now, I am feeling more secure with people in general because I am successfuly navigating a close relationship that takes hours of attention each week. It’s a lot of work, but it is decidedly worth it. I attended SOBCon07 all by myself without having met anyone else attending. The closest contact I had until then was phone calls with Liz Strauss and our many comments on each others’ blogs.
I walked into the social time Friday night and found an empty table to put my laptop bag at and wait for others to come to me. Then I saw Phil Gerbyshak. The man is contagious and drew me over to that area because they were all taking pictures with each other and passing the cameras around so everyone got pictures with everyone. It looked fun, so I walked over and Phil instantly recognized me and gripped me in a big Mid-Western bear hug that my family is so accustomed to. I chatted with Tony D. Clark and Easton Ellsworth until it was time to get food and sit down.
I got my food and sat down at my still empty table. As people sat down and we passed around business cards for introductions, I got a sense of acceptance. Yeah, the dork’s getting kudos. It was cool. After the evening supposedly wrapped up, Muhammed Saleem walked over to talk about the nuances about blogging about such a tight niche topic as World of Warcraft. Not only was I approached for a conversation, I was sought after. It was a rush. As soon as I found out what Mu’s social networking specialty was like, the conversation took off and we talked for an hour.
When things moved to the hotel bar, I reverted to my comfort zone and sat there and listened to the conversation for an hour, but really felt at home with blogging as a normal and expected topic. We seemed more like businesses getting together to swap trade secrets and have fun while we were at it. I was with Terry Starbucker, Mike Rohde, Troy Worman, Kammie Kobyleski, and Phil Gerbyshak. Despite the great time, I had been up for 18 hours and had to turn in for the night.
To draw things to a close for the conference, there was a sense of sadness as I packed my bags at 4:00 in a mad rush to catch my plane. It was my first time going through Chicago O’Hare, so I didn’t know what to expect for a rush hour line through security. I got through and got my sandwich to wait for my flight, when who do I see walking by? Kent Blumberg. I waved and he came over and we talked for the better part of 45 minutes like old friends who didn’t know each others’ pasts but knew about the person themselves.
That taught me something when I came home. If I am true to myself and be who I am and let people know how I feel, I don’t need to be as afraid of being hurt. If I come right out and tell people how I feel, they don’t need to extract that from me. In the last few weeks I have started to display markedly extroverted traits, such as speaking before thinking and not letting people get a word in edgewise.
I am blasting through new territory and my social skills are leaving me hanging without a clue as to how to behave as an extrovert. While I still am emotionally an introvert, my personality is melting away into a full-blown extrovert… and I like it.