Well . . . the truth is, I don't hate people . . . I just don't have a need for a lot of them in my life. It is part of being an introvert. I am at a big conference in the middle of paradise . . . literally paradise. This is about the ritziest place I have ever stayed at for a conference. There is a pool about the size of the community where I live, there are about a zillion tennis courts, and a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course . . . at least four restaurants, three bars, several high-end stores, and people constantly wanting to help me with everything that I do. It has a spa, health complex, country club, and every room has a view. The bathrooms even have real towels to dry your hands off with. My room has a bathtub and a shower in opposites ends of the bathroom. And, everything is expensive! The only downfall of the place is that you cannot get a good microbrew anywhere in the place. The wife tells me she is jealous and would love to experience this paradise . . . of course, she is an introvert. I'm dying.
Now, the truth of the matter is, this is a conference that I am very interested in. It is all about the West, its history, and its people--past and present. It is filled with interesting people from all over the United States--lots of them. They are all smart, good looking, and wanting to talk . . . mingle . . . network . . . and, do all things extroverted. I am wilting . . . there are too many people, too much exposure, and too many people wanting to make small talk.
I mentioned to a co-worker that I could feel my "introvert shields" coming up. She laughed. She didn't know that I even had "introvert shields" . . . she just assumed that I was having a wonderful time hob-knobbing with all the interesting academics gathered at the conference. Truth is . . . they are all too close . . . I am more comfortable admiring them from afar. My comfort zone is a minimum (more if possible) of a arm length away in any intimate setting with strangers . . . there are lots of strangers (and, to be honest a few strange people, too) here . . . and, they want to be social. I appreciate the fact that God gave me an "introvert shield"--almost a "cloak of invisibility"--that allows me to be present, but not be present. I only wish God had made it with a zapper that would zap people when they enter into the "zone". Luckily for all those extroverts out there, God did not do that!
At the conference, I had to attend a "networking" gathering for all those who had received grants. This was mean to be a fairly intimate affair around breakfast. I was the first one there . . . I arrived early to plot my escape route . . . usually a chair in the back, close to the doorway, with no obstacles to block my escape. I chose a chair at a table away from the gathering crowd . . . unfortunately, it happened to be the table where they put all the food! I moved over to another chair further back in the room . . . this worked for a while, then one of the organizers came over, introduced himself, and started with the small talk. Unfortunately for him, I did not let the conversation evolve into simple small talk about the weather . . . I leapt on my opportunity to expound on our grant project . . . all the while the guy wondered what sort of evil trap he had fallen in. He was an extrovert . . . he wasn't interested in having a deep, meaningful conversation . . . he was just touching base and zapping my energy. I figured if he was going to rob me of my space and energy, the least he could do is listen. As soon as the meeting was over, I was out of there.
I suppose that those who invited me to attend this conference are thinking that I am some sort of snob . . . or some sort of weird, eccentric individual who hates people . . . or even some really wired individual who doesn't know how to relax. To them I seem like the vanishing person . . . one minute I am there, the next I am gone. The truth of the matter is, I am not comfortable in my surroundings yet . . . and, they keep changing surroundings and people every year that they have this conference . . . so, what do they expect? I am an introvert.
Yes, the conference was held in paradise--no doubt about that. It was a beautiful location . . . perfect weather . . . but, you don't stick an introvert in paradise and expect him or her to jump right in with both feet. Shoot, I will barely get my toes in the water before the party is over.
But, trust me, the experience will not be without its rewards.
From the conference I will leave with a bevy of beautiful pictures of paradise . . . as I said, it was beautiful. Pictures that I will put up on my Facebook page for the world to see . . . I can do that from the safety of my kingdom lair without any outside help. I will have gleaned a lot of useful information for the grant I am working on, and the grant ideas I now have, thanks to all the people I sat in the back of the rooms and listened to. I will put another sticker on my suitcase of a new place that I had never been before . . . and, possibly make plans to some day go back with my small group of intimate groupies (yeah, the wife is one of them) and enjoy the place on my terms. The conference was not a failure, it was just experienced in a way that most people would not image experiencing it. The wife will tell you that I spent quite a bit of time talking about it once I got home . . . that is just the way we introverts are.
I do not hate people . . . I just don't need a whole lot of them in my life. I am not snobby . . . I am not weird (though there are those who would disagree) . . . I am not shy . . . I am not into small talk . . . I do not need to hob-nob to energize myself . . . and, networking is probably something I do best when I am fishing. I am just an introvert . . . even in paradise. Give me some time and you'll come to love me for it . . . it just takes time. Trust me, ask my three friends!