There was this one time when I was probably ten or eleven I remember I was very hungry (I mean, I was probably frequently hungry, but it was a whole episode, keep reading), so I ran into the kitchen, and said in rapid succession, “I’m so hungry i’m so hungry i’m so hungry!!”
So, my mom made me a sandwich. While she was making it, I asked, “Is it ham? Oh, I hope it’s ham!”
When it was ready, I looked at the sandwich, and I exclaimed, “Oh, with what great pleasure am I going to eat this sandwich! How satisfying it will be!”
Halfway through, I said, “I am thoroughly enjoying this sandwich!”
Towards the end of the sandwich eating process,I said, “I’m almost done with this amazing sandwich!”
Then, I finished the sandwich, and said, “I was so hungry, and now I’m feeling so much better!”
Ever since that time, my mom branded me an extrovert, and even made fun of me for being such an extrovert, because sometimes it got to absurd proportions (like the sandwich episode). She was probably right; all the evidence points to it. Like when I was teen, being alone for any extended time period–and by extended, I mean, like, one Friday night–was akin to world disaster. So I’d find a sponsor or several to keep said disaster from occurring, meaning, as many people as possible for me to hang out with, preferably all at the same time, though one on one was also acceptable. And that’s cool, no big deal, but when I got to medical school and residency, and especially fellowship, my “extroversion” got me in serious trouble. Imagine how I acted when I was unhappy on rotation when I was utterly unable to contain myself about a stupid ham sandwich? If it was a speciality I was not interested it, there was no use pretending, as I just simply could not fake it. Some people can, universe bless them, but I just can’t. I’d be holding up walls and counting the flies on the ceiling. I’d be snoozing in the back at conference. I’d be the kind of student to whom the residents would say, “Don’t look TOO excited, sheesh!” That’s really bad. It means you are unmotivated or uninterested, which is basically the cardinal sin of medical studenthood. I got labeled as having “an attitude problem,” and I probably did. Or looked like I did.
Ugh, the surgery rotation was the worst! I think it was safe to assume from the beginning I was no surgeon since my arms are basically attached backwards (though, interestingly, I ended up in the the most “surgical” of all medical specialities, and I’m decent at it, whoda thunk it), but boy, did I buck against the hierarchy and the expectation of subordination! And naturally, all my displeasure was written all over my face, and it displeased everyone else.
So then, how do we explain what’s happening with me these days? I got home on Tuesday, and it was a grueling day in all fairness, which started with a patient accusing me of ordering tests for money and using scare tactics to force a colonoscopy – always a nice surprise early in the morning. But I got home, and as my husband was trying to tell me something, I realized that my eyes were rolling so hard, they were squeaking. I had to physically restrain my eyeballs if that’s even possible. I mean, what’s with the third degree, dude? “How are you, how was your day? geez!” And then my kids show up, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s go play tag! Let’s go play hide and seek!” And I’m just thinking how that is just about the last thing I want to do. Though, hide and seek wasn’t a bad idea… I could send them to hide, and “seek” them on my iPhone… NO, no, that would be wrong…
I just wanted silence, possibly darkness, and no one to talk to me. Like a grown-up time out – preferably, one minute per year of age. It didn’t work.
I was reading Amy Schumer’s book a few weeks ago–I realize that people have mixed opinions about her, likely because of the frequency with which she uses the word “p***y”, but I find her humor and the topics on her show very poignant to womankind–and she has an entire chapter dedicated to this. Basically, she lays out that she feels the same. Paradoxically, despite the fact that she puts herself out there for a living, she prefers time alone, self imposed timeouts, and silence. And you know, she calls herself an introvert. So, does that mean I’m an introvert now? And if so, when did the change take place?
And now I’m scratching my head and reflecting on the last decade or so. In med school, I always wanted to go out, and study together, and would get so annoyed about the anti-socialness of my classmates. “I have to study,” ugh what a lame-ass excuse. And residency was ridiculously hard, but we had this great camaraderie, and we camaraded all the time inside the hospital and outside in bars, and it got me through the darkest times.
Nowadays, I complain about the routine, and how we never do anything, but when any opportunity arises, I’m invariably like, meeeh. (Yes, meh. I believe “meh” is getting added to the Oxford dictionary as a valid word. I can’t think of another that expresses lack of expression as… um… expressively) I would rather sit on the couch, plus/minus husband and maybe blog. I don’t even necessarily need to cuddle with husband if he’s present; parallel couch sitting is good.
WHO THE HELL AM I? And also, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! Was it fellowship? That was a pretty dark time. Was it when I had kids? It might be just a function of getting older, of becoming more self-sufficient and less reliant on others for my definition of self. Maybe it’s just ennui? I could also just be tired.
So, I asked a bunch of comrades what might be wrong with me, and, in addition to telling me there was nothing wrong with me (this is up for debate, I must confess, but that’s ok), to my great surprise, I got multiple opinions that yes, I was just an introvert and need to decompress alone.
I thought this would be a helpful chart, but it confused me more because I’m totally the blue stick man. I am constantly focused o the external environment, and I totally need to talk things through in order to think. But then, the green guy also has that bubble that says he likes to spend time alone, which is also me these days… And those teal bubbles are just trite truisms; I don’t like them. “Either may excel in many situations?” I should hope so!
I went directly to the source: my mom.
And she said, “Why bother with labels?”