I am walking down the street; engrossed in a conversation with a person I enjoy having discussions with: myself. My eldest is at school, my other children at daycare. I am reveling in my free time and am asking myself what I should make for dinner. I am also very focused on not tripping over my feet. Both activities, having discussions with myself and not tripping over my feet are very important to me.
But the guy doesn’t care about all that. He doesn’t care about the fact that this is the only me-time I’ll get that day and that I will try to squeeze as much time for me as possible. He doesn’t know that talking to people drains me of energy. He’s just doing his job, he’s trying to sell me something. And that’s OK. But he’s trying to talk to me and at that moment, I don’t want him to talk to me.
What’s more, he wants me to smile at him! “A smile, maybe?”- he says to me, while I try to concentrate on my last thought, but it is gone, the man on the street has made it disappear. What remains is the feeling of being somehow taken advantage of. I don’t smile at him, I just continue walking and when I arrive at the store and do my shopping, I forget half of the ingredients.
It’s not that I am arrogant. I am actually nice. Sometimes, I am too nice. I know the man on the street is a good person who is trying to do his job, and it must be hard to talk to people on the street like that. But my brainspace is limited and it can only take a certain number of people a day. No, I am not stupid, either. I am very brainy and clever. But I find talking to people exhausting.
Just because I don’t smile, it doesn’t mean that I am unhappy. It just means that I am thinking about something that I consider important. It means that I am trying to find some space for myself in a public place. It means that I am thinking hard about what to say to the person behind the counter when I do my shopping. Or I am smiling a secret smile just for myself.
There are days when I can acknowledge people and nod and smile and be very kind and polite. There are days when I can manage a social event and have fun. There are days when I enjoy having conversations with other people.
But on days like this one, I wish I had had a sign that says: “I am an introvert, leave me alone!”