During the best times of my life, I have just a few icons on my desktop, a few files I’m clearly working on, and a few tabs open in my web browser. My desk is clean.
Right now, I have icons piled on top of icons, I don’t know which files I’m working on (but there are many dozens of them in recent memory) and my desk is a mess.
Everything seems to be a mess.
— § —
There is a huge pile of pistachio shells sitting on a plate next to my keyboard. This pile has grown throughout the week as I have gone through two one-pound bags of nuts, munching and then munching some more for lack of a better idea.
I’ve been in a dark place. Fevers are here, possibly influenza, money is generally not. A once barely manageable schedule of predictable work at one company, one major extracurriculars, and healthy kids and pets has given way to unpredictable work at two companies, multiple major extracurriculars, and sick kids and pets.
Other drama won’t be mentioned, but it’s there.
There is no better way to get grumpy than to find yourself feeling distinctly overwhelmed and at the same time without a clear, productive focus or near-term goals while surrounded by chaos, thermometers, and medicatons.
I need to clear away the shells. Tomorrow. (I tell myself I’ll do a lot of things tomorrow. In truth, I don’t know whether any of them will get done tomorrow, or whether any of them will matter anyway.)
— § —
When things are going well, you can measure your life progress as an accumulation of successes. I got used to this for many years. Papers turned in, books released, degrees earned, goals met, etc.
In the absence of successes, you can also measure your life by events or milestones. The start of fall semester. The end of fall semester. The start of spring semester. The end of spring semester. The start of summer vacation. The end of summer vacation.
If you stop teaching and you don’t have these events, either, maybe you rely on the seaons.
Unless you have an unseasonably warm fall and winter that don’t give you much to hang your hat on.
Then you fall to measuring the passage of time by the march of possessions around you. Especially technology possesions, since these are the ones we most regularly replace. The Galaxy Tab S period gave way to the iPad Mini period. Now the DMC-CM1 period has given way to the Mate 9 period.
It’s brittle and not edifying. I’d rather have the successes.
But to have a success, you first have to set a goal, and to make steady progress toward that goal. I have done neither in a very long time.
— § —
When I was in my mid-teens, I went through a period of hypersociality. I was still an introvert who didn’t (couldn’t) share much of what was going on inside me, but I did go out a lot, and I had a lot of friends. A lot of them called me the “dark one.” (The “light one,” incidentally, was my best friend of 35 years.)
Then I had a period of turning-inward between about seventeen and twenty-two. Friends fell away. I didn’t return calls. I didn’t go out much. I didn’t want to. I mostly made a lot of notes, worked on my own projects, reconnected with myself.
After that, in the last stretch of my undergrad years, I reached out once again. I made a lot of friends, dated a bunch of people. This lasted until the end of graduate school at about twenty-eight. Then, I withdrew again and read a lot.
Moved to New York and from maybe thirty-one to thirty-five I was more engaged than I’ve ever been. People. Places. Students. Friends. Chats. A born conversationalist.
Until I wasn’t starting late 2010 when my daughter was born. That launched a period of silence and interiority that has largely continued until the present.
Recently, I’ve started interacting again. It’s funny how organic it is; rather than avoid or delay responses to messages, I just shrug and respond to them. I reach out to people with thoughts. I ask how they’re doing. I have the impulse once more.
Is it serving me well? Probably not. It’s never world-shattering. The non-introvert people who see you when you’re introverting always imagine that your life will be revolutionized if you can just “come out of your shell” or whatever. I’ve done that multiple times in my life. It’s never that big a thing. It’s sort of like you replace reading Wikipedia with reading texts, and you replace listening to podcasts of other peoples’ classrooms with listening on the telephone.
But does it change who you are or beat back the darkness with a torrent of social light? Not in the least. Once an introvert, always an introvert.
— § —
I have The Man Without Qualities here but I’ve never read it. I really need to get to reading it. Also the history of the first 3,000 years of Christianity. And a bunch of other books I bought because I really wanted to read them but never got around to it.
— § —
The most terrifying thing about being a strongly expressed introvert is that you sometimes think, before you manage to check yourself, that if you lived that episode of the Twilight Zone in which time can be stopped with a mystical stopwatch—which breaks at the end of the episode, leaving time suspended around its protagonist forever—you might not actually dislike it all that much.
Then for a moment you think maybe they’re going to come and take you away before you get back to piling up more pistachio shells and reading texts from a bunch of random people that you respond to without much thought.
— § —
In a secret dream that I have, somewhere there is an island of the introverts where my tribe lives in a kind of noble savagery of silent introvert comfort.
If there were actually people out there who read this blog, that dream wouldn’t be so secret any longer.