Lockdown: On introversion and Gen-Xness, Part 1

Oops. I meant this to be a lot shorter. I’m going to have to split it in two, and deal with the Gen-Xness part later.

I read a lot of business-related writing for my side gig, and nobody is as consistently interesting, accessible, and scholarly as Adam Grant. When Grant publishes, I’m usually all over it. I also follow him on Twitter and I receive his email newsletter, which often includes book recommendations. Good book recommendations.

A few days ago he published, “Yes, Introverts Can Be Lonely Right Now” in the New York Times, a short piece I recommend.

The gist of it is that research indicates the conventional wisdom about extroverts and introverts is not true: extroverts get energized by interaction, but so do introverts. We all get energy from interacting positively with others; introverts merely need a lot less of it. Further, there seems to be a point for introverts beyond which “the emotional benefits fade and costs begin to emerge — introverts start to feel more negative emotions, more exhaustion and less authenticity.”

He doesn’t say this, but I’m saying it now, mostly to repeat what a lot of introverts have said about introversion in the workplace: the working world rewards extroversion, so most of us who are introverts have learned to fake it. We speak up in meetings, we smile and make smalltalk, and we organize the occasional potluck. But if we can get away with it, we still prefer emails to meetings, we sit on the edges of the room when there’s a potluck, and the sooner we can move from “What did you do last weekend?” to “What made you think last weekend?” the better.

Working from home is an adjustment. My own adjustments have less to do with isolation and more with my own challenged attention. My setup in the office cubicle is conducive to my writing, with a comfortable chair, dual monitors lifted considerably above eye-level, an over-enthusiastic air conditioner (I like to be uncomfortably cold when I work), and a selection of visual stimulation decorating my field of vision when I write.

People who have attention issues often work best while music plays. It’s not because the music puts them in certain mind spaces; it’s because the music allows the distractible part of their brains to handle the music while the focused part of their brains does the work. Without music, I hear the clicking of every keyboard, the scratch of every pen on a notepad, and every word of conversation, and my whole brain wants to engage with all of it at once.

Similarly, if I’m looking at my computer screen, it helps my focus if my field of vision includes pleasing stuff. You’ve done some writing at work, so you know how sometimes when the words are difficult to find, you have to look away from the screen. The stuff I see in my cubicle when I look away makes me happy, but it usually doesn’t take me away from the task. I have a small bit of Harry Potter artwork, two day-by-day calendars, a small selection of books I may never read, and some Harry Potter vinyl figures, all a quick glance away. Also stacks of important papers I haven’t filed because I’m a slob, but that’s (I think) a separate issue.

I’m over-explaining my adjustment mostly to say this: a group video call is a good thing. It’s keeping us together in ways I don’t think creators of the technology ever really anticipated. It reminds me of the good people in my department, teammates I respect and like. I would say they’ve become friends. My department has a daily Zoom call at 2:00 every afternoon. Some coworkers in other departments have told me it’s too much, but I find the daily check-in encouraging.

But let’s be honest. Just as the working world values extroversion, making extrovert-like behavior almost a necessity for being recognized or noticed, its use of the Zoom meeting is really an assertion of this these values. Working alone at home just isn’t extroverted enough, so we wedge required extroversion into the structure of a new way of working.

Introverts should be thriving in this new world of work, and I mostly am, considering the adjustments I continue to make by myself. Yet for all its many benefits, the Zoom meeting brings some of an attention-challenged introvert’s least favorite things about work and makes them even more difficult. For me, the sustained, unidirectional focus combined with group interaction lasting beyond my okay-I’m-good threshold often makes me subdued at best — and surly at worst.

I’m sure my coworkers in these Zoom meetings must think I hate being there, but it’s simply not true. I love being there.

Until I don’t.

I got to bed close to 5:00 in the morning, which is just crazy. I need to reset my clock so I’m not killing myself every workday. I’m telling you, the vampire in me realliy wants to be let loose and it’s a struggle not to allow it.

I got out of bed at 10 in the morning because I had to use the bathroom, so I also had breakfast and took my meds (I try to take them between 8 and 10 every day, usually around 9). Breakfast was two hot dogs with mustard, ketchup, and sauerkraut. Then I went back to bed and got up at 2 in the afternoon.

It felt wonderful.

I did the crossword, read the news, answered some emails, and dealt with bees. I’ll explain the bees tomorrow, but they took quite a bit of my energy for the remainder of my daylight hours.

Lunch was a couple of pieces of shoyu chicken, just the chicken. I wasn’t hungry enough to bother with rice. But then dinner was three more pices of chicken with brown rice. It was freaking delicious.

No snacking, not even on my walk. I miiiiight have a few chips before I finally go to bed, though. Starting to feel the twinge now as I’m finally wrapping my day up.

I watched Jay and Silent Bob Reboot for the third time, and I think I’m about done with it. Dropped it in the mailbox at the stripmall to start off my walk.

I got the Saturday stepcount up to 18,000 steps before midnight, then added 6600 steps after midnight. It wasn’t pleasant. My bad knee ached most of the way, and my doggies are beat. The second half, which is mostly downhill or level, was a lot better, but I was pretty tired the whole way. Listened to podcasts and Metallica’s Master of Puppets, so that was nice.

Oh, in the middle of my bee situation, I also drove to Sylvia’s house, and she reached through the back window of my car to place a sourdough starter on my back seat. I’m excited. It’s a 10-year-old starter and I’m going to start feeding it tomorrow for the bread machine hopefully Monday.

In addition to the texts with Sylvia leading up to the pickup, we texted later about Taco Bell, a weakness for us both. I was craving it like mad when I left her place, but the Taco Bell in my hood closed Saturday around 8, I guess. I get it; it’s a weird time, and sometimes a business can’t open or close when it wants to. Man I was disappointed, though.

It ended up great anyway, because as I said, my shoyu chicken was delicious. I didn’t have fresh ginger or garlic, so I added rice vinegar, allspice, cinnamon, basil, and a bay leaf. Allspice was exactly the right call. This is some killer chicken.

Crush Girl likes to bake, so of course I texted her about getting ahold of a ten-year-old sourdough starter and offered her some. She was in the middle of making cinnamon rolls when I messaged her, but she said she’d love to get some. Although it wasn’t a long interaction, I was happy for the positive connection.

Okay, Sunday. I’m planning to get up early to run a quick errand and maybe hit the beach. There will definitely be napping, and maybe a call to mom and dad. I want to write my review of that Jay and Silent Bob movie, and I still have some work I’d like to get done and emailed before people get to work Monday. It’s been a few days since I’ve had veggies, so I should probably plan on something Sunday, ‘though I can’t promise I won’t just scarf Taco Bell.

A little bit of meaningful connection goes a long way. If you’re not getting enough, I hope you’ll reach out! I’m here. Let’s connect for a little while.

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