introvert

Exit 169. God was telling me to play Pokémon Go.

Yesterday, I hosted a friend’s birthday party at my house.  I am an introvert, of course, but I do enjoy hosting parties for others occasionally when I can.  I have this house, with realistically more room than I need, and doing things like this makes me feel like I can do something useful for my friends who have other living arrangements.

But I digress.  I’ve been very busy with work, and I haven’t been good at picking up around the house.  So I did a lot of straightening and cleaning yesterday morning.  By about 1:00 in the afternoon, I was tired and sweaty and in need of a shower, and I also needed a few things from the grocery store (not for the party specifically, just for my personal use, but as soon as possible).  I was debating whether to shower and go to the store, or just shower and nap, when another alternative popped into my head.

Don’t go to the store.  Don’t take a nap.  Don’t even shower yet.  Go for a walk to the park and catch some Pokémon.

I should qualify this by saying that I’m a n00b when it comes to Pokémon Go.  As I have written before, I was already in my 20s when Pokémon was first a thing, so I didn’t grow up with it.  I played for the first time two months ago, when a friend who moved away a few years ago was visiting her parents, about an hour drive from here.  I was trying to find a time to get together and catch up, and the only time that worked was when she was planning on going for a walk to play Pokémon, so she invited me along.

I had a six day streak going of having caught at least one Pokémon per day.  Most of that, however, most of that was just stopping next to the aforementioned park on the way home from work and catching one just to get a streak going, since if you can get up to seven days, you get a lot of experience points.  So I needed to catch something yesterday.  I also needed to get more balls, and there are lots of stops where you can get items all over this park.

Anyway, this park has soccer and baseball fields, so it is always full of youth sports families on Saturday mornings.  As I was getting near the park, I saw a mom and her friend loading up kids into a car after a game.  Her friend said hi to me.  I said hi back, as my mind frantically tried to remember who this person was; I don’t know any soccer moms that frequent this park off the top of my head.  (The kids belonged to her friend, not her, which also threw me a little.)   Fortunately, it came to me quickly so that the conversation was not awkward; it was someone from my old church, the one I stopped going to around two years ago.  I asked how she was doing, and she mentioned that next month she would be leaving on a mission trip to serve Jesus in other countries for a year.  She gave me the website where she would be blogging about her travels.

I hear many people tell stories about when God makes people cross paths at just the right time for a specific reason, and I think this was one of those moments.  I think God was telling me to play Pokémon Go yesterday morning, so I could be back in touch with my friend and reading and praying about her travels.  And in the middle of all the questions that have been running through my mind about Christianity and church culture and where I belong, this was a reminder that God is still here in the midst of all that.

And the part about me not having made it to the grocery store worked out too, because one of the other party guests called asking if we needed anything, and she agreed to bring me the two things I needed most urgently.  I forgot to pay her back, but this is someone I see often enough that I’ll take care of that soon, and it was probably no more than five dollars anyway.

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Exit 168. Just part of being an introvert.

I took a week off from this blog… I had a lot going on, and I wasn’t feeling well for a few days.

The stuff I had going on involved seeing Carbon Leaf in San Francisco.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen this band many times, including just about every time they’ve toured nationwide.  Usually, their tour only takes them as close as San Francisco, and more often than not it happens to be on a weeknight.  I got home from San Francisco at 2am and got four hours of sleep that night, among the reasons I’ve been so exhausted lately.

I left for the concert right after work, with plans to stop in Concord or Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek for dinner.  It would be around 5pm when I got there, and I know my way around that area because I lived there briefly.  At around 4:30, I decided on a whim to pull over and post on Facebook and Instagram exactly where I would be stopping for dinner.  I said if any of my friends in that area saw this post and were free, please come say hi sometime between 5 and 6.  I’ve done this kind of thing a few times before, but this one ended up being different, because someone actually showed up and joined me for dinner.  (Not just some-ONE, it was actually a whole family of four.)  It was nice to know that someone actually took the time to join me.

Yesterday, just nine days after the Carbon Leaf trip, I found myself in the Bay Area again, although not specifically in the same place.  This time, I didn’t post that I would be passing through anyone else’s area, and I didn’t invite anyone to join me.  Part of the difference here was just logistical.  The plan for this trip was to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in a while over lunch, so I wasn’t stopping to eat anywhere.  I also wasn’t passing directly through anywhere I used to live, or anywhere with a high concentration of people I hadn’t seen in a while.  I didn’t want my friend to think that she wasn’t a priority.  And I had plans back home that evening, so while I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, I knew that any additional stops I made might mean less time with my friends back home.

But sometimes when I’m passing through places where friends live, it isn’t that I don’t have time to see them.  Sometimes it’s just part of being an introvert.  Sometimes I’m really looking forward to a long drive by myself, getting lost in the music and the scenery.  Sometimes I feel anxious about trying to make plans with people, for no good reason other than that I’m an introvert.

I just hope that, when this happens, my friends who I didn’t try to stop and visit don’t feel slighted or left out.  I promise that isn’t it.  I have friends spread out all over California, and all over the world for that matter.  Someone asked me once what I would wish for if I could have one wish, and the best answer I thought of was a private jet with an unlimited fuel supply, or some other form of fast and cheap transportation, so I could visit distant friends and family more often.

But sometimes I just feel like being alone.

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook, or who follow me on Instagram, know that I like to take pictures of scenery or landmarks when I’m not home.  If you see me taking a picture of something that is near you, and you’re available to hang out, please speak up.  Let me know if you want me to stop and see you.  And keep inviting me to things.  Similarly, let me know if you’re ever in my area and you feel like hanging out.  But please accept the fact that I might not be able to, and I might not be in the mood for it for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you.  I really hope that this doesn’t come across as arrogant or selfish, because that’s not what I mean at all.  When this happens, let’s talk about another time that might work out to get together.  Advance notice works better with my schedule.

Thank you, friends.

Exit 143. That would be cool. Huh-huh.

As I suspected, the changing of the calendar from 2016 to 2017 has not seemed to slow down celebrity deaths.  But the passing of memorable and influential individuals hit home twice within the last couple weeks.  A coworker of mine who taught special education and was involved in a number of student activities left two months ago for medical reasons and ended up being a lot sicker than anyone thought.  I found out Tuesday morning that she didn’t make it.  There is much I could say about her, but my thought for this week concerns someone else who passed this month.  I hadn’t seen this other individual in over 20 years.

Mrs. J, as I’ll refer to her here, taught English at the high school I attended.  I never actually had her for a teacher myself, but I knew her because she was our class advisor.  Also, I knew her daughter, who was the same year as me.  I haven’t stayed in touch with her, or her daughter, so I just found out about this a few days ago when a friend from high school posted Mrs. J’s obituary on Facebook.  Although I never had Mrs. J as a teacher, she was involved with one of the most significant memories I have from that era, one which I still mention now as a major turning point in my life.

I wrote a bit about my high school experience a couple years ago (Highway Pi #26), and as I said before, I was pretty sheltered, and I kept to myself a lot.  I did homework during lunch, and I pretty much never saw people from school outside of school other than the occasional sporting event or dance that I would attend at the school.  A lot of people were nice to me, though, encouraging me to get more involved with the school.  About a month into senior year, I was sitting in the walkway reading when two other seniors walked by, reminding me that we had a class meeting during that lunch period to discuss Homecoming activities.  I didn’t usually get involved with that kind of stuff, but for some reason, I decided to go with them this time.  Maybe because it was senior year, and it was my last chance to get involved with school activities.  So I followed them to the meeting, in Mrs. J’s room.

I know that I have a few readers outside the USA… I’m not sure how it works everywhere else, but homecoming is a time in the fall when a variety of school activities are planned, usually in the week leading up to the first football game played at home against a league opponent.  It is tradition for alumni of the school to return home to watch that game.  At the school I attended (this part is not something that all American high schools do), we had a rally during homecoming week in which each class would perform some sort of skit, and planning the skit was on the agenda for this meeting that I attended.  Our class usually did a skit involving characters from some movie or TV show that was popular at the time (the early ’90s).  As juniors, our skit was based on the movie Wayne’s World, for example.

When the time came to talk about the skit, Mrs. J suggested we do something based on popular characters again.  “Like, maybe, Beavis and Butthead?” she said.  Several people started laughing and expressing their approval.  I scrunched my face into my best Butthead impression, and said, “Huh-huh.  Huh-huh.  That would be cool.  Huh-huh.”  Someone pointed at me and said, “I think he’s going to be playing Butthead!”

Beavis and Butthead aired on MTV between 1993 and 1997.  It was the brainchild of the brilliant dark satirist Mike Judge, who later brought us other brilliant satire like King of the Hill, Office Space (note: link contains inappropriate language), and Idiocracy (note: link contains a bare butt farting).  It was about the misadventures of two dumb teenage boys, their obsession with bodily functions and dirty jokes, and their commentary on music videos.   For me, the quiet kid who helped people with their math homework and sat in the corner reading during lunch, to get up in front of the whole school and act like Butthead surprised a lot of people.

And it felt so freeing.

It was the first time I had ever done something like that in front of a crowd.  And it was awesome.  Not scary like I expected.  To this day, people often ask me why I like Beavis and Butthead, because it’s so stupid, and after saying something about Mike Judge’s brilliant satire, I add that it reminds me of the first time I ever got up in front of a crowd and did something silly and out of character, and how it really did feel like life was going to change once I realized that I was capable of doing this.

Thank you, Mrs. J, for the suggestion.  May you rest in peace.

Exit 134. Thankful.

Since 2009, I have been attending a weekly partner dance event at a dance studio in Sacramento.  When I first started, it was a combination of blues dancing and West Coast swing; it has now changed to blues-based fusion dancing.  Since around 2011, I have volunteered to work the front desk, taking people’s money for part of the night.

Every year, on the weekend of Thanksgiving, this group has an event where, essentially, we write notes to each other to tell others why we are thankful for them.  Everyone has a bag with their name on it for people to just drop notes in as the night goes on.  This is one of my favorite nights of the year, at least as far as dance activities go.  I’m not trying to be an attention whore, but it is a great uplifting encouragement to see that someone took time out of their evening to tell me that they enjoy dancing with me, seeing me welcome them every week, or that I make great chocolate chip cookies.

In addition to this, I also look forward to the opportunity to tell others that I enjoy dancing with them, or just talking to them between dances.  I’m not always good at saying this kind of thing to someone face to face, because of my introverted nature, and this gives me a chance to express something I might not be able to do otherwise, as well as to make others feel the same way I do about this night.

What always strikes me about this is that it is provides a contrast to the way I often feel about the blues fusion community in general.  Specifically, I often feel that I don’t fit in, to the point that I question whether my continued involvement in blues fusion dance is helpful or harmful.  I enjoy the dancing itself, but I am not a dancer by nature.  I had no experience with dancing, other than a few awkward moments at middle and high school dances, until that brief time in the late 90s when swing dancing was a huge fad.  I got back into swing from 2007 until about a year ago when I got really busy with life, and I still go occasionally.  I got into blues a couple years later through some regulars there who I already knew from swing.  To this day, I still feel like I’m doing this more just for fun, as opposed to trying to be the best dancer ever and win competitions.  I don’t have time to devote to training for dance competitions, taking lots of classes and workshops, or traveling to multi-day dance festivals in other states, as many of my dance friends do on a regular basis.  The blues fusion community also tends to attract people with lifestyles and values very different from my own; I want to be accepting of others, but given my much more conservative and sheltered upbringing, I often find their lifestyles strange and a little frightening.  I often feel isolated because of this, and sometimes others will say things, or share links on social media, that I find hurtful toward people with values like mine.

But despite all that, the blues fusion community continues to surprise me with the kind of notes they write to me for this event.  Sometimes I get complimented by people I don’t know well about things that wouldn’t even have crossed my mind as something I did that others would appreciate or remember.  I even had someone tell me in person that she started to write me a note, but didn’t put it in my bag because she had a lot more to say than would fit on the card, and she didn’t want to write me a “half-assed” note, so she would give it to me next week after she finished.  Of course, that made me feel like the three-sentence note I had written to her was pretty half-assed, but that’s not the point.  The point is that, despite the fact that I feel so different from these people on the surface, there are many nice people in this group, and so often human beings have so much more in common than the differences that we choose to obsess about.  So maybe I need to be looking for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives.

Exit 121. Staying home for no good reason.

It’s Sunday night.  I’m pretty sure that in approximately 121 weeks of doing this blog, I have never posted on a Sunday night before.  Sometimes I’m on the ball and I get my post done on Saturday; often I post Sunday afternoon or early evening; and occasionally I don’t get it done until Monday or Tuesday.  But I’m pretty sure that I have never posted later than 7:30 on a Sunday night.

There is a reason for this.  I have a weekly social dancing event that I have participated in every Sunday night since mid-2009, and since around 2011 I have volunteered there as well.  Honestly, though, I haven’t been there every Sunday night; once every couple months I ask to take the night off from volunteering because I’m out of town visiting family, or I’m at the Kings game, or I’m on my way back from a Giants game in San Francisco, or a friend who I really want to see planned a birthday party on Sunday night.  So I’m always doing something other than writing this late on a Sunday.

But tonight, I am staying home for no good reason.

I have nothing else going on tonight.  It feels like it would be a good week for me not to miss.  Last night, I was at a going away party for someone I know from this event; very few of her dancing friends showed up, so there was very little dancing at this party.  She is a wonderful dancer, and had I shown up tonight, I might have gotten one last dance with her before she moves back to her home, across a large ocean from here.  Also, someone I danced with there about a month ago and have stayed in touch with on Facebook is there right now.  It would be good to see her again, and I feel bad that I’m not there.

Nevertheless, I am staying home tonight, for no good reason.

No, that’s not true.

The reason I am staying home is because I have to take care of myself.  The last month has been an overwhelming whirlwind of stress and interaction.  I have an unusually high concentration of close friends, including myself, who have birthdays right at the same time I am starting the new school year at work.  I tend to spend most of the weekdays in August running around and trying to prepare for and adjust to a new school year, and I spend most of the time on weekends, and a few weeknights sometimes, at birthday parties with friends.  By the time the end of August comes along, my brain feels fried and my body feels exhausted.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I need more alone time, and how I need to figure out if there is anything or anyone in my life that I need to cut out, because they do more harm than good.  Since then, I have done exactly the opposite.  It’s time to start.  And staying home from dancing tonight is step 1.  How long will this last?  I don’t know.  I might be back next week.  I might be back in a few weeks.  I might not be back for a long time.  I might be avoiding other kinds of socialization for a while as well.  I might have to say some painful goodbyes.  But I can’t live the way I have been anymore.

Hopefully I can also be responsible enough to go to bed within an hour or so.

Exit 117. But what will I fill the void with?

I’ve said before that my time off work this summer seemed way too short.  I feel like the last year has been emotionally draining, for a number of reasons, most of which are not related to work, and many of which I have not shared here.  I was hoping that having seven weeks off work would give me time to clear my head, so that life would feel normal again.  But this has not happened.

I’m starting to wonder if it might be time for a more drastic step, and the message I heard at church this morning tied in with this.  Maybe it’s time to become a bit more isolated.  I’m starting to wonder if some of the things I do and people I see might be causing more harm than good.  I feel conflicted about this for a number of reasons, though.  For one thing, most of these things aren’t harmful 100% of the time.  And, for the most part, no one is actively trying to hurt me.  This is not a situation where I’m being bullied, or threatened, or anything like that.  I’m just realizing that certain parts of my life that used to make me happy in the past aren’t making me feel that way so much anymore.

But what will I fill the void with?  Part of the reason I haven’t cut things out of my life is because I have nothing with which to replace them.  That means more time spent at home moping and being alone, and that seems just as unhealthy to me.  But maybe I should be filling that void with God, spending that extra time in prayer and Scripture and meditation, to get some real direction on life.  And this doesn’t have to be forever.  When I feel ready, I can gradually add things back into my life provisionally, so I can better discern who and what are and aren’t worth my time.

I haven’t decided for sure that I will be doing this, but it’s something I’m thinking about.  We’ll see.

Exit 102. My mind is blank this week.

My mind is blank this week.

I had a thought about what I wanted to write, but it just doesn’t feel right.

And that’s okay.  That in and of itself can very well be something to write about.

I’ve had a very intense week, and I feel like my mind isn’t processing things like it should.  I’m okay… I’ve just been busy and overwhelmed.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Sacramento Kings basketball team is moving to a new arena that will open this fall.  The last three games at the old facility were all this last week, and I went to all of them.  That was a lot of fun.  But between three basketball games, church, tests to grade, and other assorted responsibilities, I just can’t handle any more for a while.

And that’s okay.

This week should be a little easier than normal.  And I plan to spend as much of it as I can keeping to myself and being an introvert, recovering from all the interaction and running around and stress I’ve been dealing with for the last week.  I’ll be back to normal soon.  I just might need a few days.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes you have to take care of yourself.

Exit 77. My introvert is showing again.

I had people over this weekend for a night of hanging out and playing retro video games.  I’ve mentioned before that this is something I do every few months.  It’s always a lot of fun.  It’s great seeing friends and reliving childhood memories and introducing younger friends to the popular culture of my childhood.

But sometimes lately I get weird awkward feelings hosting events like this.  For one thing, enough people usually show up that I feel like I can’t possibly spend a lot of time with everyone.  I don’t like having to leave people out, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they came all the way to my house only to be ignored by the host.  At these retro gaming events, I also tend to have a short attention span.  I’ll play one game for a while, then jump to another game, then take a break to eat, then jump to another game, and again, that makes me anxious that I’m leaving people behind when I decide to play something else.

I’m pretty sure all of this is in my head.  None of my friends have ever told me that they feel neglected when they come to my house.  If anything, they tell me how much fun it was and how good it was to see me.  Maybe part of the problem is that I wish I could be in all places at once, spending time with everyone at once.  Some of the people who come to big events at my house are people I don’t see very often, and when I finally get to see them, I have to divide my attention.  I wish I didn’t have to do that.  And I wish I could play all the retro games at once.  Between my collection and those that friends bring over, there are hundreds of games here, each one providing many hours of involved gameplay.

I think there’s one unifying explanation for what’s happening here, though: my introvert is showing again.  Even though I enjoy spending time with my friends, I can’t do it all the time.  I get to know people much better one-on-one and in smaller groups.  Big groups of friends have their place and time, but I need more than that.  And that’s okay.  I don’t necessarily have to feel like a bad friend; it’s not possible for anyone to develop deep relationships with all 20 people when 20 people come over for a few hours.  I just have to get it out of my head that there’s something wrong with the way I do large groups.

Exit 48. I can’t please everyone.

Hosting an event at my house is always tricky for an introvert like me.

I’m not 100% on the introvert side of the spectrum, that’s for sure.  I enjoy having a bunch of friends over.  I’m thankful that I have a house that I can share with my friends for events like this.  And being that I am the only homeowner among my closest group of friends, I often volunteer my house to host friends’ birthday parties and the like.  It’s the least I can do.  However, because I am an introvert by nature, I can’t do this every day, or even every week.  Once every month or two is enough for me.

As I’ve said before, every few months I invite people over to hang out and play retro video games from the 80s and 90s, while listening to 80s and 90s music.  If this sounds like fun to you, and you live within day trip distance of Sacramento or plan to visit Sacramento at some point, let me know.  We’ll talk.  But anyway, I had 22 people over last night, plus me.  While not quite a record, this was the largest crowd I’ve had in quite a while.  And whenever the crowd gets big, I always feel like I’m spread thin.  I can’t possibly spend significant time with all 22 people.  I can’t participate in every game that gets played.  And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad host.

I think my friends understand, though.  I’m certainly not ignoring them on purpose.  And I would understand if the tables were turned.  I’ve been to big parties before in which I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the host, because there were so many people there, and yet I’ve still had fun.  And I’m sure my friends did too.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately that I don’t feel like I fit in with adults socially, and activities like this certainly contribute to that feeling.  Video games are not a so-called adult activity.  But I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing.  I don’t play games often enough for it to take over my life, and most of my games go untouched in between these events.

Regarding not fitting in socially with adults, for example, I know a lot of adults whose entire social lives seem to revolve around drinking.  I’m not being judgmental, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a night at the bar, wine tasting, or a beer festival, as long as you’re doing everything in moderation and not making reckless decisions that will leave you dead, injured, or infected.  If that’s what you like, go for it.  But I really have no interest in that.  Believe me, I’m not uncomfortable being around people who are drinking, so if you’re considering whether or not to invite me to your birthday party where most if not all of the guests will be drinking, please go ahead.  I want to see you even if I’m not drinking myself.  But I just don’t feel like I should be changing my interests and activities just to fit in.  I’m willing to try new things, I’m willing to change to improve myself.  But if you can’t relate to me because I don’t drink, then I just can’t make myself see that as my problem.  (To clarify, I’ve never been told this to my face, but I kind of get the impression sometimes from some conversations I’ve had and the way some people act around me.)  I hope no one sees me that way, because some people I know whose social lives revolve around drinking seem like pretty cool people in some ways, but maybe they aren’t so cool after all if they can’t include me.  And I just have to understand that I can’t please everyone.  Not everyone is going to be a lifelong friend, and that’s just a sad fact of life.  All I can do is be who I am.

Exit 41. A dubious milestone.

I reached a somewhat dubious milestone earlier this week.  For a day or so, briefly, I had exactly one thousand friends on Facebook.

It seems like I’ve either been getting unfriended a lot lately, or I’ve had friends deactiving or deleting their Facebooks, so it didn’t last long.  I am at 999 as of this morning.  That number is not entirely accurate, for that matter; it does not take into account couples who share a Facebook, people with separate Facebook accounts for business and personal uses, or people who make Facebook pages for their pets.  And interestingly enough, my 1000th friend was someone I had known for several years but had never been friends with on Facebook, not someone I had just met.

This begs a few questions.  First of all, why do I care?  I’m not trying to be famous, and it doesn’t make me any better or worse that I have a lot of friends.  I just notice these things because I’m a math guy.  But more importantly, is it really possible to have a thousand friends?  And who are these people?  And how did an introvert like me get a thousand friends?  The answer to that is inherent in the unstable nature of my adult life.  I moved away for college, I moved again just before I turned 25, and I moved again at 29.  Most of those places, I stayed long enough that my network of contacts changed, and every time I made a major change like this, there were some people I didn’t leave behind who I stayed in touch with over the years.  And Facebook makes it so convenient to look up old friends that I eventually found others who I did lose touch with, or they found me.  I also tell my students that they can add me on Facebook after they graduate from high school, and in the seven years that I worked at the small private high school, quite a few of them did, and numerous others from past schools found me over the years.

In a lot of ways, this is a good thing.  Facebook makes it easier for an introvert like me to have some semblance of both a social life and a past using the forms of communication with which I am most comfortable.  But I have to be careful as well.  As has been often said, Facebook presents a distorted view of everyone else’s life, only showing what others choose to share.  The Internet also makes it easy for someone with a bad idea that sounds good on the surface to rally others who share their ill-informed views and use the mob mentality to shame people who disagree with them, and Facebook in particular makes it easy to pass on the ill-informed articles.  Sometimes, I just feel like I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

A couple days after I hit 1000, I was feeling particularly frustrated with humanity in general, and I contemplated unfriending a lot of people.  Some of these people I really don’t have a lot in common with to begin with, and I never see them anymore.  I do, in fact, occasionally unfollow people, so I don’t see their posts unless I make an effort to click on them.  But even so, the only people I unfollow are the ones I don’t have much in common with, I don’t see anymore, and who also post condescending inflammatory political things I don’t agree with.  And I don’t want to unfriend people completely, because if someone is on my friend list, that means that, at the very least, they meant something significant to me at one time, and I’d like to hold on to whatever small shred of hope is left that we might mean something to each other again at some point.  (And I have occasionally re-followed people I had once unfollowed if, for example, we start talking and hanging out regularly again.)  There’s that saying about how people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  I’ve never been good at that; I want everyone to be a lifetime friend, or at least to have the chance to be.

So can I keep up with a thousand friends?  I can’t read every post.  And I’ll probably have to find ways to spend less time on Facebook, since I haven’t done a good job of that lately.  But I’ll do my best.