Lessons I learnt from being an life-long extreme introvert
Introvert Lesson No.1: Born this way
Being an extreme introvert is a kind of inherited feature. I guess it is partly genetic and partly learnt behaviour. Of course, not all the aspects of my life were initially my initiative. Anyway, I had to learn to live with it. Being an introvert in a world designed for extroverts is not easy, but it gives a lot of opportunities to go against the flow. It is quite a fascinating journey. Here are the Lessons I learnt to live my life as an extreme introvert.
I was born in a single parent family in a suburban block of flats within then-Soviet area. My mother was in many ways rather outstanding woman. She made a career of the best primary teacher in the best school of the city (parents were queuing for couple of years to get their children into her class). She needed a couple of higher educations to reach the position. Given, she came from a family of alcoholic fisherman-father and illiterate mother. At the age of 40 she had a career, a mortgage and a child. All that spiced up with passion for the Italian shoes.
As growing up as a bastard in the conformal 70-80s was not bad enough, my mother put me into this very best school in the city. We were too poor for that school. It included a lot of bullying and suicidal thoughts. After all, introverts are rather self-destructive guys.
But, no, it is not what you think. It was the starting point of my extreme introvert life. First, English Specialised school. Then into music school and ballet. Just to mention: I have no music ear and I have an extremely stiff spinal. Ballet was easy to get rid of, but music school was a 9 years long torture. I did it at the end. With extremely poor grade as you imagine.
I began to work when I was 12. I learnt to make my own clothes so precisely, it looked designer. Then I channelled my pain, my good and bad experience into a dozen of manuscripts, studied photography and coiffure. I put my Mum’s Italian shoes on and learnt to fight like a ninja.
Soon I felt like I could rule the Universe. From home. Here my troubles began.
Introvert Lesson No.2: Hungry And Depressed Introvert Living In A Campus With Two Roommates Is Not Able To Function.
Few years on, the USSR collapsed. Great crisis descended over the post-Soviet countries. I was not going to give up and pursued my goals stubbornly. As we didn’t have 12K bucks to give a bribe for my admission into the Local state Uni, I went 700 km from home to try another one (just to compare, our 1-bed apartment was worth 5.5K that time). 600 aspirants were fighting for 12 places. I was third in line after exams. I was admitted, and made my mother really proud. It was nice achievement and so on, but I was only really hungry. Like starving to death as inflation was insane that time: prices were increasing easily 4-5 times a week.
Lessons I learnt.
There was no work in the town as it was full of students offering their service for 1 penny per hour. I quit and came back home. Failed? Regret? Nope. I was happy. I felt alive when I got off the train in my home city, breathing salty sea air and listened seagulls’ screaming over my head.
This is not a story of failure. Introverts are not losers, if somebody haven’t noticed yet. They just want to do it all their own way.
The very next day I was admitted to the Uni in the capital of our area. It was rather different from what I could imagine myself to study in, but it felt right straight away. And I am still in economics and finance, 25 years on. Studied two more degrees in the same field. I found there few new friends, all full grown introverts, just like myself, of course.
Introvert Lesson No.3: Pursue Your Own Dreams, Not Others’ Ones
Uni was kind of adventure I love to recall. The studies itself was quite easy, with some hassle around higher level Maths. Still, it was full fun. No crowded campus, no messy parties, no hustle and bustle, but deep nights around a fire with a philosophic discussion ongoing. Okay, I won’t mention the origin of the fire and the orientation of the discussion… At least on Friday 13th and after few sleepless nights it sounded philosophical.
I have never dreamed of becoming an economist. But I also never dreamed to become: (a) orchestra violin player; (b) translator and interpreter in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; (c) famous pianist giving concerts around the world. I began to sort out, what I was really dreaming of. A bit late, ah? Those were my mother’s ideas of prosperous woman. What were my own? (a) clothes designer; (b) photographer; (c) tennis player; (d) writer; (d) teacher. And I also had to eat something time to time.
But couple of years in the Uni changed my mind. Economics as a discipline was far more vivid and interesting to study than English and Interpreting. I really enjoyed it. In the midst of anarchic 90’s in post-soviet space studying International Economics in English was pretty chic. And expensive.
So, from the second year I began to teach English for children. It was quite a jump in my career from the position of local market saleswoman. I was 18. My students were 7-15. How can an introvert enjoy teaching? Do it private. 1-3 students in a group. Also results will be impressive. Just in case you love teaching as much as I do.
My other dreams? They are still here. While I don’t design a lot of clothes nowadays, I moved to accessories and I do it for others. I still make photos of all the beautiful things I would like to keep for myself and share them with friends on social media time to time. Tennis we play with my son, when we have the opportunity (it’s a pity I didn’t have a try in it, as it looks like I am good in tennis as well as I would have been physically durable enough to make kind of career). And I still write, a lot. As well as I keep annoying people with my writing.
And what about economics? I am still in. I am also a licensed teacher of Entrepreneurship.
And I did most of my studies, post-graduate and vocational from home. From the fourth year of Uni I was the only student allowed to study distantly. Of course, there were some close to nonsense moments like 16 accomplished subject tests within 12 hours. My post-graduate group (nearly two years in) I saw few times within the whole period. Pedagogical studies I fulfilled distantly as well. In my opinion, the level of knowledge and the quality of result doesn’t differ from the ones obtained in the classroom. It is absolutely up to the personal abilities of the student. And introverts are much more capable inside own bubble.
Introvert Lesson No.5: Your Career- Your Way
I can claim I’ve done an introvert’s dream career: I have worked (1) mostly alone, (2) for myself, (3) from home.
After changing country for the first time I have worked in office for couple of years. It was a small company, so nobody bothered me with coffee breaks and chatting. We all had hands full. Then I worked for a couple of years in retail, in a small shop, where both, a colleague and a client were so rare sight, that I was really glad to see them.
Then we were working from home both, my husband and I. In 2005 we opened our first online shop from our living room. We had four rooms then: living room, bedroom and two workrooms, one for each of us. The apartment went too small within couple of years. We moved into a double bigger house, where half of space was workspace. It got too small soon. (Plus baby :))
We moved into a thrice bigger house, where ⅔ was workspace. The house was also in different country. It was so huge, that we used to phone each other. It got too small. We also had to take more workers, so we rented an office and workrooms nearby. I also visited that office few times a week, couple of hours per visit. All my work was arranged to be done distantly if necessary. And that necessity came out constantly.
If you think I was lazy to dress or move my ass to office (it’s 1.5 km from our home), you are wrong. I took as habit years ago to wake up at proper hour, dress and put make up just to tune myself up for the work day and not to be horrified by own mirror image. I just can’t bear the thought I have to interact with other people 8 hours a day.
I’ve tried, it was a disaster.
Introvert Lesson No.4: Your Space – Your Way
I’ve completed internship in an office of a public company while studying Pedagogy. It was a nightmare. There were some 8 people in that office. Everybody was sitting in their own aquarium corner. Open office – open wound on the introvert’s soul. 9 am – coffee; 12 am – lunch; 14 pm – coffee; 16 pm – home. Each session lasted 30-45 min. I failed to complete any assignment in time. My supervisor complained I made spelling mistakes in the papers.
Within 7-8 months I was there, I made some progress. I learnt to complete the tasks in time and write correctly. Guessed, I psycho-ed to reajust myself? Nope. I took the work home. I’ve presented ready works, and the supervisor was admiring how precisely everything is done. To say, it never took me more than a couple of hours to fulfil the task, which was supposed to occupy me for the whole working day.
I even applied for an open position they had there, because my supervisor encouraged me to do it. And I was really happy they didn’t choose me. I would have never been comfortable working there, anyway.
My comfort zone is extremely important for me. I’ve heard I have to leave it to achieve something significant. I’ve never left my own comfort zone, and will never do. And it is not what you think. This is the third country we live in. And I move my comfort zone with me from house to house and from country to country. I create my own space where I am. I am old enough to know what I need to feel comfortable.
Introvert is not equal to agoraphobic, xenophobic or immobile. Introverts can be curious, fun, adventurous – whatever. We just need a little own space around us. Even sometimes.
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