Trying to Network as an Introvert

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” says the salesman father to his straight-A-student and introverted daughter.

I used to think I was outgoing, once upon a time. Then I went to a summer camp in Chicago with no one I knew and realized I am not that person.

I hate networking. It all seems fake and I’m terrible at small talk. I’ve only successfully networked once. I don’t even really remember how we met, but he ended up recommending me for a job before we ever met in person. Let’s call him Joe. Very nice guy, and probably the closest thing to a mentor that I have.

Joe and I get together every time I’m back at my Alma Mater. He understands some of the painful parts of my job that I hate. He knows a lot of people in the industry and in the business world in general. Any time I mention any potential company I might want to work for, he seems to know someone who works/has worked there. I picked a good person to network with.

Joe works for the university, and because he works with students trying to find a job, he encounters a lot of people like me. Young professionals, out there in the world trying to figure it out. So occasionally I get emails where he tries to connect me with these people – people with their first real job, in my general metro area. Which seems great, right? So I reach out to the first few all “hey let’s get coffee!” and got nothing back. So I stopped trying to reach out.

I just recently received a LinkedIn message from one of these people Joe suggested (months ago) I connect with. Which is sort of great, right? Even if it’s months later, she’s still trying to connect. But between the phone tag I’m playing with her right now, all I can think about is: wtf am I going to say to this person?

I know what to say to random recruiters when they call. I know what to say to people who are asking me for help finding a job. I know what to say to lots of other strangers that I have to interact with.  I have scripts for a lot of situations. I have answers ready to the questions I expect them to ask. But this is a new thing for me. And I haven’t had to put my fake bubbly face on in awhile. Then again, do I have to? I’m not trying to impress this person like I’m interviewing for a job. She’s just a person that’s nice to know, right? But still: wtf do I say to this person? What do we talk about?

Hopefully she’s outgoing and extroverted and good at small talk and this will all be okay. It’s all about who you know.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Friends

I don’t even know if I can explain how I feel. Not betrayed, maybe abandoned? Even if this is a normal thing, do I have a right to feel like this? It feels like they broke up with me but never bothered to tell me.

We used to talk every day, and now barely once a week. It’s like I’m the immature child who’s friends all grew up and got married and moved away. Except many of them don’t live too far and they aren’t married yet. Just in very intense (and apparently time consuming) relationships.

Maybe I feel replaced more than abandoned. Was I replaced? Am I that easy to replace? Am I being too insecure about the whole thing? Will it ever get better? Or worse: will I lose touch even more? And then we’ll devolve from finishing each other’s sentences to that awkward form of acquaintance-ness where we can only manage barely more than small talk. Or we can only relive old memories, but are incapable of creating new ones.

It hurts, whatever it is. I feel…hurt. I’ve lost good friends to siginificant others more than I care to admit and I long time ago I swore I’d never do it to any of my friends. So why do they keep doing it to me?

Am I being selfish? I’m happy for them, of course. Not that they’d know it, or anything else about me. But I still am, regardless. But why can’t they be happy and in love and all these things and still be friends with me?

Am I unknowingly doing this to some of my own friends? I’m sure I have before, even though I swore not to do so. It could still be happening. I wish someone would tell me if it was.

Will it keep happening; will it get worse? Will I slowly lose all my friends to marriage or love or babies? Will I have to make new friends? Geographically closer, similar life situation friends?

But I liked my friends, the ones I had before we all grew up.

This doesn’t seem fair.

Stagnancy is hazardous

A very, very close friend of mine got married last weekend and after his honeymoon he’s headed back to his new home in Denver this week. One of my coworkers just announced her first pregnancy. A new but semi-close friend of mine returns to California today; he graduated college so now he’s going to take some time to figure out what to do with his life.
And then, me. I’m just… here.
I don’t want to get married or have babies quite yet, but after more than a year at the same job I feel stagnant. And not just in a “this is real life and you don’t get a promotions every six months the way you change classes every semester in college” sort of way. It’s been a year and I don’t feel like I’ve learned all that much with this job. Everything I learned in the first 3 months is all I’ve learned so far. And it may be all I will learn for another year, at least. I’m not moving forward and I think I might even be moving backwards in some ways.
And ok, so I have things like this blog. Like my coaching, like the instagram I made for my dog (yeah, it happened, I’m not sorry). Weird side projects that I can’t even fully commit to – just look at how often I update this! It started as a weekly thing and has slowly drifted to more of a monthly pace. Which is fine, probably. Maybe I was too ambitious with the weekly goal in the first place.
But seriously –
What.
Am.
I.
Doing!
I went to a new dentist for the first time today, and my hygienist – who’s probably in her late 40s or early 50s – is telling me how she sort of wants to look at new career options. The problem is she’s even more stuck than I am. She’s been in her position for 20 years, her two kids are about to start college, and her retirement is looming on the horizon. She can’t see how it would make sense to go back to school, so what else can she do? Many of her friends, she tells me, feel the same way she does. They aren’t really happy in their careers but they’ve waited too long and it doesn’t make financial sense to make a drastic change. So they just wait to retire.
That’s exactly the position I don’t want to be in 25 years from now.
There are days where I’m totally comfortable in all the limbos. My dating life makes no sense, I don’t know what I want to do with my career, etc. Then the stagnation gets to me. It’d be fine if I didn’t know what I wanted, but was still moving in some direction. Any direction! Not knowing and not moving though? That’s too much to deal with.

After living here for a year, I’m finally starting to explore my city. Since I’m not good at making friends, I’m just doing it solo. Why wait for someone to go with? I’m a perfectly capable adult who can totally do things on my own!

I’ve already mentioned my first solo bar trip, but before that I went to the art museum and wandered around that part of the city for awhile. It was a gorgeous day and everything about it was perfect. I didn’t even go through the entire museum because there was just too much to see! Last weekend, I went back to the art museum and tried to go see an exhibit but it was sold out, so I ended up at the local historical museum across the street. The city’s historical museum is also free, but not as cool as the art museum would have been. Still, I learned a couple of cool things about my city. Who knew there was a surprising amount of culture that came from – and was impacted by – this decaying mess!?

Now that I’ve done this a few times, going out on my own is not a big deal to me anymore. And why should it be anyway? I’m introverted, independent, and self-sufficient; thus, I’m more than okay doing a lot of things by myself. I probably wouldn’t go to, say, a sporting event by myself, but I’m cool with wandering around and doing things where I don’t need to talk to people anyway.

However, I made the mistake of mentioning my solo fun to my coworkers. Most of them are married. Or they’ve lived in the area their whole life, so all their friends are here. Or they have kids. Or the most excitement they get is refinancing their mortgage. Maybe all of the above. So when I said I went to the art museum by myself, some of them didn’t believe me. The rest make fun of me for it whenever possible.

Now, I’m not the sensitive type. I can take a joke. I’m usually “that girl” that is just the natural target for getting made fun of. And I welcome it; I always have a good comeback because that’s how I was raised. But their comments about me going to the museum by myself actually stung this time. In front of my coworkers, I laughed it off. In reality, I was angry at them! Who are they to tell me what’s strange? I’m single and alone up here – does that mean I have to stay home every weekend? Do I have to go out on stupid, awkward, uncomfortable dates just so I can leave my house? You with the kids – you don’t crave some alone time now and then? You with the husband – don’t you go shopping by yourself almost every day? You, that just bought a house – don’t you go to lunch by yourself at least once a week? How is this any different?

What I got from this experience is that there are socially acceptable solo activities, like grocery shopping, and there are socially unacceptable solo activities. Apparently fun things do not fit into that first list. I think that’s ridiculous. So while I’m still annoyed by their jests, I’m not going to stop doing these things. I’m just not going to tell them about it anymore. Which, given how prying and nosy these people can be, I shouldn’t tell them anything anyway.

If you were wondering what the downside to moving to a new city and living alone is? I wouldn’t say this is it. Go out, do things on your own. Just be prepared for people to question it. And ignore them. They wish they had the confidence to do the same.

First time for everything

I remember saying to my friends when we first graduated college, “Well, my dad made friends by just going to the same bar enough times, so…maybe that’s how adults make friends.”

Yet, it took me a year to go to a bar by myself.

Monday, the USWNT played their second round game against Colombia. I found out that the limited cable I have didnt have the channel the game was on, so I texted the few people I knew in the area, with no luck. I really wanted to see the game, so I decided to go to a bar, by myself, to watch it.

Honestly, it was sort of great.

I did text a lot of people during this process. Both for typical important game reasons –  OMG did you see that penalty? what BS! – but also to feel less alone. But once I got there, I wanted them to stop texting me. The game was exciting, the bartender was friendly… I didn’t need these remote access friends. While I didn’t meet anyone new, the atmosphere and people watching were enough to keep me company. I even tried 3 new beers! And they were all great!

Yeah, it was uncomfortable at first. and yes, this experience was helped by a good bar with a good bartender and an excellent beer selection. But either way, I highly recommend.

A History of Madness

When I was younger, my dad would tell me that I was sorta like him – I never got too sad, but also never experienced the highs of overwhelming happiness. My emotions, like his, were always somewhere in the middle. He would get happy, sure, but never elated. He might get upset (and anger was certainly in his emotional vocabulary) but he rarely got inconsolably distressed. Growing up, I thought this was a totally normal personality trait I inherited; I thought a lot of people were similar.

In high school I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression. It finally clicked; that’s what my dad was talking about when he talked about his lack of mood swings. It wasn’t necessarily common, which I started to pick up on as I met and even befriended people who were the exact opposite. One of my best friends experiences every conceivable emotion in a given day, and it continues to be a hard thing for me to grasp. So that’s a common misconception – depression isn’t always feeling “down” as the name would suggest, but rather a lack of feeling any emotion – the highs or the lows. I don’t think I ever would have known, had I not been diagnosed.

Even so, when I was first diagnosed I rejected the idea. I didn’t want to be on any medication, I didn’t want to have a name for what I probably always knew was there. Luckily the psychologist who diagnosed me never really mentioned medication – he was all about natural remedies and gave me the rundown on what depression means and how to deal with it, sans drugs. I have to make sure I exercise, get enough sleep (but not too much), eat well (but don’t overeat), be careful with alcohol. Basic human needs and maybe common sense, sure. Except that when you’re depressed, all you want to do is lay around the house and sleep as much as possible. For me, I know I’m in an episode when all I want to do is sleep and when I don’t laugh quite as loud.

I know I’m come out of the shadows, however, when I can laugh hysterically again. As a baby, my mom tells me I would giggle uncontrollably to the point where everyone else in the room couldn’t stop laughing. Infectious, she called it. I was a happy kid. Later on, I wouldn’t realize the lack of laughter until I became hysterical again, until I was in the sun and out of the shadow. I remember one time early in my teenage years, I was in the car and something weird happened or my dad said something funny and I could not stop laughing. I laughed so hard I cried; so hard my stomach hurt. When I finally caught my breathe, I realize I hadn’t laughed like that in months, maybe even a year. I now remember that as the first time I came out of an episode. It’s comforting, in a way, to know I dealt with this thing before I even knew it was there. What other enemy can you defeat before you know it’s there?

The really messed up part is that I don’t even consider it an enemy; more of a companion, though nothing like Dexter’s dark passenger. I’ve written about it before, but it’s a delicate balance. When I’m depressed, my writing is usually better. I don’t know why, really. Maybe all the time I’m not spending with people gives me time to write; maybe the lack of emotion gives me some kind of clarity. It could be a lot of things, but writing is the one thing that brings me to some kind of peace with it, with my shadow.

Which, at a glance, is pretty cool right? Ok so general apathy whatever, but then my writing is (on average) a little better! Yay! Except I can’t control this thing, this shadow. It also makes my writing a little darker than I would prefer to be, normally. When I’m not experiencing it, I do everything to avoid it. I exercise, I sleep, I eat. I don’t feel it coming until it’s too late. It’s not like the flu. But when it does take over, I just sort of ride it out. I catch up on sleep, I write as much as possible. Even so, I don’t always know it’s happening until it’s over, so I can’t really take advantage of it, I just…exist through it. I don’t even realize my writing is good when I’m dealing with it. There’s just nothing I can do about it. At least, that’s how it feels. It feels like it won’t ever end. Somewhere, in the farthest reaches of my memory, I know it’ll pass. But I can’t make myself believe it.


A few weekends ago, I learned my maternal great-grandmother was diagnosed with depression after her husband died. In her lifetime, she also lost a brother and her son, both much too soon. To me, she’s always seemed happy-go-lucky, and I never knew her any other way.

After I was diagnosed, I never really talked to my dad about whether or not he thinks he has the same thing. We’ve talked about my depression, but never his.

This thing is coming at me from both sides of the family tree. Even if sometimes it’s born out of trauma rather than inherited – it exists. It’s there. I’ve embraced it, in a sense. Maybe because mine is mild, usually, I have that luxury.

It’s still scary, though. How will this thing change as I get older? Is the worst of it over, post-puberty? Is the worst yet to come – in the postpartum or menopausal stages of life? Will it ever go away?

Do I want it to?

Curse of the What Ifs

Sometimes the ‘what ifs’ still get me.

What if I had ended that relationship any sooner? Would I have studied abroad? What if I studied something differently altogether? What if I stayed in school another year, what if I learned a language? Where could I be now – if I hadn’t narrowed the search, and limited myself just for you?

What if I ever told my childhood crush how I felt?

What if I ever demanded a relationship from the boy who wouldn’t commit?

What if I hadn’t sacrificed so much of myself for you? What if I don’t even realize the extent of what I gave up? Who would I be now, where would I be, without those sacrifices?

What if I don’t deserve any better? What if I keep repeating those mistakes? What if I can’t ever be the person I think I can be?

What if I don’t have all the potential I think I have?

What if I’ve already missed some chances I needed to take?