Conversation Can Be Overrated

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One of the things I’m going to enjoy most about The Camino is the chance to not have to talk that much. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, and I enjoy exchanging ideas with folks I meet. However, I’m also an introvert, and too much social interaction is emotionally and physically draining for me.

Tonight, for instance, I went to dinner with some clients whom I also consider friends. They’re fun to hang out with, and we had a great time talking about both business and personal matters over steaming bowls of pho at our favorite local Vietnamese place. But the strain of adopting a chatty, extroverted nature for a client meeting is really hard on me. I can do it; in fact, a decent subset of my acquaintances know me as a pretty outgoing person. It’s just that it takes every ounce of energy I have to be that kind of girl, and the aftereffects are sometimes major.

After dinner, my energy levels took a nosedive. I had plans to go out to a concert, but by the time I got home I knew that there was no way that could happen. I was exhausted. All that talking had worn me out for the night. The most I could do was put on pajamas and curl up on the couch.

On my walk, I’ll have hours of quiet every day, but also (hopefully, anyway) plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get to know their stories. I won’t have to pretend I’m anything other than what I am – a traveler enjoying the scenery, thinking about life, and looking forward to the next albergue. Ah, I’m feeling more relaxed already. G’nite folks!

Vacation Retrospective – Day #3: Meeting Zachary

If you’ve read my last post, Vacation Archives – Day #4: Venice, you’ll know that the night before travelling to Venice, I went out with the Bride’s younger twin cousins (amongst other members of the bridal party), and had a great time. It would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning how important this night was to my vacation, overall.

Up until going out with this oddly matched group of Croatians, an Armenian, and two fellow North Carolinians, I was feeling pretty down. One best friend had just gotten hitched, while the other was preggers. They’re both forceful presences in my life, and not only was I feeling overwhelmed by the changes they were going through, I was also feeling overwhelmed to once again be in their presence. They’re both captivating, powerful women, with lots to say and no fear of saying it. When we’re together, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise. By nature I’m pretty introverted. I don’t speak unless I’ve been thinking about what it is I’m going to say for a while. I detest arguing unless it’s a big ticket thing I’m fighting for. In a similar vein, I avoid confrontation unless it’s meaningful and warranted, and I have a lot of trouble expressing my emotions. Basically it means that I either don’t get to talk at all, or else that they have to stop and be thoughtful and give me room to express myself (both of which make me feel like a loser who can’t get with the program).

Now, imagine me, jet-lagged and lonely, trying to come to terms with my friends’ new lives, mulling my own over and not getting anywhere. Now imagine that no matter how much I want to be heard and seen, I’m just emotionally incapable of putting myself before my friends for even a second, of fighting to have a good time just for me. I’m under an enormous weight, feeling this incredible pull to just sit down, shut up, and let everything just happen to me, instead of with me, or for me, or by me. The thing is, as I realized much later in the vacation, this is how I’ve often felt in the company of my best friends. Marginalized, through no fault of their own. The third wheel. The one to be pitied or goaded or petted. The pet. The little sister. And that’s something that’s been happening since way before I ever knew them. Somehow, I project some kind of weakness that makes me the lesser quotient of any group.

But this is not a pity party, actually. This is a celebration, because if it wasn’t for one of the twins, Zachary, I wouldn’t have ever realized this piece of the puzzle. I realized at the reception, then the next night at the party, that Ian got all the attention, while Zachary, much like me, was palpably part of the periphery. It was probably too bold of me, but I struck up conversation by asking him what it was like to be in the shadow of his outgoing, super-fun brother. Not that Zachary wasn’t super-fun, as well…he’s just cool in a different, understated way. We got to talking about what it means to be linked to other people, and the struggle to have a voice while also genuinely loving the attention our friends/family/coworkers/competition are receiving. It’s a weird spot to be in, and he got it so well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Anne of Green Gables, but the parts where Anne waxes poetic about meeting a kindred spirit have always stuck with me. I’ve only met a few genuine kindred spirits in my lifetime, along with a great number of genuinely awesome (but not quite spiritually compatible) folks. It was obvious to me that Zachary was a kindred spirit, and in his own way he helped me figure out something about myself, about what it’s going to take to believe in myself more, to speak up for myself daily instead of monthly or yearly, to stand up to the people I least want to offend with my need to breathe freely.

It’s funny, because before going on vacation I thought that maybe The Man was one of those people, that maybe I should be more forceful with giving him a piece of my mind. Over my trip, I came to realize that yes, I could stand to talk more often, but he’s one of the only people in the world that I constantly speak only the truth to, and loudly, and weirdly, and me-ly. My problem there is not knowing what I want – not that he isn’t giving me what I’m asking for. That’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms, for a different blog post all together.

Anyway, Zachary, if you end up reading this – thank you. You rock more than you’ll ever know.