No Shrinking Violet

This post will be a little abstract, and I admit might be more for my own thought process than anyone else’s. But I’m digesting a lot of mental information, and this is a way for me to roll an idea around and see if it’s going to germinate into something, somewhere.

If you ask me, or we talk long enough, chances are good you will hear me describe myself as shy. Of course, chances are equally good your reaction will be outright laughter, disbelief, and telling me that I’m no shrinking violet. Which is a fair reaction, and I begrudge no one it, but experientially, my perspective and yours are different.

You (and I speak in the vaguest sense here) see the me who’s worked on the smile that flashes dimples and scrunches her nose, who’s taken years of sign language and body language skills and can control her non-verbal posture, and to a degree manipulate your response to it. You see the me who’s talked to herself in the elevator, or along the walkways to meeting you, practicing conversation and pep talk, who’s tried out phrases and checked her hair three hundred times to make sure everything is just so.

But I live all those experiences, the uncertainty and doubt and fidgeting and pacing and talking to myself. You get the finished project, but I make myself daily and am intimately tied to that process – I see me for me, and the me-in-the-world is not the me you’re reflecting on.

Shy, however, might not be the right description. Instead, what it might be is introversion. Can you be an outgoing introvert? I think so, just like I think you can be both extraverted and shy. In my case, I do enjoy talking to people, I do like connection and exchange of ideas and all those sorts of things. But I also get tired. I become circularly reflective on every last detail and word of the conversation, analyzing the most minute datapoint and trying to decode the meaning. And the exhaustion that sets in after days of being around people – well, it leaves me like I am tonight, flattened and in bed before 10. It’s simply tiring to be around people, and to always feel like I’m working at overcoming the impulse to fade into the nearest corner, back to the wall, becoming nothing more than a pair of eyes filtering the world.

There is some more to this, of course, that drifts into gendered analysis of experience, and I’ll get to that soon. But 9 hours after writing the original piece above, and a hard night’s sleep later, I’ve got another few hours of ASBH before I begin the long journey home. So much for real-time blogging of the conference! (I do, however, have copious notes that will make their way out into the world in short order.) Next year, I think there needs to be a blogging station, where we sucker prominent bioethicists into posting their thoughts about the conference, or sessions they just attended – small soundbites. Not to mention podcasting…

“my god there are a lot of you”

So, after some lighthearted negotiation, it’s been determined that “I am” to AMBI, their first PhD student. It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s also not entirely inaccurate, and it’s easier to introduce me to people that way.

So, for most of this evening, that’s how I’ve been introducing myself – Kelly, from UA and AMBI. To which I have heard “one of McGee’s, eh?” or “oh, you’re one of them – my GOD there are a lot of you” more than once. Much, much more than once. It’s all rather amusing, and a little nerve-wracking.

However, people’s evil plans are paying off, and I’m actually meeting folks. Having lunches and coffees and good god 7:30am will be early breakfasts, and I’m slowly asserting myself a bit more and learning the art of the mingle. I think the most surprising thing of the day, aside from hydroplaning in a Boeing 777, was learning a particular familial relationship I had not known before.

I have academic-y things to think and talk about, at same point where I’ve had more than three hours sleep in the last 48.