October 19, 2021•1,267 words
Let's preface this - this comes from an almost-30-year-old male who works in information security. Communication is exceptionally important in a work life for this type of role. From relaying security risks, best practices, and even going down to help desk, I've written countless articles and thousands of replies to individuals and groups of people with the goal of solving problems. I absolutely enjoy this (for the most part), but it's odd because I'm very introverted elsewhere, and as I write this my question to myself is simply "Why?".
It's odd to think back on life so far, but I'm sure everyone does it. I can recall moments from my entire school "career", and by far the most successful from a communication standpoint has to be middle school (read: 11-13 years old). I still remember talking to absolutely everyone, enjoying every minute of conversation, really just being friends with everyone. It was lucky - not everyone gets a chance to be "that person" who can be friends with everyone, but it was around the end of middle school where cliques were made - and I felt like I didn't belong anywhere.
Somehow I wanted to reinvent myself, so I did - high school was that time. I went from a high-water and Hawaiian shirt to more punk/emo culture. I was fascinated by it, from the culture itself to the music and all. Of course, being high school and still learning about myself, my identity changed with it as well.
Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.
This quote speaks absolute wonders about high school for me, because I practically lived it... if I was a car, of course.
So for the four years of high school, my identity revolved around a scene of black clothes, heavy metal, and cringy quotes. After all, high school for me was the MySpace era (sometimes I miss that, other times... well, it's probably better to be in the past). It wasn't until Senior year (read: 17 years old) that I started "snapping back" to reality (thanks Eminem). Four years of this identity didn't change my core values, and ultimately amounted to what I sometimes see as multiple missed opportunities.
However, I wouldn't change a thing now. I met my wife in high school. By far the best thing that's ever happened to me.
Tech School Life
A couple of years after high school, I started attending vocational school for what was then called Computer Information Technology. I didn't think college life was for me, I just wanted to learn about IT (really, get a sheet of paper that said I did) and get a job. Starting out, I was an introverted mess, for lack of better words. I never spoke in class unless asked, I never did anything but class work. I did my absolute best to be... well, generic. A forgettable face at the end of everything - and looking back, I don't know why I did that at the start.
I remember an event happening, though - during my first few weeks of class, an event occurred where an employee of the school I was at couldn't access any files. The computer was locked out, no passwords worked. My instructor was looking into it and didn't have any solutions there...
But I spoke up.
During high school, I took IT classes - I completely lucked out and was able to take four years of IT classes throughout high school. It also helps that I've practically bathed in IT since I was 8-9 years old. My brother introduced me to HTML and CSS then, and I enjoyed staying up all night and making websites of all kinds of useless stuff. I hate that I have none of it to show now, but the experience helped for this moment - I was a damn geek, and I knew how to fix this problem.
After solving this issue for the employee of the school, the instructor started calling on me for advanced technical stuff - I still did classwork, but not as much. I grew into a school-wide IT assistant. This actually boosted my confidence a hell of a lot, and suddenly the introverted side was gone... for now. I ended up working at the school after graduating for six years developing all kinds of IT solutions, but 2018 came and an opportunity shined, so I left.
So Everything's Good, Right?
If I ended everything there, you'd think that's the end of it - I went from introverted to extroverted, broke out of my shell, and now have zero communication problems.
It's a war zone in my head.
This could be an age-related thing, this could be paranoia, this could be anything. But have you ever felt like you didn't belong, even when you're reassured?
There are plenty of moments in life now where I want to hang out with friends, but I feel like I'm such an inconvenience to their day. When I say hang out, I don't mean plan a whole days worth of activities and stuff - a lot of times, I just like being in the same room as friends - there's a comforting feeling there, but it's a battle in my head as to whether I'm being an inconvenience... or a nuisance... or if they would rather be by themselves... or if I'm interfering with their work... or if I'm not considered a friend... or if...
I truly believe thoughts can kill.
It's an absolute nightmare battling countless negative thoughts, all for what I perceive is something simple. It's frustrating, especially when I can remember times where this was never a problem, so what happened?
Digital Communication - A Relief... Sort Of
I really luck out with being in the digital era - I don't have to actually talk to people if I don't want to, I can send a text message, use countless chat apps, or email and I can get my point across without any issues. Being able to type thoughts out helps tremendously, and it has a benefit too - I feel like I speak more freely typing than by speaking.
Ever have a moment where you try to say something nice, reassuring, kind, etc., and you just butcher the delivery, or it "comes out wrong"? Ever think about that moment for hours upon hours days, weeks, months after it happened and suddenly relive the embarrassing moment over and over?
Typing and texting helps to prevent that, though it also has it's drawbacks. It's hard to be able to infer emotion into text - emojis are by far the best thing to help with that, regardless of what anyone online says (looking at you Reddit).
Digital communication can never replace in-person communication, though.
So Why Write This?
Looking back at everything I've written, this is definitely scattered. There's a lot where I could elaborate further, and who knows - maybe I write a part two and cite back.
So why did I want to write all of this? It doesn't solve anything, it's just a rant or a ramble for the sake of it.
And sometimes, that's all you need. Sometimes an outlet, no matter how small, helps wonders. Surely I'm not the only one who feels this, but maybe someone else doesn't know what to do - maybe someone else things they're the only ones feeling like this too, so maybe this can be reassurance that they're not.