Good reason to pretend to be an extrovert

Jose Conejo

Jose, a native of Ecuador, who agreed to let me interview him for my novel

I see myself as a closet introvert, someone who would rather stay home and read a good book and not go to a party with strangers.  Still, as I get older I find it a little easier to pretend I’m an extrovert, even in situations where I feel uncomfortable doing so.

Last week provided me with a wonderful opportunity to confirm that it is important to continue to try extroversion when it is appropriate. For readers who also are closet introverts, take this as a sign that the benefits of pretending you’re more outgoing than you feel can outweigh the possibility of momentary discomfort.

My story begins with the drafting of the first chapter of my new novel, which takes place in the Andes and involves a tale inspired by ancestors who lived there around 1900. The biggest challenge is describing a setting I’ve never been to. I’ve figured out ways to get around this, but still feel a bit like a cheater.  Friends tell me I have to travel to the Andes, but when I think of places I’d like to visit before I die, the Andes hasn’t surfaced near the top of my list.

A few minutes after shutting down my computer and feeling satisfied with my first few pages, I drove to meet a friend for lunch at a shopping mall.  I arrived early and decided to continue walking until our meeting time. I hadn’t gone far before I stopped, my mouth gaping, in front of a store called Andean Essence.  Was this fate or what?

I walked in and saw the proprietor sitting in an alcove behind the main part of the store completely absorbed in painting a picture.  He didn’t look up.  I stood and stared.  Now what?  If I’d been there to shop, I’d have no problem interrupting his concentration, but I wanted to ask him for help.  Finally I spoke. I told him a little about my story and asked if I could interview him.  “I want to know what Andes mountain air feels like, and the sounds, the smells, and the landscape of the region,” I said.

“You want to interview me?”  He almost blushed.  “I would be honored.”

The interview took place a few days later. He was most interested in talking about the cosmic world, while I was aiming my questions at ground level. In exchange for listening to his views on the connections between all beings, the causes of racism, and environmental issues, I learned a little about his home town, and Andean trees, birds, musical instruments, grains, medicinal herbs, as well as guinea pigs as items on a family’s dinner menu, and local wild animals. All in all, a fair trade. He taught me a few words in a language I didn’t recognize, after which I asked, “Are you Quechua?”

When he said, “Yes,” I was thrilled. I had met someone from the same indigenous group  my ancestors lived with. He spoke the same language that ultimately thwarted their efforts to achieve their goals, since — like me — they only knew Spanish. Equally thrilling was meeting someone a few miles from home, who could give me a first-hand view of the setting for my novel and maybe even become a model for one of its characters. And all because for one moment I’d decided to step out of my shell.





About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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4 Responses to Good reason to pretend to be an extrovert

  1. dkzody says:

    Good for you. I talk to everyone so it’s no big deal for me, but for someone who is reticent to strike up a conversation, you took a big leap. Glad it paid off so handsomely. I have found, if you ask the right questions about a person, they are delighted to talk to you.

  2. stillalife says:

    You are so right!

  3. Shirley Shimada says:

    After your smooth and friendly chairing of the service last Sunday, I do not think of you as a hidden extrovert. You were so clear and confident…

  4. ann oxrieder says:

    I think public speaking and introversion might be two different things. I’ve given many, many speeches over the years, ones I had to write myself, so following a script is relatively easy, even if people requested half a dozen changes before we even began. A friend sent me an on-line introversion/extroversion test. I scored in the middle between the two types.

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