When I left that job, it was just the beginning of a longer path, just the first tentative steps in upending the normalcy I’d meticulously built up over the past twenty years. It’s April now. Time flies when the emotional framework surrounding your time is no longer restricted to the artificial timelines of marketing executives, but instead exists to measure the quality, not quantity, of completed tasks. I built an enormous LEGO AT-AT, one day; I gave my kitchen a deep-cleaning; one day I read two books.
One would have imagined that during such a period of weighty thought, I surely could have said hello to the people to whom I had just announced this enormous change in my life.
Apologies. I’m fine.
When I say to people who know me from work that I’m actually a very introverted, quiet person, the shock that registers is honest each time. There are, decidedly, two outward personalities of Stephen Van Doren, and the one that is shown in public–that is, the one that is more frequently on display at work, that ever-growing eater of public time–is markedly different than the one that is more natural when I’m not earning my keep. This, by itself, is not an interesting story; most people experience some degree of the same thing. Where my story departs is that it is positively exhausting to put on that mask that so many others don so effortlessly.
If I were just a step further introverted, maybe onto that list of keenly-eyed neurological disorders, doubtless I would simply discard the mask, perhaps I wouldn’t draw those useful social connections as well, or I might not be as interested in seeing others smile as a result of my actions. Instead, I’m saddled with just enough social awareness to expend considerable energy working those side quests–Make 5 People Laugh During Morning SCRUM; Convince One Waitress to Take a Photo and then Autograph It–while simultaneously progressing the main quest of generating income for my frivolous hobbies. I’m what the gaming community calls a “completionist” in life. (Oddly, much less-so in games.)
So when I step away, I step away. I had to focus entirely on one quest for a while. My natural state is with a book in my hand, the early morning Spring sun on my face, steaming cup of coffee on the table. Probably NPR on the radio inside.
I’ve finished, though. I’ve decompressed. Time to start integrating back into society.