Being an extrovert and a recovering people junkie isn’t all that easy.
According to most of the scientific community extroverts have no problems meeting new people. They’re always the ones percolated by monstrous social galas and special events. They’re the soul of every party, the get things done, take no prisoners, kind of people. An extrovert is quick to acknowledge someone they’ve never met with an enthusiastic greeting, a snappy and enticing hello. Their continuum dictates they surround themselves with bubbly people and sparkly things.
All pretty admirable qualities if you’re into that sort of thing.
For a long time I was into that sort of thing.
These days saying hello to people I’ve never met is challenging. But it wasn’t always that way.
Many years ago,there were times when I wanted to be, and often was, the life of the party. I could party hardy when I was invited to the revelry, but I also had a moody side to me. I could brood with the best of them.
I was such the bad boy, a modern day Lord Byron. With the noted exception he wrote beautiful soul-touching poems and I wrote, well, shit.
Back in those days I labeled myself as an extrovert with introspective sensitivity.
Self diagnosis can be a wondrous thing sometimes. Sigmund? Eat your heart out bucko.
I wanted to be liked (loved) by all and I was willing to go out of my way to make it happen. If I came upon attention I wanted to be the center of it. I had this compulsion to be one of those Will Rodgers kind of people. He was once quoted as saying he never met a man he didn’t like and I by God was going to be one of those men.
By the time I reached adulthood (I now know that’s not the same as maturity) I’d acquired a ton of new acquaintances and had my share of friend circles. I became a people junkie, hurtling along gathering acolytes, never stopping to notice my supposed friends all wanted something from me.
They wanted my attention, my money, my girlfriends, my life. They all were sucking the life out me and I was letting them.
My guy friends were fair weather. My girl friends wanted more than just my friendship. My co-workers were willing to stomp across my back to get higher than me on the corporate ladder. Each of them demanded from me and never gave a single thing in return.
But I was always taught a true friend should never expect reciprocity. You’re not supposed to give expecting something in return. That’s not true friendship.
Seems as though each of my so called friends and co-workers forgot the “Treat Me” clause of a relationship.
Treat me as you wish to be treated.
Let me bum money from you all the time before you start asking me for a twenty. Shut up talking about my latest partner and let me take yours out on a couple of dates if she is so inclined. Let me ditch you at a couple of mixers before you drive off — with my money and my date forcing me to hitch a ride. Let me take credit for work you did before you start stealing all of mine.
I finally realized for me to survive it would become necessary to say goodbye — to all of them.
And I did.
But then I realized I was on this journey through life alone. Alone and frightened. I’d never been alone before. I’d always had places to go where I could collect a new set of friends. Now my phone wasn’t blowing up anymore. I wasn’t being invited to any splashy parties. When I showed up at the water cooler, my colleagues simply, walked away.
No one was bothering to look me up or hook me up.
For the first time in my life it was just me and the crickets and I was scared out of my scull. I was certain as hell I was going to die alone and no one would even know I was gone.
It was without doubt one of the most paralyzing feelings I’d ever experienced.
The thing about being a recovering people junkie extrovert is that you have this irresistible urge to reach out and connect; to say hello to someone, anyone, all the freaking time.
You need a validation fix so terribly bad it’s all you think about.
But you keep remembering the hell you went through with all your so called friends and you bite your tongue and keep your mouth shut. You struggle with your decision like hell, thinking maybe it will be different this time. This time you’re better prepared for what happens if you say hello and then have to say goodbye. Saying hello soon becomes the most difficult thing you can do in your life.
But then, I learned much later there’s a lot to be said for not saying hello.
I met my wife by not saying hello.
My wife (I love her so) and I worked for different companies but were housed in the same building. We both smoked at the time and when the weather was nice I would often lean against the brick wall of the smoking area and watch she and her co-workers as they sat on a concrete bench. When they finished they would pass me on their way to the entrance and my wife and her friends would offer me a smile and say hello.
To which I never responded. Not even with a nod. I just continued to smoke and kept to myself.
This went on for almost two months until she marched up to me, wagged her finger about an inch from my nose and said, “They all told me you were an asshole and guess what? You are.”
With that she stormed inside leaving me stunned. I remember thinking at the time I may have been a lot of things but I was pretty sure I wasn’t an asshole.
I don’t know. Maybe I was.
After all, I was a recovering extroverted people junkie. My psychosis certainly didn’t give me the most rosy disposition at times. But this woman didn’t know me at all. She had no idea what I’d been through.
The next day I waited until she came out to smoke and after she and her friends sat down I walked over and introduced myself.
“Hello, my name is Paul and contrary to what you’ve been told I’m not an asshole. Really I’m not. I’d like an opportunity to prove it, if you’ll let me.”
Four years later we were married. It was the best hello ever to come out of my mouth.
To this day it’s much harder for me to say hello than to say goodbye and my true friends are few and far between. I’ve grown very selective with my hello(s) these days and interestingly enough I’ve not had to experience the pain of very many goodbyes.
That’s why it was so difficult for me to use Medium in the beginning. I joined back in 2017 and I seldom, if ever, posted. It was like if I posted, I would be throwing out a bunch of hello(s) to total strangers and I’d already been to that rodeo.
But I kept trying and what I soon discovered was a group of solid friends, along with brother’s and sister’s in arms who give of themselves daily. I never have to ask them for a single thing and they never ask me for anything either. But each day we share. We share our honesty, our unique takes on life and we talk about things happening around us. We share shit we think is funny and provocative trains of thought.
That’s why I sure as hell don’t mind shouting out to all my Medium buddies.
Hello Medium writers. How the hell are you today?
P.G. Barnett lives a Texas life in bliss with his wife. Not so much bliss with two female cats. Thus, the warped sense of humor.
Let’s keep in touch — firstname.lastname@example.org