About 20 years ago I worked for an organization that is now called “The Arc.” Back then it was still called The Association for Retarded Citizens, a name that I didn’t really care for because the word “retarded” has such negative connotations to it. In fact, I have to hold back on hostile retaliatory impulses when I hear someone use the word “retarded”. It’s such an awful word.
Back to my point.
While working at The Arc, my last position with the organization was “Community Residence Coordinator.” Basically, I was responsible for the staff, facilities and physical plant for a cluster of group homes. My co-supervisor, a wonderful woman by the name of Tammy, was responsible for the mental and physical well-being of the residents (whom I still refer to as “the folks”). She was much like a case-worker. Tammy helped the folks formulate reasonable goals for achievement and made sure that they were comfortable in the home that I supervised.
Tammy was very outgoing. We could sit in our shared office space and chat for hours. Both of us had risen through the ranks, having both been Residence Managers (we managed one residence for one 35 hour shift per week) before the supervisory we held together. I enjoyed talking with Tammy because she was so well-spoken. She could conduct case review meetings with ease; I always stammered and stuttered when speaking in front of the staff during weekly staff meetings. It wasn’t a lack of confidence, it was a lack of comfort on my behalf. I just don’t like interacting with other people.
I wanted to be more outgoing and be more like other people: at ease in social situations, part of the crowd, banging empty shot glasses down on the bar when everyone was half-cocked during a night on the town. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not really wired that way. I like being part of a big group gathering when I can watch from the outside. I’m not afraid. I’m not shy. I just don’t like being in that type of space. I can do it, but it’s not what I like the most. It’s kind of like the bar scenario; I liked being in a bar best when I was alone or with Earl in the DJ booth, contributing to the party with my DJing skills from my own little corner.
I don’t know if Tammy was a partier or not. I suspect she may have been. We did talk about skydiving once and she went ahead and did it. She jumped from a hot-air balloon and had a hell of a time. There was a part of me that wanted to do that. Not for the thrill of doing it or the rush of wind blowing by my face or the sense of flying through the air. I wanted to skydive so that I could prove to the world that I could do it. Even though I really wanted to be just reading a book or in my “alone space”, I would show everyone that I was just as capable as they were at doing wild, adventurous, outgoing things. People always loved the outgoing people. I wanted to be loved in that way. That’s one of the reasons I was a radio DJ for a while. It would make me seem outgoing. It would make me seem to be part of the world. I didn’t care about being known. Truth of the matter is that I would have been just as content doing the behind the scenes work for the station.
I did end up bungee jumping at the county fair. That was my way of proving that I could come out of my corner and seek out adrenaline rushes and be outgoing and be spontaneous and do crazy things. When I finally got my self settled on the ground after that bungee jump, I felt the sense of accomplishment that I thought I would because I had proven to the world (and in fact, on the radio) that I had done just that. I didn’t feel fulfilled from the rush of adrenaline, I felt that I had completed what was expected of me. I had done something outgoing.
Most gay men surround themselves with lots of people. They have friends, they have lovers, they have friends with benefits. All of that is well and good, for them. I’m wired differently. I like my smaller circles. I would rather have a couple of very trusted friends over a whole gaggle of people that are doing their thing in their world together. Try as I might, that just doesn’t fit. I have a husband that gets me most of the time, though I probably frustrate the hell out of him some of the time. My first reaction to a group gathering seems to be negative. I need to stop that knee jerk reaction, that’s a fault of mine. I just need a few minutes to process a situation before jumping into it. I’m going to work on that for my next revolutionary ride around the sun.
Now I’m going to go sit in the corner and read a good book (well, an iPad version of a book) for the rest of my lunch hour. It’s a great way to recharge.