Quite often I forget to talk. I love listening to people and watching them. And writing about them. I’ll be right there next to people, all sad when they’re sad, and elated when they’re happy, and feeling like I’m there in that story they’re telling, and I feel so alive and wonderful and social, and then someone will inevitably lean over and whisper to me, “You’re so quiet tonight, Shannon. Everything OK?”
And every single time that happens I feel surprised, because I feel like I’ve just been animated and loud and jovial. I’m so completely OK. I just wasn’t the one talking.
What happens is, I really enjoy observing all manner of people, but I don’t necessarily want to interact with them, and so I don’t have a lot of friends. And I think I’m OK with that. Except when people think there’s something wrong with me. Because then I start thinking…maybe there is something wrong with me.
Nobody was like me in high school. I did what I had to do to escape that a year early. I thought there’d be people like me at college. There weren’t. Sophomore year, I had an early appointment with my advisor–the head of the chemistry department. He wasn’t in his office, so I sat outside his door and tried to stay awake. I heard two voices down the hall in the lab. I could tell one was my advisor, and then realized the other was the professor who headed the biology department. They were laughing and talking. They were laughing and talking about someone. A girl someone, because it was and one time she did this, and she’s just really odd, and kinda nutty…
They were talking about me. I slipped out of the building. That was my last semester at that particular institution. I took my weirdness elsewhere. But after that I still had this feeling that, yes, I must just be kinda nutty.
Until…about, I don’t know, five years ago when I took a Myers-Briggs personality test. I know, it’s just one personality theory, and I shouldn’t base my perceptions on what it says, but it did help me understand myself a bit better, and why I am the way I am. Turns out, I am what is called an “INFJ“, which is the least common of 16 personality types (like less than 1% of the population), and INFJ’s are very private, observant, sensitive loners who often feel, well, weird. When I felt that there just weren’t other people like me, that’s because there literally aren’t people like me. And if I do meet people like me, we aren’t likely to speak, because we’re too busy listening and being our strange, reclusive selves! There’s a certain peace in knowing you’re not alone.
I’m just writing all this to say that I think everyone could benefit from taking one of these tests. It may help you understand why you make decisions the way you do, why you interact with other people the way that you do, why you do or do not enjoy certain activities, etc, etc, etc. It can most certainly help with career choices, if you just aren’t happy in your profession, or in relationships–figuring out that person you’re with, and helping that person you’re with understand you.
I made my kids take the test because I can use all the help I can get funneling their interests and honing in on their strengths as they make their way toward college. In my daughter’s case, the test didn’t really tell us much we didn’t already know about her, but it led us to discover the profession of recreational therapy. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but it would suit her to a T. And in my son’s case, it gave him some insight into his ideal work environment (preferably quiet, not micromanaged, no managerial responsibilities, a good amount of research autonomy—things he’ll have to work hard to attain to, but that will bring him to a place of great joy. He wants to be a metallurgist, by the way.)
Anyway, maybe try it yourself? If you haven’t already? Here’s a good test.
New year, new knowledge?
And Merry Christmas!