While scrolling through files of photographs for a collection appropriate for this post and my place on life’s continuum (52 year old, white, single gay male) I was reminded of a truth about myself. By nature I’m an introvert. Big chunks of my early socialization reinforced this internal orientation (along with a birth date I share this propensity with my father) and many pivotal moments in my life have been fueled by this predilection. At any moment and in most every situation I prefer to watch and listen rather than edge toward the center of attention. Large crowds overwhelm me; not because I am weak or too delicate for their physical hustle but because of the oceans of verbal, emotional and spiritual signaling bouncing around large gatherings like thousands of tennis balls; each with its own propulsion system and trajectory. To me this is a gauntlet too erratic to be run; so I look for an exit or some device that allows me to better control the situation rather than be overwhelmed.
During a period of my life when I owned and ran a small business and was required to navigate the deep waters of social events my lifesaving devise was a short list, usually 5 or 6 names, of individuals with whom I needed to converse during the evening. By focusing on finding, engaging and eliciting tangible result from a conversation with these people I navigated many a cocktail party, product launch or gala fundraiser without the need for pharmaceutical intervention.
So as s, s it occurred to me that I have had
another managing devise that has supported through the more personal moments of my life; my camera.
Turns out I’m the one behind the camera more often than not. What better foil for keeping the world at a manageable distance than by filtering exchanges through a piece of alloyed technology? What better perch for observing the random, rich and sometimes ridiculous escapades of life than by manning the recording devise and removing myself from the scene. Psychologists reading this (armchair or otherwise) will have a heyday with this acknowledgement but I’ll save you the energy and own up-front the downsides to the introvert’s existence (though I’ll
be quick to remind you there are upsides too).
For me the upper-most up-side is that my life, to date, has been a tapestry of unique, rich and unexpected threads all of which I lay claim too, having initiated each and executed the same regardless of the supporting tool in hand. The downside has been, and continues to be, my need for a tool as I chart a path out of my own head and into the swirl of life around me. Yes it’s true, the diversion offered by a tool can keep me safely in my head but it also can keep me distanced from new adventures and interactions.
So the tug of war continues. Some days it’s easier than others to venture into those
noisy, uncharted and seemingly unsafe waters. When I do take the plunge I am, more often than not, rewarded with a gem of an experience beautifully set in another person’s life. We laugh. We talk. We learn. Sometimes we love and sometimes we lust but it’s never dull and rarely as scary as I thought. And then I have days when I just want to dive deeper into my introvert’s construct and watch things from a distance.
Which tug will win the war today is an interesting question; one presented regularly and to which I’m never sure of the answer. It keeps every day interesting. So bring on the balance of my 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s and beyond. I’ve got a front row seat to my own development and a few tools which help me navigate the depths of any waters.
- James Swann