Over the past few days I’ve spent most of my free moments unknotting the multi-thousand post mess that is my neglected Google Reader.
It’s fascinating to me that I let it go unread for so long, because I’m always looking for something to consume. I spend all night pinging in a circle from LiveJournal to MySpace to FaceBook to Huffington Post to Ain’t It Cool News, seeking out ever-more-incremental updates. Eventually if none of them seem to be in motion I’ll settle for mindlessly playing the newest game over at Kongregate.
Think about that for a moment. Elitist, progress-oriented me will settle for the empty feedback mechanism of a flash video game rather than check up on the lives of hundreds of my peers via my Google Reader.
What the hell? It seems my introversion extends to the blog arena as well.
And, I know you’re all like, “Peter, enough with the introversion already, you’ve kept a blog for eight years and in each of those years I’ve seen you make a willing spectacle of yourself in public at least twice.”
I diagnosed myself with mild agoraphobia because although I PREFER to never leave my house, I still CAN leave my house if it involves doing something fun. But even then, I usually choose to stay home. I’m emotionally, physically, psychologically, urologically, and ophthalmologically attached to my home.
Note that this woman lives and actively works on a ranch, so to some degree the concept of “home” likely includes some portion of the vast outdoors, which makes her not your traditional agoraphobe. Yet, in her mind she is still mildly agoraphobic, because left to her own devices her natural orientation is to remain in her home space.
That description perfectly fits my view of my own introversion. In areas I define as “home” I’m a natural socializer: work, meetings with friends, the stage … all perfectly comfortable environments where I can be myself.
However, socializing with co-workers, attending friends’ parties with people I don’t know, or hanging at the bar prior to playing … those experiences all make me feel weird and out-of-place. And, I know not everyone is a social butterfly and that it takes time to adapt to different environments, but my reaction is on a different level. I stop being interesting, opinionated, vocal me. I literally forget how to do it. I’m back in grade school, unsure of which lunch table I should approach to garner the least teasing.
That can really get in the way of my success in the arena of local music. Because, much to my disappointment and chagrin, you do not get booked all across the town just for showing up once or by being able to play for an hour without interruption. I assumed people would listen if I trained my voice and wrote well-structured songs.
Well, I was mostly wrong. You have to be persistent. You have to make connections. You have to build to your own personal tipping point. Otherwise, you’re some asshole stranger trying to make a splash in an unreceptive room.
I’ve been that asshole too many times, and I’m really trying to learn how to just be a regular regular, even if my regularity is slightly irregular, because being regular is really an extroverted attitude rather than a frequency of appearance.
I’ve been striving for that this summer, both solo and as Arcati Crisis. Each has their own challenges.
Solo means its hard to get me out of the house, but once I’m out I’ll sit and endure hours of open mic. Usually after my set I work up the nerve to say hello to a few people, as prior to it I am endlessly revising my set list. (One day I’ll play a solo gig and adhere to my setlist exactly. Once. Eventually).
Arcati Crisis gets me out of the house more quickly, because – duh – I get to hang out with Gina. But, once we’re installed at a coffee shop or bar I clam up around the other musicians because – duh – I get to hang out with Gina.
For a while we’d hit entire strings of open mics without making any new connections or friends, but lately we’ve been taking turns being sociable, and we’ve been rewarded by meeting some amazing musicians, like Andra Taylor, Year Long Day, and Kursten Bouton, just to name a few we’ve gotten up the balls to talk to.
So, that’s going well. The more people I meet, the more reasons I have to get out of the house and play – I am cultivating pocket of “home” at every open mic in Philadelphia. At Lickety Split I can be myself at a single table, but at Blarney South I’m me at the whole back half of the room.
Google Reader presents the same opportunity – to turn peers into pockets of extended home. Yet, if I neglect to read Pioneer Woman, and Mark Larson, Akkam’s Razor, Moose In the Kitchen, What If No One’s Watching, You’re Doing It Wrong, and dozens of my other favorite blogs, then they stop being familiar, and my barriers go up. No emails, or comments, or track backs. CK becomes the splashy asshole.
Imagine that – a setting that can combine the terror of going to an unfamiliar open mic with the daunting task of talking to total strangers alongside the deeply uncomfortable experience of talking about my blog to someone who has never read it before.