A Day in the Life of a Sensitive Introvert Working at a Tourist Attraction
Last year I wrote a piece about my (pre-pandemic) days at work. At a time when so many people are questioning their life choices and trying to be truer to themselves, I want to add my voice through this piece in the hope to reach someone who needs to hear this: What if there's nothing wrong with you? What if your life is simply not in alignment with who you are?
I don't have all the answers. I believe each of us is in charge of figuring out our own answers in life. But I hope the following piece will stir something in you and inspire you to find yours.
A day in the life of a sensitive introvert working at a tourist attraction:
I start my day journaling about how I want my day to unfold. I write, “I choose to connect with the people I encounter”. I write, “I choose to respond rather than react”. I write, “I go through my day with love in my heart and peace in my mind”. I repeat these words in my head as I walk to work. Deep breaths. A knot in my chest. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
Work begins and the first customers come. I choose to connect. I notice small details about them: the way their mouth curves, the sound of their voice, the clothes they chose to wear. I offer them a heartfelt smile because I might be an introvert but I enjoy connecting with people. I give them the information I give everyone and add a personal comment. I say, “I love your hair”. I say, “I love the band on your t-shirt”. All true. I need truth to survive my day. I need to see the person behind the customer. I want to make their mouth curve upwards.
And then, inevitably, an angry customer comes. I choose to respond. I try to sympathise but I don’t do well when people shout at me. “This is not about me”, I say to myself, and yet my heart pumps more blood than before and it takes all my willpower to calm it down. Through the corner of my eye, I see a queue is starting to form behind the angry customer. Deep breaths. Be still, my heart.
As the day moves forward more people come. I work in a popular place so they come by the thousands and my energy gets depleted by the hour. After repeating the same message like a robot to several hundreds of people I don’t even hear my own words, I don’t even see their faces, I don’t know in which direction their mouths curve and, frankly, I don’t care. All I want to do is leave because this robot’s batteries are running out, but I’m still hours away from finishing my shift.
The knot in my chest grows bigger and bigger but there is no time for deep breaths. There is just too much happening at once, too many people demanding my attention at the same time, too many voices, too many noises. I try to deal with them one by one but it all becomes a bottomless sea that throws wave after wave at me.
On my lunch break, I feel my body sink in the chair, trying to relax the aching muscles, the sore legs from standing for hours, the busy mind replaying the sounds and visions it has been storing since the day started. My coworkers chatter around me and I desperately need some quiet so I decide to go hide in the changing room. When I get there I find out another introvert had the same idea. We recharge in silence in mutual understanding. At least I’m not the only one.
After my break I walk through the hordes of people, looking down so that no one sees me and comes to me with a question. But they see me and they’re full of questions, always the same ones. I make my way forward one question at a time and in between answers I ask myself one thing: What am I doing here?
All this time I thought there was something wrong with me, that there was something I could do to adjust to this job: focus on the good things, see the good in people, turn it into a game. I try to be and act like the others but it doesn’t work because I am not like the others.
There is only so much human interaction an introvert can take, especially a highly sensitive one, and yet I am pushing myself to cope with constant stimulation, which works against my own nature. We live in a world designed for extroverts. From a very young age, many of us internalise the message that we are the faulty ones, the black sheep that need to adapt and conform, and we carry this message into adulthood, into our jobs, our relationships, our lifestyles. But what if we’re not supposed to try so hard? What if there is another way of being and doing? Our way of being and doing?
Could it be, perhaps, that this is just not the right job for me?
I know the answer to this question the minute I get home and realise I don’t have the energy to perform simple tasks like eating, talking to my partner or taking a shower. As soon as I go through the door I simply collapse. My whole body hurts, my mind feels like melted, sticky caramel and I feel a mixture of sadness and fury. “I hate humans”, I say sometimes. Other times I just cry from exhaustion. This is what happens when an introvert reaches burnout.
I end my day journaling about how my day unfolded. I write, “this is not the life I want”. I write, “my body is screaming enough”. I write, “I wish I weren’t so sensitive”. But I am, and when I read my own words I see I am the person I need to connect with, and there will be no love in my heart and no peace in my mind until I give myself what I need.
We are not faulty. We don’t always need to adapt and conform. Sometimes all we have to do is listen to the wisdom of our bodies and accept that some jobs are not right for us, some people are not right for us, some lifestyles are not right for us and that’s okay, because by eliminating from our life the things that don’t feel right we make space for that which gives us the peace we need.
And there is nothing more freeing than that.