Shhhh, someone else is thinking.

I have something to tell you. Something I’ve been fighting for a long time, my whole life, maybe. The truth is, I’m an introvert. Yep, there it is. Big surprise, right? Maybe it is if you only know me as “Hannah Bingman” the performer. You’re probably not so surprised if you know me a bit past that “character” as I play it.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, ever since I read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. But it was just the other day when my friend Dan (if he reads this, he’ll know it’s him, but hopefully you won’t so he may stay anonymously quiet) shared a post on Facebook. Dan is a friend from my undergraduate years in Frostburg. We shared a house with four other people, had many late night (and drunken) talks over National Bohemian beers, and he schooled me in punk rock and ska while I made sure his guitar didn’t go to shit. Dan is now a member of the clergy. I won’t get more specific. A couple of days ago, Dan posted about his frustration in that his parishioners found him shy and maybe a bit “introverted.” His disappointment was that members of his congregation wanted someone “inauthentic” and maybe more gregarious instead of studied in theology and rooted in contemplation the way he is. Such a profession does demand a lot of socializing. I am drawing many conclusions on his emotions, here. However, it all comes back to being an introvert.
When I claim to be an introvert, I don’t want you to picture a stereotypical girl who sits in the corner reading a book, speaks to no one, and seemingly has no friends. However, that is many of us at many points in our lives. What I mean by “introvert” is very well described in Susan Cain’s book. This is in no way an advertisement for the book, “Quiet,” but I couldn’t help but feel validated after reading it a few months ago. It’s not sort of stuff I usually read. I thought it was going to be some sort of self-help crap, but it was very well researched and enlightening. According to Cain, introverts are simply more sensitive. Not in the sense that our feelings are more easily hurt (though that can be true), but that we need less material stimulation than the rest of human kind. No need to overact your performance, smile extra-wide, play extra-loud, smell like a bottle of rose venom, over-apply your makeup, etc. Our amygdalas are freakin’ out! She also writes that about a third of the United States population can be classified as introverts. That said, many of us “fake it” in order to succeed.
This is where I can’t oblige. At least, not as often as it seems to be called for. Don’t make me fake it. I can when I need to, but it’s exhausting. I’d rather reserve my energy for those situations. Cain writes that introverts can excel in an extroverted fashion when acting on something they are passionate about. For example, an introvert who loves teaching students about science (or some other subject), a soccer player who must connect with her team (I just heard an “All Things Considered” story about Hope Solo needing her ‘alone time’), a pastor who feels the call to share the Word, and perhaps a musician who can’t help but let the songs burst out of her (me).
The crime of not appreciating the quiet introverts happens in our society when we disregard the authentic, heartfelt, well thought (maybe too long thought), and usually too meek messages of them in exchange for the more easily digestible, forthright, and well-produced (in music biz terms) of the trained extroverts. Think McDonalds versus a garden fresh meal. In other words, our society as a whole would rather have a show with no substance over a play that invites us to “chew” rather than just “swallow.” Do I make sense? In Cain’s book, she says as much, and that it is not so in other societies. For example, in China, most folks find it distasteful to be forward about oneself. A nation full of introverts? Well, not necessarily.
I do not intend to dribble on about how unappreciated I am. That is not my point. My point is about giving heed to introverts, quiet folks, and “sensitives” in general. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This is easily seen in politics. How many seemingly smart and well-intending candidates have been dismissed or easily overlooked due to their “unfriendly” nature? Because they don’t smile enough? Pretend to find your jokes funny? Think all the hipster bands are cool? Let’s go beyond the fucking surface. Social networking allows us to show only the “best” parts of ourselves. It lets us all be extroverts in a digital world. It’s exhausting to act that way. Every gig can be exhausting. Not when I’m playing, but when I’m pretending. When I’m playing, that’s easy. That’s who I want to be all the time. But I can’t be, because I’m an introvert. And if you’re smart, you’ll listen to us, introverts. Because we’ve got a lot to say.

2 Replies to “Shhhh, someone else is thinking.”

  1. Hey, Hannah. I went to you site to check on your bookings before asking whether we could get you for a gig at the Green Drake, and I found your piece on being an introvert. Yep, I had already figured that out. My wife is very much the same sort of person (except not a musician), with a lot of deep thoughts and a beautiful personality, but not someone you get to know instantly. It takes more time and care, and especially one-on-one to really get to know an introvert, but in the end there is often more there than with an in-your-face extrovert. I lean toward the extroverted side myself, but I hope there is also some substance!

  2. Hannah, we’ve only met a few times, but I have enjoyed your music and your musings over the years. I too am an introvert and it most likely would shock some people to consider me as such. It can be frustrating at times, watching so may folks around me able to hob nob and make small talk … it’s easier with just a handful of people, or one on one, with close friends for me, but it’s often hard to feel left out, too. When I was growing up and in my formative years there wasn’t any talk about introvert, extrovert .. awkward or weird were the more likely labels. But, it has gotten easier over the years, and I too am happiest when I am performing; but my life took a different turn. Trying these days to turn it back.. Thanks for sharing.

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