NOW THAT I’M RETIRED—and living in a warm desert climate—walking has become one of my favorite activities. Most days, I log between six and eight miles trekking around our neighborhood. I usually listen to a podcast during my journey, but it just serves as background noise. My real focus is contemplating dog training strategies or the subject matter of my future HumbleDollar posts.
Some days, I play the “what if” game. I contemplate how my life’s trajectory would have been altered if I’d made different choices at certain junctures. I also often reflect on how my personality has shaped nearly every aspect of my life.
Ten years ago, I read the book Quiet. As I consumed each page, it became apparent I finally had a word—introvert—to describe my personality. Up until that point, I’d never fully understood why I enjoyed the activities I did.
As a child, I preferred spending time alone. Given the choice between going outside to play or staying indoors and reading a book, I’d always choose the latter. I spent hours writing stories and poems, with plots that almost always revolved around animals.
As a teenager, I spent more time with my livestock than I did with friends. I found animals easier to interact with than humans.
In college, I spent my time studying. I always signed up to earn more credits than I needed to be considered a fulltime student. Unsure of my career path, I used the time to take classes in a variety of subjects. The social aspects of college held no interest for me.
When I was in graduate school, I landed an unpaid internship at a clinical laboratory located within a large medical school. I quickly became a valued member of the lab and was offered a paid position a few weeks after I started.
Thinking back over my 30 years of employment, I now realize that my first job was the one I enjoyed the most. For eight hours a day, I would sit at a microscope and analyze human chromosomes. The work was tedious, and required an enormous amount of focus and attention to detail. I never felt more comfortable.
At the time, I couldn’t understand why I enjoyed the work as much as I did. But I thrived in the lab environment. It was solitary work so there was never any need to engage in small talk with my coworkers. The lights in the lab were often dimmed to prevent eye strain. Getting paid to sit in a quiet, softly lit room, with just my own thoughts to keep me company, felt like nirvana.
Now, in retirement, my introverted personality continues to affect the choices I make. I spend my days reading and writing, rather than traveling and socializing. My husband and I will always choose a quiet dinner and movie at home over going out to eat. As for walking around the neighborhood, with just my own thoughts to keep me company? That, too, feels like nirvana.