These days I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time talking on the phone. I do this in my quest to find some sort of employment because we’re going to be in quite the pickle by the summer if I don’t.
Every time I get another request for “a chat” via LinkedIn, I heave an audible sigh before responding with my most chipper affirmative answer:
“Sure! I’d love to chat. What day works best for you?”
And I don’t sigh because I dread the prospect of talking to someone who I might enjoy talking to, or because this someone might later be able to find me work. I sigh because 75 percent of these phone calls don’t seem to be doing all that much to change my situation. And the energy I have to exert to complete them is more than I want to give some days.
I’m quite introverted by nature, although I can surely fake it when I need to. I was the Student Body President in high school (and somehow gave a speech in a coliseum at graduation), I’ve been a corporate trainer and a yoga teacher, and I’ve run a business that included managing other people. I think being conversational is a learned skill that all humans have to figure out if they want to participate in society.
But when I was growing up, I was painfully shy and it carried all the way into my twenties. In fact, my first boss out of college told me in a performance review that I needed to speak more because I never talked to anyone around me. Up until then, I’d thought I just blended into the paint on the walls. I didn’t realize that I actually stuck out like a misplaced nail.
I am an INFJ personality type, which is apparently the rarest in the world. This Myers-Briggs code is supposed to translate to a high degree of personal integrity and the desire to help others—which it does—but the “Introversion” part is strong for me. I am energized by alone time and drained by constant interaction.
I’ve already got heavy demands on my energy levels every day without the extra phone calls added in. Most of my energy is sapped by getting out of bed and trying to participate in life (chronic diseases do that to you), but lately it’s also sapped by the never-ending need to be “on.” To answer messages, to respond to comments, to generate new content, to scour job boards, to write cover letters, to tweak resumes. And after all of that, there are simply days when talking to someone besides my husband or my cats is the last thing I want to do.
So when someone random asks for a phone chat via a social network, I want to say to them, “Is this in reference to an active job or an active need? And do you have money to pay me right now? Because I only have so much time to devote to phone calls that can’t help me out of my current financial plight. I have serious business to tend to because my mortgage and prescriptions won’t pay for themselves. “
But I haven’t said this to anyone even on my most frustrated days. So far I still take every call, and I’ll continue to take every call, because not doing so would be short-sighted and stupid. And here’s how I came to this conclusion.
Yesterday I took a stroll around a pond in my neighborhood. The grass was green after a period of heavy rainfall, the air was refreshingly cool but thick with lingering humidity, and deep gray clouds still painted the sky in swirls and splotches that blotted the sun. I was walking because I was frustrated with my inability to make any forward progress in my job search despite valiant efforts. I was also walking because it was a day where I had the energy to walk, and I like to take advantage of those.
As part of the silent discussion in my head, I reminded myself that when you plant a garden it takes a while to reap the bounty. That gardens do grow once the elements are correct: once the soil is just right, once it’s warm enough to support tender shoots, once the sun is shining at just the right intensity. Gardens do grow with proper care.
And what I’m attempting right now is to grow a garden, of sorts. Every call I’m accepting is a seed in my garden. Those seeds sit next to all of the other seeds that come in the form of answering messages and replying to comments and posting content.
And not every seed in a garden sprouts, but eventually many of them do. And eventually mine will sprout, too, when all of the elements are just right. I just have to be patient and keep sowing. Keep tending. Keep watering.
So the next time someone asks me, “Do you have some time to chat?” I’ll respond with enthusiasm, as I always do, and I’ll again summon up extra energy from somewhere in my being. I’ll approach the call as if I’m fertilizing fallow soil that will blossom into something beautiful later. And I’ll just keep tending this garden until something finally pushes through the soil and into the light.
Maybe it’ll be a big, strong oak tree that I can grasp onto as it reaches toward the sky.
The Big Pause