Home > Comic Con, Entertainment, Humor, Learning, Nerd > An Introvert’s Illustrated Guide to Comic Con Avoidance

An Introvert’s Illustrated Guide to Comic Con Avoidance

My mom was into any and every “science” that could help her understand people: graphology, birth order, body language. She was an enthusiastic student of every such science she could find, and honed her skills on her children.

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My mom’s desire to quantify personality traits meant I knew from a tender age that I was an “introvert.” The word was meaningless to me. “Introvert” might as well have meant the same thing as “subatomic particle.” I knew each was a real thing, just as well as I knew neither had any impact whatsoever on my daily life. Silly mom! I just took her tests so she’d stop pestering me to take them, a strategy that worked until she found a new book with new tests.

I was helping my sister move back from England many years after learning I was an introvert when I realized introversion might actually impact my life.

I’d spent a few hours with my sister’s lovely roommates. As ten minutes of conversation turned into thirty and then a hundred, I became increasingly tired and jittery. Finally, getting the sense that the conversation might last for another few hours, I excused myself to read for a while. Later, my sister asked with great concern, “Do you have Social Affective Disorder? Do you need to see a therapist? I’m kinda worried about you.”

Worried about me? For being me? The one who used to fall asleep in the corner at parties, wanting to be close to people without having to actually interact with them? “This isn’t a disorder, Rache. I just need a lot of time to myself when I have to spend a lot of time with people. I’m not shy. I’m not anxious about people. I like them. I just like spending time with ’em in short doses.”

She was dubious. And why not? I knew I was an introvert, but I had no idea what that actually meant. I couldn’t articulate this newly spotlighted characteristic, or that I found her endless energy while conversing just as unnerving as she found my sudden retreats from social situations. It would be years before I’d read an article on introversion and go, “Oh! So that’s what it is! That’s who I am!

Introversion:
the directing of interest inwards towards one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than towards the external world or making social contacts

Why am I thinking about this now, exactly? Because of Comic Con, July’s annual gathering of tens of thousands of comic and like-minded nerds in San Diego.

Let’s rewind again to my middle school years. When I wasn’t calling my math teacher a liar, I’d spend countless hours playing Mario Bros. with my best friend, Topaz. I wanted to win like mad, but I pretty much sucked. The game didn’t have a life bar like future games I played would, but I imagined a pictured ticking down whenever the music started speeding up. The imagining–combined with lots of caffeine and little skill–helped create the inevitability, so my imagined “life bar” looked like this more often than it didn’t:

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Now I think of social engagements like challenges from Super Mario, nothing against my dear understanding friends!

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Now I don’t think of the bar in terms of life but energy. The lower my energy bar gets, the harder it is to get back to maximum energy. (Translation: I have to do a lot more walking and reading, not at the same time, to fill up my tank again.)

You want to know what takes an introvert’s full energy bar and thrashes it, leaving it not only at zero but broken into itty bitty bits scattered so far and wide it takes weeks to gather them back?

San Diego Comic Con.

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My first year, I loved it. My second year, I also loved it. Ditto the third year. My fourth year, though, I had just enough energy to pick up my attendee badge–smashing my way through thousands of fans just for the privilege of being able to enter the even more crowded convention area–before skipping out. I spent the day on the train with my son instead.

I’d always been a nerd but somehow, unnervingly, it was as if the balance was shifting: my desire to spend hours among my fellow nerdfolk, admiring their artwork, listening to their speeches and celebrating our common nerddom (long live Buffy!) was, it almost seemed, lesser than my desire to not have to be around people at all. I toyed with the notion of skipping out this year, but dismissed it. Never! It was part of my nerd identity. I’d taken pictures for the Buffy magazine. Joss Whedon once told me he liked my shirt (which Rache, whom you might remember from above, gave away despite my explicit instructions to preserve, but no hard feelings). I sat on Sheldon’s sofa seat. I was an extra on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I not only played Warcraft, but advertised it by wearing my horde-loving shirts. I even wanted to make one of my own.

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For the last few months, I’ve wavered almost by the day. “I don’t want to go.” “No, I do want to go.” Eventually I landed on: “I don’t have to go to the Con. I can just hang out with our friends the M family.” But then it came to me that’s like a chocoholic telling herself she can just look at the tasty Sees chocolates without buying one. Or ten, and then eating them all no matter how crummy she might feel afterwards. I saw myself “just going for a few minutes, really” and, kablammo! There’s my energy bar, obliterated all over again from just imagining it.

Frankly, my energy bar is still low from an eventful past few months. I need many more magic elixirs to change that: the potion of (couch) potatoing, the elixir of empty calendar, the libation of literacy.

I’m voting for these and passing on Comic Con this year.Just thinking about it, I can feel my energy bar amping for a raise. I’ll miss the Con, but I’ll only miss it a little. I already shook hands with Robert Kirkman and enjoyed Max Brooks in panel. I’ve bought more art than I can find time or money to frame. Comic books find me easily outside the crushing, crowded Con. The M family? Turns out they live near San Diego the whole year ’round, not just for Comic Con!

So I’m passing on Comic Con this time. Nothing against Comic Con, you see. I’d just rather sit here and nerd in the solitude of my own home.

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  1. July 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Like you, I am an introvert. Because I am also gregarious and friendly most people do not believe me, but I am. I need time by myself to recharge, just as you say. A perfect weekend is being alone doing around-the-house nothings, like reading and blogging. I love the idea of ComicCon but have never gotten the urge to really attend–too many people that I did not feel I could quickly avoid. I am betting there is some technology–skype from a Kindle Fire Pad, for example–where some dear loved one could go to ComicCon and send the “experience” to you in little does while you take a break from reading on the couch. Just thinking out loud.

    • July 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      I’ll have lots of photos from friends, which is close enough for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      It continues to shock people to meet someone gregarious and discover that gregarious folks can be introverts, too. It makes it all the more exciting when I find someone personable who says, “You, too? I’ve got another 30-45 minutes before I have got to bust a move out of here! You?” In fact, a girlfriend texted me with a like message shortly after I posted this. Warmed my heart, as does your comment.

  2. July 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I will admit I have no recollection of this shirt I gave away… That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, of course. I just don’t have a recollection of it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I totally buy you as an introvert – the only reason I was concerned about possible Social Anxiety Disorder was the way you dodged out of the conversation! The “I have to go!” *disappear* It just made me worried that you were in the middle of having a panic attack, because you seemed so anxious!

    I think you’re smart to take care of your needs and to plan for them. We live in a society that’s “GO GO GO” and we hardly have time to lay low. So, kudos to you! Acknowledge that you need you time and glory in it. I know I need to be better at that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As always, much love. โค

    • July 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      It was that long-sleeved V-neck yellow Rampage shirt with flowers all over it. I gave it to you right before moving to Japan, on the caveat you give it back to me if you decided you didn’t want to keep it. Siiiiiiigh. You can even see me wearing it in one episode of Buffy! Fortunately, I don’t really care about the shirt. It might have taken me a few . . . um, days . . . but I got there in the end. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Now if only I could go to sleep. I was just about to climb into bed when, lo! The neighbors decided it was the perfect time to turn their music up super loud. At least it’s not mariachi tonight?

      Love you, BLS!

  3. July 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I think the problem introverts have, myself included, is that society defines introversion as wrong, abnormal, strange and so on – we ‘should’ get out there and energise ourselves by socialising, how can we possibly stand to just sit on our own reading (or writing…)? ‘Maybe it’s a psychological defect, let’s provide a diagnosis’ – and so it goes on. All of which drains the battery even faster, of course…

  4. July 18, 2013 at 4:08 am

    Years ago, when I worked for other people it was expected I would attend a industry conference every year, make an appearance and work the booth. It is a huge conference lasting for days. It is the highlight of the year for those in my industry. Every year, for at least two months prior I would grow increasingly anxious. I would beg not to go. I would suggest sending others in my place as a ‘reward’ for their good work throughout the year.

    It isn’t just a conference, there are parties, concerts. I will admit the sponsor puts on a show.

    I hated it. My energy bar would be in the negative before I arrived. Too many people. To much interaction. To much drain.

    The strange thing? I interact all day when I am working, it is my work. But somehow I can control it. I suspect I have introversion as a large part of my personality but have learned what drains me and avoid those things.

  5. July 18, 2013 at 4:16 am

    From one introvert to another – I loved this post! I also use the energy analogy, though I usually compare it to cell phones when I try to explain it to people. Not that they understand – they usually think it’s something wrong with me, too. But they at least finally get to the point that when I tell them I’m ‘recharging’ , they leave me alone.

    I also loved your comments about how your mom tried to use things to analyze it. My poor kids, if I ever have them. I especially love the Myers-Briggs personality breakdown. I can just see it now: “My mom says I’m such an ESTJ whenever she gets frustrated …” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. July 18, 2013 at 6:38 am

    My Summer 2 class had to be cancelled…kind of glad to be able to stay home and just catch up on recharging me. Had that class made, I would have taught year round.

    I read this with great interest and bit amused that this coincides with my “Not Alone…” series. In one post I loved writing about one very lonely and enriching summer when I wasn’t alone. Loved your explanation regarding your energy bar…I can relate.
    Why is it that folks need to identify any personality insight with a label? I have theories.

  7. August 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I have always seen myself as an extrovert because I don’t shut up! but I have more times that I need to refuel; I like doses of public but love to vege at home and read and write. Now that I live alone, kids are all In their 30’s, I don’t tell family and friends when I take 3 or 4 days off and all I do is read, write, go out for necessities, a drive, a walk. I work in social work and am fine with my clients…I love my work…just hate the nattering for nothing in the office or office politics. I think I have become more introvert over the years but friends and family see my as such a chatty Kathy that if I do withdraw they assume I’m depressed…so I just don’t tell them when I take MY time off. I love how you write by the way…just as if I had you talking to me right here.

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