I had a brief online interchange with a friend just now, which reminded me of how easy it is to misunderstand even people you know and like. I have mixed feelings about traveling. I do about as much of it as I would like to, and I travel less than a lot — perhaps most — of the volunteers here. I mean, I do like traveling a bit — I enjoyed staying in Eagle River, for instance, pilgramaging in Syria, seeing Vardzia, following the St Innocent choir around, and more recently visiting Uplitsikhe and Mtskheta. At the same time, though, I don’t like traveling just to travel, and it’s been a long, cool winter; I walked 15 minutes to the coffee shop this morning, and was already drained and uncomfortably cold. So although I’d like to see people, I don’t know that I’m up to the conditions that would entail: perhaps three hours of train, metro, and marshutka in the morning, walking around in the cold and wind, and another three hours back at night — six hours of travel for a one day visit to somewhere I don’t know anything about, in other words. I like these people, so it’s seriously tempting, but it also sounds unnecessarily exhausting. Or I could go to Tbilisi for St Patrick’s Day festivities, which would be alright, but is also cold, and will probably revolve around drinking a lot of beer. I’m not so very introverted, perhaps, but more so than the average foreign traveler/conversational English teacher, and I don’t know that the benefit (social interaction) outweighs the costs (being tired, cranky, socially exhausted, and more likely to catch cold… again.
I was alarmed by my friend, because he somehow thought I sounded depressed and in need of cheering up. To put my situation in Arizona terms, let’s say I was living in Flagstaff (but without the same church community), where I was teaching a subject I don’t know and had never tried before part time, about three hours a day, taking three classes, visiting a school on the reservation every week, I had no central heating and no car. Say I had some friends who were going to party in Phoenix, some who were going to stay and sit by the fire, and some who going to take a bus somewhere to visit some interesting archeological site. And I thought: no, not ‘till spring. Would I feel a little torn? Sure I would. Would I feel like something of a party pooper, because I hadn’t left town for a month, except to go to the village? Yeah, I reckon so. Does that mean it’s necessarily an unreasonable choice? No, it’s not. I could go to Yeravan, the capital of Armenia for spring break, with some people I know. I could go to Istanbul with some other people I know. I reckon I won’t. I reckon I’ll find out how the people in Gori celebrate Aghdgoma (Easter).
I could go to Tbilisi every weekend if I wanted to. Actually, I could go to Tbilisi every day if I had to. But I don’t, because I don’t want to. I could stay in Gori, go to church, practice chant, read, write, and drink coffee, and be just as content.
Sometimes I feel a little bad about this. Not unhappy, just apologetic. If I’d wanted I could have probably been in Istanbul and Armenia by now. I could have been to the black sea, to Kutaisi, to Borjomi, to other towns and monuments. I sort of feel apologetic because I sort of feel like I’m not making as much of the opportunities all around me as someone else with more energy, curiosity, or whatever would. So then I feel like I need to defend or excuse my choices: it’s cold, I’m tired, that town’s too far away, blah, blah, blah. Then I feel like I have to compensate: I was writing, I had to study, I was reading a book, I was gone for more than 12 hours yesterday with work and social engagements anyway, blah, blah, blah.
I read the introduction to the newest introversion book to make bestseller status, Quiet, and, as usual, she had to first explain that a lot of introverts are not shy or misanthropic, and to list a number of famous introverts, especially writers and scientists, to prove that they contribute in a valuable way, and are not simply social dead weight. That’s sort of a staple of introvert books, I’ve learned. Look guys: introverts pull their own weight in society! Which gets kind of annoying, but I can see why they do it. It gets old trying to engage with someone about something you’ve observed in yourself and elsewhere, and meet with consolation instead. To have conversations wherein I mention that I’ve been really tired lately from cold and n irregular schedule, and have someone try to console me or pull me out of the imagined funk I’m in. You don’t understand. It’s not that I’m sad. It’s not that I’m stressed or in doubt or have any other terrible difficulties. I’m simply kind of cold and unsettled, and have been noticing things in that which are kind of interesting to me. If they’re not also interesting to you, that’s fair enough, but I don’t need to be cheered up. I need to find a constructive way to engage with these issues and observations.