How do you introduce yourself?

This post was written by Megan on February 27, 2010
Posted Under: burnout and society

Mirror, mirror and napping cartoon


A powerful realisation came upon me when Jeff – my partner – and I were browsing in a gift store. It wasn't just any gift store. It was the only gift store in town.

The town had recently become our new home, and we were hoping that the move would be, in itself, a kind of gift for my health.  

While Jeff and I browsed through the shop's handmade knickknacks, I sensed the sales assistant moving from behind the counter and towards us.  I wandered away, leaving Jeff to talk with her.  As I picked up a ceramic frog that I wasn't particularly interested in, a bolt of awareness hit me out of the blue.

The bolt was: I did this a lot.  

As people approach us, I would move away leaving Jeff to speak on my behalf.  It was an instinctual reaction. Jeff was a great representative. Being warm, funny and interested in others, he made it easy for me to do this, but it wasn't fair. He was already doing too much carrying in this relationship.    

Considering I'd spent most of my life being the one who happily steps forward first to introduce myself to strangers, this behaviour was quite foreign.  And yet I hadn't even noticed that I had started doing it. Until now.


Why meeting new people can be challenging

Since leaving my job to recover, I had developed a fear of introducing myself to new people. Why? Because I had no idea what to say. The very beginning was fine enough: "Hi, I'm Megan, just moved here".  

It's what comes after that is tricky.

Kids? No. Working? No. Debilitated by chronic mystery illness? Well, no one asks that. Even if they thought of asking it, they wouldn't. It's way too personal, far too negative. Who wants to talk about bad health with someone they have just met?

There are times – on the odd occasion – when you sense it is okay to be upfront about what you're going through. That's okay…as long as you are prepared for the other person's reaction, whatever that may be.


Guess what Jeff said

Jeff said to the sales assistant: "Megan's a writer – she's working on a novel".  It was true. I was working on a novel. At that stage it was about five words a week. But I was giving it a shot from time to time. It hadn't occurred to me to use that as my intro to the world.

I'm writing.

So that's what I started to say when pressed for an introductory verb. 'Writing' is a verb. People like to hear what verb you are doing. 

But what if I wasn't writing? What if, instead, I was unable to do anything at all?

I could be working on new meditation techniques. "It's a special project", you could say. You'll be ready to talk about it when it's finished.  

You could play with this, you know. Try out different things that have a relationship to reality, something that helps to create a manageable conversational bridge.


What happened then…

It turns out the sales assistant was writing a novel too. She practically pushed Jeff aside when she hurried across the floor towards me.

Her enthusiasm for writing was infectious. Our conversation on the day alone was enough to inspire me to write more. But we ended up having many conversations about writing over the following weeks.

Five years later, we are still talking. I found a friend with whom I could talk to about anything – including my health situation.


What about you?

How would you introduce yourself to a stranger? Let us know (send us a comment below).

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