What are these free traits? They’re where we enact a script in order to advance a core project in our lives. And they are what matters. Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, “What are your core projects in your life?” And we enact those free traits. I’m an introvert, but I have a core project, which is to profess. I’m a professor. And I adore my students, and I adore my field. And I can’t wait to tell them about what’s new, what’s exciting, what I can’t wait to tell them about. And so I act in an extroverted way, because at eight in the morning, the students need a little bit of humor, a little bit of engagement to keep them going in arduous days of study.
But we need to be very careful when we act protractedly out of character. Sometimes we may find that we don’t take care of ourselves. I find, for example, after a period of pseudo-extroverted behavior, I need to repair somewhere on my own. As Susan Cain said in her “Quiet” book, in a chapter that featured the strange Canadian professor who was teaching at the time at Harvard, I sometimes go to the men’s room to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous extroverts.
I remember one particular day when I was retired to a cubicle, trying to avoid overstimulation. And a real extrovert came in beside me — not right in my cubicle, but in the next cubicle over — and I could hear various evacuatory noises, which we hate — even our own, that’s why we flush during as well as after.
And then I heard this gravelly voice saying, “Hey, is that Dr. Little?”
If anything is guaranteed to constipate an introvert for six months, it’s talking on the john. That’s where I’m going now. Don’t follow me.