Graduate school was, in many ways, a step back for me. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that my colleagues also pursuing Ph.D.’s in physical chemistry and chemical physics weren’t the most touchy feely things in the world.
Add in to that my being a member of the opposite gender....
I suspect now that many of these guys came from my same mold. It was not awkward at all to sit in a room together and eat lunch and not say a word to each other. Walking in the lab didn’t merit people to stop what they were doing and welcome you or ask how your day was.
It was easy to settle back into that groove whereby interacting with others was not a necessity. I think back to the doctor’s office whereby I would see a person a few times a year for short spurts and would know so much more about them then the fellow grad students I worked with day in and out. It wasn’t until my final year in grad school that I realized I had developed good relationships with a handful of these guys… after only 5.5 years!
The doctor’s office was really the turning point for me. Talking to others and starting conversations is something that comes a whole lot easier for me now, though I often wonder if my teams tire of me always asking “how are you today?” when they walk into meetings. I wonder if they see through me and I wonder if they see me as a fraud asking this question!
Then on days when my team members phone me and share personal stories or events, like “oh, my dog of 15 years was put down today” or “I really enjoyed this book and wanted to know if you would read it and discuss it with me” or little things like when random smileys pop up on their e-mails. (Can I just say that while I use smileys in blogs and personal e-mails I am not sure if I have EVER used one in a work e-mail?) I feel that no, they know that I really do care. They don’t have to know that I learned this and that it was a long process, they just need to know that I do care. Because I do.
AB commented the other day when we were talking about the daycare rooms at school and I was trying to reconcile the fact that the parents of kids in Skadi’s room for the most part aren’t digging the room we picked for our kids saying it is “cold” and “unfriendly”. I balked a little! It is not! AB’s response was, “well not like you and I are the most warm and fuzzy people around to judge this”.
Nope, I am not. I tend to say things out of turn. I say things that don’t make sense to others. It isn't my natural impulse to hug my team members and I am not always the first friend to offer help. I sometimes have a blank look on my face while I try to process if a question requires a response and what, if any, an appropriate response would be.
As Robison stated in his book - it isn't a disease, it's just part of what makes me "me".