The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
I’ve always found it difficult to be in a large group of people. Well, almost always.
There was a time as a young kid growing up in America where I did not shy away from things easily. I have really fond memories of little me at school playing team sports, out-running the boys on the track, playing various instruments in the orchestra, auditioning for plays and even singing solo as part of the chorus.
Adult me would certainly run away screaming hysterically if any of these activities were presented to me now!
I lived in the states with my family from 1985-1992 and then my parents moved us back to Sydney. I’m so happy they did because I absolutely love my life here and Australia is without a doubt my home.
Did the move change 12 year old me though? I have to say yes… yes, it did.
Because teenage me would have to be one of THE most shy and introverted people you could ever imagine meeting! To the extent that I would fight with my parents if they simply asked me to order a pizza over the phone because I didn’t want to talk to the stranger on the other end! Or I would spend an hour walking the aisles of a supermarket looking for one item because I didn’t want to ask a staff member for help. It was quite paralyzing at times to be honest.
“Please kindly go away, I’m introverting.” ~ Beth Buelow
I won’t bore you with all the details of how I navigated the rest of my school years but luckily with time and the help and guidance of a special few, I did manage to transition into adulthood without becoming a complete hermit!
My father is an entrepreneur. He always has been and always will be. Once we were old enough we were made to work with him at whatever business he was operating at the time. For me, this was a nightmare! From a sandwich shop to a fish shop, I would always do everything in my power to do the jobs away from the customers.
We had A LOT of arguments during those years!
My happiest working days as a teenager were when my father started letting me help him with his cleaning jobs at night instead. A DREAM job as far as I was concerned because I could just make my way around the premises we were cleaning, with my headphones and Discman attached, doing my job and not having to deal with a living soul. #heaven
I did this for quite some time, even starting to do some of the offices and venues by myself once I started driving and had my own car. I probably would have done it for a lot longer had my father not done what he did next.
I remember being so upset with him at the time but it didn’t take long for me to realise he had done the best thing for me.
He came home from work one day and told me that he had spoken with the owner of the local fruit and vegetable market and got me a job working on the cash register. I was starting the following weekend!
I wanted to cry.
I was terrified on my first day. I can still remember the feeling of nerves and the sweating. Lucky for me the family that owned the market were some of the nicest people in the world and they took me under their wing and made me feel at home very quickly.
I don’t like letting people down so I took my “first” job very seriously. Back then, before everything became computerized, every single fruit, vegetable and a miscellaneous item that was sold in this shop had its own 5 digit code that had to be manually typed into the cash register. I photocopied all the codes after my first weekend, made flashcards for myself at home and by my 3rd shift the following Saturday, I had memorised every single code in that store.
Needless to say, this impressed the manager who promoted me to weekend supervisor within a few months and I quickly realised that I very much liked the feeling of being in charge.
So what did all these jobs teach me? And why am I writing about it now?
Because today, 20 years later, I am a proud and introverted small business owner. A fact that I didn’t always think would play out for me.
’Come out of your shell’ – that obnoxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go and some humans are just the same.” ~ Susan Cain
Those early working years, along with all the years of retail that followed and finally landing the tattoo apprenticeship in 2010 taught me so many things and although every now and then I feel like it took me SO long to figure out my career, I can look at the bigger picture now and recognise just how invaluable all those years and lessons have been. It is definitely the culmination of all the various workplaces and colleagues over the years that have led me here.
I learnt that other people aren’t nearly as scary as I once thought.
I learnt the importance of prioritizing customer service.
I learnt how to manage a business and run the day to day operations
I learnt that I liked being in charge.
And maybe, most importantly, I learnt that often I need time completely by myself to recharge after spending hours with other people and that is ok!
Being an introvert is not a curse and it certainly shouldn’t stop anyone from chasing dreams. Even if those dreams seem to make more sense for the extroverts in this world.
When the time came that I started feeling that I would no longer be able to breathe if I didn’t start working for myself, I sought help where I needed it because the idea of starting my own business scared the shit out of me! As far as I was concerned there was a large “extrovert to do” list ahead of me and I felt paralysed by it all once again.
I enlisted the help of a wonderful life coach, Jai Bazevski, for the better part of a year and he helped me navigate all the fears that I had moving forward. The hours spent with him were invaluable to me and I will be forever grateful to him. Of course, I also had the support and guidance of my partner and family. Without all these people, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today.
So this is me. An incredibly introverted artist, owner and operator of a small tattoo and art studio. I work in an industry that seems to be all about networking and connecting and exposing yourself and for a long time that scared me but I’ve come to realise that we are all so incredibly different and it’s ok to just play to our strengths. We can’t grow if we don’t challenge ourselves every now and then and step outside our comfort zones but that doesn’t mean you have to be someone you are not.
When I set up my business I did it in a way that suits my personality best and also serves my clients in the best way possible. If I am at my happiest and most comfortable then my clients will get the best from me and at the end of the day that is all that matters.
So to all you introverts out there… stay true to yourself, figure out your strengths and use them to shine in a world that is so brightly lit by the louder voices amongst us.
Today I really enjoy the hours I get to spend chatting one-on-one or binge-watching something on Netflix with my client while I tattoo in my private studio. I am truly grateful for getting to do something I love for work and when the tattoo hours are over, you’ll find me retreating, quiet and alone, for time with my pens to draw and recharge.
“Solitude matters and for some people it’s the air they breathe.” ~ Susan Cain