Bowling Alone

I’m a compulsively private person.

I don’t like people to know when I’m trying something new or aiming for something, because I don’t want anyone to know whether or not to ask about something after the fact. I’m happy to share my success, but I absolutely do not want to share my failure.

On the morning of the GRE, my biggest cause for panic was not that I might bomb the test completely, but that so many people knew I was taking the test. If I did terribly, there were a lot of people who were likely going to ask about it and I’d either have to lie and say “fine” or confess what a total absolute failure I was.

I try never to tell anyone when I’m interviewing for a job, because I don’t want anyone to ask if I got it or not. Worse than not getting the job is telling someone that I didn’t get the job. I don’t like other people to see me fail.

Most of my life, I’ve never told anyone who I had a crush on, because I didn’t want anyone to know if it was unrequited.

When other people tell me about preparing for a huge exam, interviewing for a job, trying something new, etc., I find it difficult to comprehend. How can you not care that people might then ask “did you get the job?” “did you ace the test?” “did you get into school?” or “did you get the promotion?”? How can it be that easy to admit to failure?

I’m the kind of person who’d be happy to train for a marathon (if I actually liked to run, of course, which I do not) and not mention it all to anyone until I had a medal and a picture of me crossing the finish line.

I also hate being the center of attention. I don’t want too much focus on me, except for in things where I really deserve attention, like when I’m the lead in a play or preforming my first place winning Dramatic Interpretation. When Bart and I got engaged, I’d have been happy to not wear my ring for a month, so that when people did see it, it would be old news. I didn’t like saying “I got engaged twelve hours ago!” I want to be nonchelant about everything, and people think you’re completely nuts if you act that way when your engagement is less than a week old.

I was so relieved when we passed the year mark of marriage; I didn’t like being newly-weds. I much preferred being past the point where people feel a need to make exclamations over it.

Bart and I don’t plan to tell anyone that we’re having a baby until it’s impossible to keep it a secret any longer. We joke sometimes that, because we live far away from our family, we could theoretically, just show up at Christmas with a baby no one knew we had had (don’t worry, we’d never really do that; it’s just a hilarious idea to me).

Secrets make me feel safe; I can share success if I choose, but no one knows if something hasn’t worked out. No one knows to ask. No one asks questions that make me uncomfortable. And I like it that way.

Also, I definitely hope my children don’t inherit this characteristic. Because I only like secrets when I have them. I loathe it when other people have secrets. I want to know your exact GRE score, the moment you got engaged, the second you find out you’re expecting a baby, and every job you’ve applied for.

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  • Reply Ralphie July 14, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Janssen, you make me laugh. Brian has the very same philosophy. He could keep something to himself his entire life and be perfectly satisfied with never sharing it. Especially when failure is concerned (which he rarely experiences. I honestly could never see you failing.) I like to play the “wow” card every now and then but am perfectly happy to spill the beans about every minute detail if any one asked. Some thing that makes B crrrrazy! *hehe*

  • Reply Lost A Sock July 14, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Hi, we are the same person. Nice to meet you.

    I sometimes have difficulty blogging for the exact reasons you mentioned – it’s hard to spill “unfinished” news. The idea of being nonchelant about things, including engagement and the newlywed thing is amazing – I had no idea anyone else in the world felt that way. It was the same with being newly pregnant (and not showing) and a new mom. Being a weathered mom of two is easier on my mental state. Can I guess that you hate when people mention how young you still are? I will be one of the few, glad to hit 30.

    Also, currently? My husband and I are harboring a giant secret that we refuse to make a peep about unless it actually happens. (And it has nothing to do with a baby, haha.)

  • Reply chloe elizabeth July 14, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    I love this post! I have (had) that same issue…but it’s for a different reason. I don’t care about failing (or whatever), or people knowing about it. What I can’t stand is that, if I do fail, and people ask me about it, is that they always feel bad. I hate making people feel bad. Like, when people ask where my mom is (because I live with my dad and his wife), I hate telling them she died because they always feel awkward.

    Strange, but true.

    I seriously love your blog. Do you like how I kept the post short, so I could clean, and now I’m procrastinating the cleaning by blog stalking?

  • Reply Bethany July 15, 2007 at 12:36 am

    I wish I could do that! I am the worst secret keeper ever… to the point where I often give way too much personal information. Like “how was your day Bethany?” “Fine. but I got these new stretch-marks on my butt…” If people ask to tell me a “secret” I often admonish them not to. Can’t even keep my own.

  • Reply Kristy July 16, 2007 at 2:22 am

    Yeah, I really am not good at keeping happy secrets either. Other peoples’ secrets, I’m like the grave, but why hold on to my own happy information? I actually admire you for that, Janssen.

  • Reply One Smart Cookie July 16, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I can’t keep stuff quiet becuase I am the biggest “what if-er”. I have to measure and weigh every possibility, to the point of driving everyone around me nuts. (ie: If I get this promotion, then I’ll need to do A, B, and C, but if I don’t, then maybe I’ll do this. Or this. Or that!) By the time something does happen, I’m so relieved to have the endless worrying over with that it’s really anticlimactic.

  • Reply Ginger July 16, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    We didn’t tell anyone we were expecting (the first child) until we passed the 12 week mark. It was very hard (especially keeping it from my mom) but I felt the same way you do about it. And it was kind of a sweet secret to keep for a while.

  • Reply Jennifer Lee July 16, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Janssen, I had to read your post twice before I realized that you were not telling us that you were pregnant. And then I was a little sad that you weren’t making the announcement. And I hope that, when you are, you tell me because I am also the kind of person who likes to know all and tell little. If you tell me, then I will tell you.

    You crack me up, you college graduate.

  • Reply janet July 18, 2007 at 3:47 am

    I’m not totally sure why, but this post makes me like you so much! of course I already liked you before, but this is very endearing. but if i was your mother and you showed up with a baby and I had no warning I would totally kill you! 🙂

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