Ok, so there are many downsides to working overnight–Never being able to go out with your friends (not so much an issue considering all of my friends have kids and we all call it a night sometime around 10pm). Constantly being exhauseted and zombie-like when you are awake. Never seeing your spouse. Declining health from constant exhaustion. Only getting one day off a week that isn’t devoted to trying to catch up on sleep or get ahead on sleep. Not being able to anything that makes noise when you are awake and at home because everyone else is asleep. Your internal clock being so messed up that you regularly spend more than 20 hours awake.
I can manage those issues. I function on incremental sleep. I can nap. Stewart deals with my majorly cranky jags pretty well. My third shift curse: lack of socialization.
The only people I see regularly are Stewart and my coworkers. I will go weeks talking to no one else. Easily a month without a conversation with someone who isn’t family, a work acquaintance, or a service person. This means that I suck at small talk.
The small talk issue has been prevalent for some time. Working in human services has significantly altered my idea of what is an appropriate topic for polite conversation. I mean, a significant part of my professional life is spent addressing about bodily functions. Being surrounded by people who also work or have worked in care industries, this isn’t a problem most of the time. I can have an extended discussion about feces, and no one bats an eye.
In the general population, this is not the case. And, to some extent, I have become my job. So, I have to work on having conversations. Talking about things that aren’t charged or gross with people who aren’t in the inner tier of my social contacts–those who don’t deal with my conversational crutches all the time.
What am I planning to do about it? First, I am starting to stick to asking a lot of questions. Everyone is interesting if you can get to the right topic. I can be a little gregarious, so it takes focus to hang back and let someone else lead the conversation.
Second, I need to become more interesting. I am not saying that sexual assault and social skills acquisition for people with ID isn’t interesting, and it’s probably not the only topic on which I can speak at length, but it kind of has a niche audience–and they probably aren’t mingling with me at a friend’s kid’s birthday party.
Third, levity. I am too serious and too sarcastic. Doesn’t mix well with new people. Granted, in both my circle of friends and my family, sarcasm is like our primary language. You get tough or you get out.
In the same vein, I need to work on being more aware of my tone. I have substituted, “Excuse me?” for, “What?” because the latter always sounds hostile. Just ask that guy who unfortunately had to sit next to me during a wedding reception that ultimately professed that he “loved the Zep” because I couldn’t hear him. I sound like the Dave Chappelle impression of Lil Jon.
Not the only word I have a problem with.
I’m going to start practicing immediately. OKAY!