One of the things that have been consistent in my life for the last 3 years, is my personality type INFP (Introvert–Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving) in the Myers-Briggs test. Thanks to an annual workshop organized by our institution around leadership skills that made me take this lengthy, intimidating test thrice in the last 3 years. Though the feedback from the experts was always – there is no good or bad personality type – I knew that I was doomed as none of the elements of my personality type is going to help me excel in the current state of academic sciences. INTROVERT meant I am a sort of loner who habitually shies away from collaborations, including TGIF gatherings; SENSING meant that I trust the current notion of – How things work – based on existing literature; a no-no for existing ‘high risk, high reward’ requirements of science funding; FEELING meant that any/every solution to (real-life) problems should invariably bring harmony, peace, and consensus among the group of people around me. It is an inability to see the problem in isolation and solve it; PERCEIVING meant that anticipation-based current and future planning is too demanding for me. I am ready to face the consequences of spontaneity rather than the fruits of careful (painful) planning. Surprisingly, I am glad that my anticipated and observed personality type matches, which means, at least, I have not failed to address a rather philosophical conundrum of ‘knowing thyself’.
However, the current ‘Covid19 situation’ revealed a rather perplexing fact about me – I am not INTROVERT – at least, not within the work environment. The ongoing social isolation measures have taken away most of the people that I am supposed to be surrounded with and it’s disconcerting. Empty offices of colleagues; missing contagious motivation that radiates through numerous keyboard/mouse ranting and that constant hopeful glare on the monitors patiently waiting for a eureka; dry and quiet water fountain next to my office waiting to fulfill its destiny to quench thirst of some of the most ‘knowledge thirsty’ souls I have ever encountered; the infrequent opening of elevator doors that use to eat up or spit out several, goal-oriented, ambitious and lazy colleagues throughout the day; discussion topics ranging from science-arts-philosophy-politics that use to spread like fire, harnessing a collective wisdom of the all the brains in the vicinity; are patiently waiting for the flock to return and behold it in their little grey cells for a split second to enlighten someone (mostly me) for lifetime; and the place where I had made most of my social connections, the dining area, has turned into one of the places to avoid due to an obvious limitations of eating something with masks ON; are few of the things that I am missing on a daily basis. Even the simple act of breathing through a mask, a necessary onsite requirement due to pandemic, has now become a topic of left, right, and center of my breathless consciousness. This pandemic has unknowingly put a mask around everything I liked about my job making me feel suffocated.
I believe I am an introvert that paradoxically needs people around me to give me a sense of normalcy and professional acuity. It is their motivation and perseverance that I feed upon to fuel mine. I might not have acknowledged it enough but I value their opinion and understanding on different topics because it somehow consolidates and articulates my own thinking process. Peaceful was the feeling I used to experience working in a rather empty lab and offices on weekends. But now the ‘peace’ has become pervasive. I often find myself wishing for ‘all those non-peaceful’ activities to resume. Indeed, everything is relative.
This too shall pass …
… and hopefully it will be an experience that makes us value relationships and connection more.