Recently I was reading some pages from my journal written in 2009 when I was 59 years old, and I came upon a forgotten thought: Looking back on the previous decades of my life, reflecting on what I had learned and not learned, achieved and not achieved, I said to myself:
“You are 25% social, and 75% non-social.”
That summarized 60 years of life experience.
Throughout my early life, the 25% social man longed for some social life, companionship, conversation, etc., but the shy 75% man remained in charge, and there was almost no social life outside of family.
Then, as a young man, I tried to change. I entered social groups, took on a career that required full contact with the public (insurance adjusting/accident investigation), tried to join writers groups, etc.
There were successes. I survived 40 years in a business where the customary burn-out happens at 5 years. I fell in love, got married, had children and my family is still a treasure chest of life experience for me. The social world was sometimes interesting, and I had some fun along the way.
But all through that time the shy, avoidant, solitary 75% man suffered badly.
And in spite of all those efforts to be more social, and in spite of acquiring some social skills, by the time I reached 60 years old I was still considered by most people to be an irredeemable loner.
Though I’m the author of three books, some short stories and this blog, I have no friends who write. Whenever I read a biography of another shy writer, no matter who it is – Hemingway, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Philip K. Dick, etc – and I learn that they each had many writing friends, I’m struck again at how different I am.
This is a bit odd, for when it comes to getting out in the street – investigating accidents for example – I’m more comfortable there than most shy people.
But there is a strange punchline to this story.
As the dust settles on my previous life, and my writing explodes in this new one, I’ve discovered that the 25% man and the 75% man have come to like each other.
The two of them have joined forces and they write my books together. They work happily together, and they’ve produced writing that is equal to and unlike almost anything else I’ve met in all my years of reading, if I’m allowed to say so.
Of course, 25% + 75% = 100%.
Hows that for an explanation? Maybe I should call it Alan Conrad’s one line autobiography.