At the start- Milton was perfect for me. Working in an abandoned building rescued me from the fake social niceties and stupid politics of office work. Before this, I worked at a design company that manufactured home decor products. I loved my job. However, something should have set off a red flag that I just wasn't cut out for corporate world when started getting to work at 6am- three hours before anyone else- so that I could work in a dark office building by myself in the peace. I was laid off when the housing market crash caught up with the decor market, and fortunately never had to experience what I'm sure now would've been a total melt down in the end.
Milton was my refuge. I had an enormous, barely achievable goal set in front of me. Huzzah! I had a single business partner- Joel- with whom I worked, every day. I could work as long and as hard as I wanted with no one to tell me what wasn't possible. Terry joined us- and Andy, too- but that was ok. No one cared to get into my personal business, no one accused me of being unfriendly, no one felt hurt when I didn't respond to text messages ASAP. I was truly free.
I can see the necessity of being around other people. Many times, I very much enjoy it- as long as there is a preset time and place to do it. As a lover of stories I am spellbound listening to the lives other people have lead. Facebook crept into Milton life, we began to make friends all over the world as this place grew. I could always walk away from the computer and completely immerse myself in projects here and no one really minded.
I don't know when it was decided that my phone number was going on the front of the building. The mystery 618 or 314 numbers were exciting for a while- back when we had just begun to build out commercial spaces. Working with people one-on-one to build and grow their business was perfect for me. But then something happened that I didn't expect- all of the sudden everyone knew me. I didn't really think anyone was actually reading my blogs- but people began coming up to me in the grocery store and introducing themselves.
I should have been thrilled. After all, what's good for Milton is what's good for everyone, right? Inside I was uneasy.
The fire this weekend really made me question what my function is at Milton- and if I'm really cut out for what people expect of me. Before the fire trucks had left our parking lot, I had over a dozen voicemails piled on my phone. When they left and we wearily made our way up to the apartment, a friend of mine who was with us scrolled through her phone and told me that folks on Facebook were saying the whole placed has been toasted. Text message after text message poured in...all I wanted to do was just get it cleaned up and call it a day. But there were phone calls to be made- around two hours of talking to be done. I was exhausted. I was still calling people back the next day when I received a barrage of text messages like this:
"Maybe I just wanted to know if my "friends" were okay. It's obvious I'm not at the top of your call back list. I don't see how over the course of 10 hours later how you couldn't find a moment to hit me back, truthfully it hurts my feelings. I'm not trying to put myself over your tenants or family, it's just good to see where I stand. I'm tell you how I feel, even if you don't care....thanks for thinking of me. " (These messages went on, but you get the general idea)
Why? This person was not a tenant. This person wasn't family, the insurance agent, the police department, the newspaper. This person doesn't even live in Alton. Why would he assume that somehow I not only had time to contact him, but I had any reason to do so? I felt the update I quickly made on the Milton page assuring everyone of our safety and the limited scope of the damage would suffice for people- other than my mom (who has a right to know everything because she gave birth to me) and our tenants who could have legitimately been affected by the accident. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I owe everyone a personal explanation of everything that occurred in ten minutes of insanity on a Sunday afternoon. I assumed most people were busy with their own friends, family, trials and tribulations, victories and stories to get so upset about something that caused no physical damage to any person, animal, or piece of equipment in Milton.
Running a business in the world of the internet is the single most difficult thing I've ever done. Someone follows your business on facebook or perhaps is even your friend on facebook, and all of the sudden they feel they are now a part of your inner world. It works in facebook world- where we post the same memes and copy the same statuses and make this sense of virtual community. But in introvert world this doesn't work. It feels invasive, uncomfortable, and frightening. I react like a threatened animal. I bite and run away. Not particularly marketable traits for a business owner....I'm sure I've turned away more than one opportunity while trying to adjust to being the go-to girl for our business.
I enjoy what I'm doing and I work very hard for Milton- but I want the freedom to immerse myself in this world, to fully love and be present for the people I'm with, without responding to text messages and conversations on facebook from an ever-beeping phone. I'm not sure how to accomplish this. Perhaps I need to hire an attractive assistant who'd be much better at this PR thing than me.
This blog serves as a plea for understanding from all you folks who are kind enough to take an interest in our work here at Milton. If my husband wasn't busy slinging drywall, he'd certainly be a much better candidate for Milton's frontman than I am.
I do also have some advice for non-introverts who support non-corporate businesses that might not be run by folks of an extroverted nature (which, probably happens more than you expect in an internet world full of private artists and shops...):
Please don't type in CAPS. It looks like you're shouting, and you probably won't get the best customer service. It's scary.
Please don't call a business owner to chat about how you read a post on their dog/husband/whatever to give advice. That's what the comment section is for.
Please be patient. And kind. In my experience, introverts can truly be the most loving people- just not in a superficial way. I know you're accustomed to businesses telling you that you're the most beautiful/amazing/fantastic/smartest/etc customer or follower in the whole wide world. And maybe you are, but I don't really know you that well. I'd rather say "thank you" and really, really mean it. I hope you know I really mean it- and I hope you know that when I say anything it comes from the heart.
Please don't expect every idea you throw out there for a business to be fully embraced with enthusiasm. While every business needs feedback and loves to hear new ideas on how to make things grow, introverts need time to really process, evaluate, and reflect on what you say. That look on my face when you tell me "what you oughta do..." isn't "wow, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard", it's more like, "Would that be feasible?". Take it as a compliment. I'm taking you seriously, even though I'm not jumping up and down and proclaiming your genius.
And above all, if there is smoke coming from Milton but the fire department is already there, don't send me text messages and voicemails asking what's going on. Don't pull into the parking lot and try to wave me or the fire department down. Folks get a little busy sometimes, you know?