Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously
by Jessica Pan
Expected publication date: May 28, 2019, by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Though she lived in London, a city filled with people and things to do, journalist, American ex-pat, and “shintrovert” Jessica Pan found herself sitting on the couch for yet another evening. Jobless and friendless, she wondered if she was developing a full-blown case of Depression. One day she decided to break the cycle of sitting on her couch alone and set out on a year’s worth of attempting to make friends, try new situations, and put herself into the public eye by attempting stand-up comedy. Along the way, she learns that she can survive a bit of embarrassment, travel by herself, and even make new friends along the way. Her new memoir, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come documents this year of self-discovery and adventures in extraverting.
By now, “My Year of _________” memoirs have become a sort of sub-genre of its own, with writers picking a project, documenting their progress through the year, and then trying to write a witty book about the process. Oftentimes, it doesn’t seem like the writer comes out of the project having changed very much, and so the “My Year of ________” feels like a gimmick. But Jessica Pan’s self-imposed project begins when she is unhappy and has a genuine desire to make drastic changes in her life. She’s not setting out to prove anything to anyone except herself: that she can go out into the world, talk to people, make friends, and try new things.
The stereotype of introverts is that they are homebodies who would rather stay home with their cats and watch Netflix than go out and socialize in bars or comedy clubs. But while social anxiety is a real problem for many, it is not the case for every introvert. Pan’s unhappiness stemmed from the fact that she was unemployed, and all her friends had moved far away. She was lonely but able to put herself into new situations and try to make new friends.
Thanks to her background in journalism (though often unsuccessful, as she candidly recounts), Pan didn’t go blindly into her year of extraversion. She did her research, found people to talk to on the subject, and developed a plan. She tried friend-finding apps that work like dating apps, she talked to strangers on the Underground and found excellent advice to help break the ice (nobody waves, but everybody waves back). This, along with her own decision to be courageous helped Pan to begin to accomplish what she set out to do: to say yes to new experiences and find new friends.
There is a wonderful sense of both humor and honesty in Pan’s writing. She does not shy away from recounting personal embarrassment or describing when she was uncomfortable or afraid to do something (but then goes ahead and does it anyway). Personal failure is part of life. To hide them in a memoir is to be disingenuous, and when your goals are to A) learn from your experiences by writing about them, and B) describing those experiences so that other people can learn from them, lying about your failures misses the point. By recounting failed ‘friend-dates’, her terror before a public performance, and bombing at stand-up comedy, Pan proves not only to herself but to the reader as well, that embarrassment is survivable, and that putting yourself out there is worth it when it helps you find new friends you can make deep connections with.
“Does there need to be a spark in friendship? I’ve always thought so. You want to have chemistry with someone when they’re helping you move the dead body; otherwise, it’s just a very, very bad night for both of you.
And while loyalty and support are important to me in the long run, I want to laugh and have fun with new friends.”
There are reviews that criticize Pan for putting herself into situations where she was anxious or embarrassed. They feel that she should not have done things that made her so uncomfortable. These reviews miss Pan’s point. Adults– particularly introverted adults– have a harder time making friends than they did as children. But loneliness is a problem that affects a growing portion of the population as we turn to the internet more and more for shopping, entertainment, and connections. Nowadays, it is entirely possible for us to avoid human contact altogether as we do more work from home and have our groceries, clothes, and everything else delivered. While this is convenient, it cuts us off from our social nature. Humans are social beings. We crave deeper connections than a quick trip to the grocery store provides. Pan discovered this first hand and decided she wanted more out of life than a comfy couch and streaming television every night. Though putting herself out into the world was an uncomfortable experience, Pan found it was worth it. She found new friends, learned about herself, and discovered that she was far more courageous than she thought.
“My Year of _________” memoirs often have a contrived aura, but Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come is a bright spot among them, and Pan shows readers that while reaching out to others can be scary, it is worth it to find deeper connections with other people.
I received a free ebook from NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book.