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In defense of the overachievers

My cousin shared an article, noting it might describe her just a little bit. When I clicked on the link, I found a story that spelled out over a dozen indicators for Type-A personalities. Considering how alike this cousin and I purportedly are said to be, I read the entire article. What else was I to do? There were two people ahead of me at the check out.

Upon finishing the story, I slid my phone in my purse and then moved my cart forward. Once again, I was reminded of how annoying I can seem to those around me. If the article were a diagnostic tool, I would have been categorized as a severe sufferer of Type-A Syndrome.

As someone with nearly half a century of experience with Type-A personality, I’d like to defend not only myself, but also all other Type-As, who, like my cousin and me, are proud to be slightly neurotic while lacking the obliviousness that allows others to sleep through the night.

Of course we do not like waiting in lines. Does anyone? We just happen to notice how non-productive line waiting can be. As some of the most efficient of the species, we need to be accomplishing something at all the times. Since the advent of the smartphone, however, line waiting has become more tolerable.

We can now pay bills, confirm dental appointments, and catch up on email while waiting to purchase groceries, board a plane, or ride the Intimidator at Carowinds. A line is no reason to put off until tomorrow what can be accomplished with a screen and cell service or an Internet connection.

We are ridiculously labeled overachievers and perfectionists. We are simply adept at achieving. We pay attention to details. On performance appraisals, strength in these areas gives us an edge on merit increases. Call us workaholics if you must, just don’t forget to say thank you when we pick up the tab.

Our attention to details and ability to never stop thinking contributes to the perception that we believe we are always right. We are not always right. However, we are wrong so few times in our lifetime that you might as well assume we are always right. It’s simply a good practice to go with the odds.

The nail-biting thing is purely a matter of efficiency. Long nails get in the way of important things like the ability to accurately type. In addition, my grandmother told me nails are a breeding ground for germs. The shorter the nails, the fewer the germs. The fewer the germs, the less chance of becoming sick. Less illness means higher productivity.

My grandmother will celebrate her 95th birthday this year. Her longevity alone gives her credibility.

Some might argue we find great difficulty in beginning to peel an orange with stubby, bitten-off nails. Oranges are also important in the fight against germs. However, I counter-argue that we have the blunt tip of butter knives for just such an occasion.

We also are accused of harboring an abnormal fear of wasting time. But I say we simply get the most out of life. Rather than waste dozens of hours sitting in traffic on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, for example, we prefer to memorize lyrics to 80s songs, read a novel, and file our 2013 tax returns during the morning commute.

Sleeping can be a challenge for those of us afflicted—or rather, blessed—with Type-A personalities. But that’s because we have a hard time turning off our internal listing function. But on the plus side, the listing function ensures the check for the field trip gets written and sent to school by the deadline, the household doesn’t run out of toilet paper, and the tags on the cars don’t expire.

It’s harder to defend our inability to have a conversation without cutting people off in mid-sentence. We don’t mean to be rude. It is just that our thoughts, which we’ve established don’t cease bouncing around, have a tendency to run rampant and overtake our mouths. As we get older, however, we do get a little — not a lot mind you, just a little — better at two-way conversation.

Type-As are considered overly critical of those who lack our drive, efficiency, and productivity. However, our analytical nature reveals to us what others have not accomplished. And when someone performs a task, we immediately see ways it could have been done better. It is not that we are judgmental and controlling. We just have the superpower that enables us to quickly figure out the best, most efficient possibility for getting things done.

If not for Type-As, we wouldn’t have to upgrade our phones and tablets every few months. Of course, Type-B folks are quite important, too. They balance our lives, help us sleep at night, and explain — nay, prove — to us that the world will not actually end if we were to miss a deadline or, worse yet, get sick and have to spend a day in bed.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.

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