Monday, September 29, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 1): People don't make an effort to know me.

So, I'm not sure where my first post came from, it was a bundle of raw energy and I'm not entirely sure how to follow it up.

I've got a bunch of things I feel like I could talk about and my mind is a whirling vortex of entropy so it's hard to pick the better parts, but there was one subject that I kept coming back to. I've tried in multiple different ways to write about and I wrote myself into a corner, trying, I guess, to be smarter and more eloquent than I am.

So screw it, here's my disorganized thoughts on something.

I've felt alone most of my life, I've never felt that I quite fit in quite anywhere, various reasons really, but I found that as a result I became reluctant to let anyone into my life.

There's a differece between feeling alone and being alone and I felt alone. Part of me feeling this way was what happened, the rest was my reaction to it and I discovered that at a given moment I could have two attitudes. Not always at the same time, but sometimes.

The first is the title of this post: I felt that people didn't make enough of an effort to get to know me.

I grew up in a small rural community, the only publicly acknowledged Christian in a school where being different got you bullied, I was also into science and technology, so I was an even bigger target.

To survive, I avoided people, I'd hide away in the library, in corners of the school yard where no one ventured. 

If I was found I would be picked up (I was the smallest and the lightest guy in my year) and presented as a punch bag for other kids in school, my arms pinned behind my back and hoisted into the air, it was a spectacle, sometimes I ran and got away, sometimes I was horribly uncoordinated and would collapse in a tangle of my own feet... I'd just have dirt kicked in my face.

One time a student made an improvised flame thrower from a fire lighter and a can of deodorant and pointed it in my general direction. This particular student was two, possibly three years below me.

I avoided everyone. People I didn't know were a threat until proven otherwise. I didn't go out, didn't have much in the way of extracurricular activities. A church youth group on a Friday night and even then there were cliques and I didn't really establish myself such that when I left, no one bothered to find out where I'd gone.

I was lonely. I ached in my bones in a way I didn't think possible. I also learned to accept I was a loner, I took that word and made myself an archetypical example of it.

It became who I was, it had helped me survive quite a lot of things, it had also let me escape a great many social events I just didn't want to attend.

Being a loner became useful, it became me.

I had begun to develop an attitude that I'd use to justify my loneliness, and that's a pretty messed up place to be in, to be able to ache in your bones for social bonds, but being able to convince yourself that you're justified in not having it.

I had a joke in university with my house mate that the reason I didn't go out in groups that contained clique's was that they were what we called "'so, anyway' people", thus named because after you'd spoken to them, they'd turn to their friend and continue their conversation like you weren't there with that very sentence.

"So, anyway... What was I saying?"

I started to resent groups of people I might otherwise have associated with. I had no desire to break into a clique, I felt no will or compulsion to prove myself. If they weren't prepared to accept me, I wasn't prepared to be around them.

This attitude is in itself not nessesarily bad, it is what logically followed that was.

As I had to be outside due to lectures and having to shop and such, I found that I'd frequently be asked to join in activities to make up numbers.

"Hey, we're off to play soccer and need a goalie, you're up!" Someone might say as they threw goal keeper gloves at me.

"I think not, find yourself someone else that actually enjoys sports." I would reply as I wouldn't bother to catch the gloves.

The thing I find frustrating, esspecially in stereotypical male subculture is the assumption of shared interests. I don't like sports, I don't think that I have ever liked sports and I think I'd rather fill in a tax return than play football (and I HATE having to fill in tax returns). 

I grew to resent being invited to things. When I suggested going to a pub quiz for a quiet drink no one would join me. Yet, I would be accused of being anti-social and generally not much fun for declining invites to night clubs (yet more tax returns). 

If I wanted to go to a gig, my choice of artist would be derided but a pub crawl til 3am was considered a better use of the time.

I wanted to know why no one would join me in things I enjoyed. Why did I have to compromise and skip the events I wanted to go to on order to be considered fun? So I didn't go. I developed an entitled attitude that if it's not something I wanted to do, I wouldn't go, it wasn't fair that I was friends enough to be included in their events, but none of them would join me in my events.

I questioned why people would bother to invite me to things without first knowing my preferences and interests. It really begun to feel like people weren't interested in me, they didn't make an effort to get to know me and that royally sucked.

This was a social stand off and I could stand there for as long as it took.

And to paraphrase Newton, in a vacuum motion can neither begin nor end.

There was certainly a vast vacuum between me and other people. If they weren't making an effort and I wasn't making an effort, well, I was always going to be on my own. So how was I going to succeed in getting to a point where I could have many friends and have a social circle?

I've had to position myself to be able to make people want to get to know me. In retrospect it's obvious that if you walk around with a demeanour of "leave me alone" most people are gonna leave you alone.

I have to present an open and friendly face that engages and makes people want to get to know me. Walking around talking the moral high ground of getting to know a person and rubbing their noses in the fact that they don't know you isn't nice.

There's also the fact that if I was living life through a filter bubble of "this is my experience and you must keep this in mind at all times" how could I keep that up for long? I mean really. 

There are some dudes who have known nothing but sports, clubbing and a junior sales position role that's going nowhere. Where do I get off expecting them to understand my science and programming background when basic algebra is but a distant high school memory?

I can't, we would both have to try to find some sort of commonality. No, not all people will make the effort, does that justify being a social hermit crab? Of course not.

It's only yourself that you'll hurt after all, so why do it?

I had the wrong attitude.

People don't make an effort, guess what? Some people don't, but others do and while I was walking around with an inflexible and uncompromising mentality I was just going to be driving people away.

What it ultimately comes down to is Luke 6:31 (The Message):

"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself, what do you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!"

That's challenging, I mean we all know this passage, and on face value I find that we just take it to mean that we shouldn't be horrible to others.

It means so much more.

In this one particular example (I'm pretty sure I can and probably will find more) I wanted friends, acceptance, etc I have to accept others.

I want my viewpoints, interests, emotions, all that jazz to be recognised as valid and I can't be accepted. At least not until I accept everyone else I find it hard to connect with.

I've had to loose my entitled attitude, there's a lot I had to let go and surrender, because it simply isn't how I want to be treated.

Now... This has taken quite some time to prepare, I'm not entirely sure how much, if any sense it makes. So I've written what I can, it makes sense to me, I just hope it makes sense to someone else.

I want to continue with this and discus the second attitude I've experienced, you know, when I can organise my thoughts!

Update: Part 2 continues with:
The attitude of isolation (part 2): I don't fit in, so I won't try

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