Upon re-reading the decade-in-review post I made a short time ago, there was one sentence that stuck out to me as something I’d like to elaborate a bit on. I was writing about my current dating life (or lack thereof), and I said this:
Getting into a serious relationship with anyone would require some vast changes in how I currently approach life, and while I know there are people out there worth changing for, I have no idea how to find them or recognize that, and I don’t know if they’d have the patience to help me become the person who’s right for them instead of this dude who’s been living by himself for half a decade and has started going a little “crazy bachelor” as a result.
It’s that last phrase I want to especially focus on. Living alone for several years (as I have since late 2015), especially when you spend large amounts of your professional life alone as well, begins to alter your perception of things a bit, to a point that there are some things I do/think/believe/etc. that I’m not sure if they’re normal, or quirky but harmless, or worrisome. So I though I’d outline a few random things and let you, the vast Internet audience, draw your own conclusions, or at the very least get some insight into what life is for people like me. Please allow me to indulge in some intense navel-gazing, as we start with…
1. Indulging in intense navel-gazing
I tend to focus on myself, and it’s probably one of my biggest flaws. This is for several reasons: I often approach the world in an analytical way (for proof, read pretty much everything I’ve ever written ever), but when it comes to others I don’t have all the facts. Furthermore, even speculation about what drives other people often gets me into trouble, especially if I try to say anything about anyone specific, even if it’s complimentary. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve learned something about someone, brought it up (either with them or someone else) and been angrily chewed out about how I completely misread the situation or was being unfair or I should just mind my own business, even if it ended with something positive. So the more I get burned instead of validated, the less I share my viewpoint, until all I have to talk about is myself because at least I won’t get mad at myself (or if I do, I can deal with it).
That’s probably a good philosophy when it comes to things like blog posts or gossiping, but it extends farther than that. I still have opinions, not just on people, but on issues dealing with all parts of life, but it’s difficult for me to share them, even in daily conversation, unless I have a 30-page dissertation already made up in my head to back up what I’m saying, because there are people who have/had a great influence on my life who would demand nothing less if I said something they didn’t agree with (and, to be honest, there have been times where I’ve also indulged in such behavior, though I try to be self-aware about it these days and give people more benefit of the doubt, reminding myself that just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s invalid). And damn it, arguments just wear me out. So I either just insert jokes into someone else’s conversation, make terrible, terrible small talk, or speak about things that I have thought long and hard about, and would be able to write 30-page dissertations on, which at this point are either my fandoms (which I’ve recorded on occasion, see my way-too-long posts regarding Undertale or Chrono Trigger or even some of my Player and Doodler videos), or my personal life (including philosophies and insights) without focusing on others.
This mindset starts seeping into other parts of my life, though, to the point where every time I start to have an opinion about someone, good or bad, I automatically stifle it until I just don’t think about anyone else for fear of offending anyone, intentionally or not.
Is that good? Bad? Normal? Weird? Harmless? Hurtful?
And before I only get comments like “Hey, you do you! You are valid!” which feel good for the advice-giver but don’t actually say anything, let me rephrase the question:
If you were the same, how would you feel about yourself?
2. Speech patterns starting to deteriorate, ever so slightly
This is something I think I’ve noticed about myself in recent years. I feel like I’ve started to stutter more and have a difficult time even speaking clearly sometimes. When you live alone you never have to verbally explain anything. I’ve always tended to talk to myself out loud to work through my thought processes anyway, as it helps me focus (and also helps other people make fun of me if they overhear), but even then if I can’t immediately express myself clearly I can just skip that thought and move on. Obviously it doesn’t work that way when interacting with others, but I don’t often interact with others, outside of professional contexts, and I’m afraid that my speech has started following the path of least resistance. I imagine that it’s similar to what some stay-at-home parents who have no side gigs have to deal with, but at least with them there’s presumably a spouse home and awake with them for at least a few hours.
That’s one reason why I’ve started streaming again: I just want to talk to somebody, but have it be a middle ground between “I’m just talking to myself” and “now I’m talking directly with someone else, and it’s boring small talk and/or I’m being embarrassing by revealing too much about myself or obsessing over something they don’t care about.” When there’s an audience in a chatroom, I can just talk and talk and not worry how I sound as much, because if you think I’m being weird I won’t know it, but if you like my company then we can have a good time together (assuming you respond in chat, please respond in chat). I have to get out of my head.
Watching those recent streams, however, is where I’ve started to notice these tendencies to stutter, or speak with a weird cadence where I speed up and slow down depending on how close I am to the end of a thought, or just plain get distracted mid-sentence and never come back to it. These also exist in the older Player and Doodler videos, but with someone else also physically speaking they tend to be mitigated a bit, though I wonder if it’s also not as bad because I hadn’t been living alone for as long at the time.
I also have issues communicating because I want to be precise when trying to convey ideas, and while I like to think I have a decent vocabulary, sometimes I can’t think of the exact word I need to express my idea, and I just get frustrated. Writing my opinions, like I do here, is easier, as I can process what I’m trying to say at a slower pace than speech requires, which allows me to be as articulate as I need without performance anxiety.
Is that good? Bad? Normal? Weird? Harmless? Hurtful?
If you were the same, how would you feel about yourself?
3. Not wanting to sleep with anyone
Before anyone gets their hackles up or slaps this post with some sort of content rating, I mean this literally. I snore sometimes, I toss and turn, and my pillows and blanket look like they’ve been hit by a hurricane in the morning. I’m also very sensitive to other people snoring, and I’ve even woken myself up with my own snoring before (this is why I sleep with a humidifier, for the white noise; also, I wake up without a sore dry throat, which is nice).
It is a legit concern of mine that, if I ever do get involved with someone long-term, I would not know how to handle sleeping arrangements. I suppose it would be as simple as discussing it with a partner when that time comes, but that would be a weird hurdle to get over, and it’s not one I ever see anyone talking about (other than maybe an occasional “OMG my spouse hogs the blanket!” webcomic that someone throws up on Facebook, tagging their spouse).
4. Losing personal connections/confidants
I don’t have anyone I can confide in, nor does anybody feel that they can confide in me, at least not recently. When I wrote nearly 10,000 words about what I’ve been doing over the past decade, including some deeply personal things, and most of the responses I got (other than jokes) were “Great read! Thanks for sharing!” it means I apparently haven’t done much to create close relationships, even with the people I love.
A teacher once told me that when afterwards people say “That was a great class!” it doesn’t mean it was a great class, it means that they want to say something nice so they don’t feel guilty about it. But when they say “I like the part where you said X, it reminded me of…” or “Could you talk more about Y? I want to know more!” then they were actually paying attention and a personal connection is made, both with the material and between the teacher and the student. An “I like your posts” response (with sometimes an occasional “You can talk to me, my ear is always open” response which, while the sentiment is nice, doesn’t create any sort of actual connection) are the same as the “That was a great class!” response. They’re not bad, and they’re certainly preferable to silence, but sometimes you want something deeper.
Most people only care about others on a personal level if there’s already some sort of initial investment into each others’ lives, and that type of investment only comes with time spent together, and/or some sort of deep personal connection made over something important. Of all the dating relationships I’ve had, I can count two that there was real mutual love, and in both cases it was because there was a shared connection about something personal for both of us (in one case it was a changing belief system, in the other it was over a bit of pop culture that nonetheless had great personal significance to both of us).
Living alone means that you’re not around anyone long enough to build the kind of trust needed for people to have that sort of connection with you. I have had this kind of connection with some people in the past, but all of them have either ended badly, or, more likely, we’ve drifted apart until all we have is the memory of a deep connection, not the connection itself.
5. Losing a baseline/being overworried about what others think
I recognize the irony in noting this one in a post that, essentially, is asking what other people think. And the issue here isn’t “I have no self-confidence and need the approval of others.” I know who I am, I’m comfortable with that and my self-worth isn’t based on others. The issue is that I don’t live in a vacuum. A corollary to the point I made in #4 is that I legitimately cannot know whether my opinions and philosophies are good or not. Part of the downside of leaving the church is losing the certainty that your morals are founded in bedrock values that never change (sidenote: before any active believers use that sentence as an “in” to get me to return to church, I don’t believe the church’s morals are founded in bedrock either, but that’s a topic for another time).
So you have to get validation from somewhere. I’ve had to get most of my validation from within, putting myself in others’ places and trying to examine my opinions from all possible viewpoints before expressing them. But opinions and philosophies are always better formed when others are involved, even just to bounce ideas off. This is something that, for most people, manifests itself a thousand times a day, from little things like “Which shirt do you think I should wear?” or “What do you want for dinner?” or “So, what did you think of the new Star Wars?” to big things like “How do you know when someone loves you?” or “Do you think I should go back to school?” or “Tell me why you believe what you believe.”
I haven’t posted a lot on this blog in the past few years for fears I’ve outlined before, but I think I need to start doing it again so that I can have these questions in my life again. I want to pick people’s brains and know what they think on topics that matter to me. But I’m not good enough at interpersonal relationships to be able to get that out of people most of the time, especially in one-on-one situations. Probably most of the times it’s happened have been due to stuff I’ve posted here, mainly because this is where I feel I can express myself clearly without the issues I outlined in #2.
I like reading others’ opinions: on Facebook, on tumblr sometimes, watching Youtube video essays or other online articles, or even just hearing people talk about what they’re interested in, and assimilating what I find appealing into my own worldview. There are most likely people interested in my opinions too. I just don’t like to spread them around, due to the “I don’t have a 30-page dissertation to back them up” issue mentioned earlier. As a result, I don’t know what the implications of my worldview are outside of my own viewpoint, and sometimes that can be a little scary.
Even scarier, however, is when I do share my opinions but they’re met with silence. Because immediately my social anxiety flares up and I think, “Uh oh, what thing did I say that was inappropriate/wrong/alienating?” and I have to now spend a bunch of mental energy figuring that out, and then figuring out if I care (which, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t), assuming that their silence was even due to something I did and not because they’re tired or have to pee or thinking about their impending divorce or suffering a PTSD moment or something else completely unrelated to me.
Social anxiety means that your brain’s baseline is assuming everyone hates you or is sick of you, and you have to spend all of your energy trying to find reasons to disprove that in order to feel better about interacting with others. It’s just easier when that’s more unambiguous, is all, and especially if it’s unprompted and repeated. Though, for me, people saying “I like you” or “You have worth” or “You have my ear” isn’t nearly as powerful as saying, “You know that thing that’s so important to you? I looked into it too. Let’s talk about its meaning.” Which leads into…
6. Fan Myopia
Part of my problem, both with me living alone and just me in general, is that I tend to immerse myself in things I enjoy. This is true of all geeks/nerds (it’s basically the definition of the term), but for me it’s a little worse than for most, because 1) my tastes have never been popular, and 2) I tend to analyze and apply what I learn from these things in my own life in a way that’s nearly impossible to explain to anyone unfamiliar with what I’m basing it on.
Fan Myopia is a term used to describe a fandom whose members automatically assume everyone is as familiar with the works of a certain work or medium as they are, and then speak in a way alienating to anyone not in that group. I suffer from this problem, and I recognize it. I do try to explain the properties as much as I can when I discuss them; however, if someone isn’t interested in where I pulled my philosophy and/or beliefs from, then I can’t really discuss it with them as well.
I keep going back to the Undertale thing I’ve mentioned so often, as it’s the basis of my most recent major epiphany and life change, but there have been a lot more works that have affected me just as much: some more popular like Star Trek, others far more obscure (the one that comes to mind is the indie game Knytt Underground, which was a huge factor in helping me make decisions that ultimately resulted in me making peace with leaving the church, even though I don’t think I’ve ever brought it up in a public online space due to its total obscurity).
When I was living with Sheldyn back in 2013/2014, I shared some of my interests with him (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, etc.) and we could talk about it. This was also true to a lesser extent with some of the Player and Doodler videos (though, since Johnathan’s attention was on drawing instead of the games I was playing, this wasn’t quite as effective, which I don’t blame him for; drawing takes a lot of attention, even if it’s just doodling). This could happen because we saw each other every day, and could take it a bit at a time, like a couple going through a Netflix series together every night.
Now that I live alone, I don’t have anyone to share those interest with. I can’t have adult conversations with anyone about what Undertale means to me because most people who are grown up enough to have that type of conversation don’t care about Undertale, at least not to the extent that they would need to to discuss the matter properly. This is another reason why I’m streaming again: I want to share what I’ve been doing with people I know so we can talk about it, even if it’s just random things that we learned from playing Skyrim or whatever.
I used to make it a priority to keep up with the interests of my nieces for this exact reason: I wanted to have conversations with them about what they liked and why, and what they got out of it all. Unfortunately, I hit the brick wall that was their Homestuck fandom (for those of you who don’t know what Homestuck is, it’s a website that’s like reading a chatroom log from a bunch of 15-year-olds going through a plot that reads like David Lynch took cocaine and LSD at the same time that goes on for the length of two Bibles. Seriously.), and as a result, we don’t really have those types of conversations anymore (also they’re both teens with their own issues; also, I may have nearly killed one of them once, and the Undertale thing I want to talk to them about was tied up in that whole deal).
When you are alone and make discoveries, the discoveries only matter to you. If you share them in a way that others can’t relate or respond to, you may as well not have shared them at all.
7. Don’t get sick, because nobody else is there!
Hey, everyone who’s ever gotten sick! Do you have someone that can take care of stuff while you’re laid up, even if it’s just to run to the store to buy soup, or empty the mailbox, or bring you a bottle of medicine in bed because you feel like vomiting if you breathe too hard?
I sure don’t! Hope I don’t die!
(ok, this is less a “quirk” and more of a “reason why living alone is sometimes frightening” but whatever)
8. End of Part 1
I think that this may be a series of posts, as I certainly have more to say on the topic (both about the deep topics and also lighter things like sleeping habits), but want to leave the door open both for responses and for me to collect more thoughts.
The scariest part about posts like these is I desperately hope they are received well. Putting myself out here in such a personal way is frightening, to be sure, but there’s really no other way. I’m just a “crazy bachelor,” and everyone else is living their own lives, but I can’t just pontificate in isolation until I don’t matter to anyone anymore, and trying to discuss them personally with anyone has just led to failure.
Are these good? Bad? Normal? Weird? Harmless? Hurtful?
If you were the same, how would you feel about yourself?
EDIT: All right, guys, you can stop messaging me about therapy now. That’s between me and my insurance company. When I titled this post “Crazy Bachelor” I didn’t think people would take it so literally…