The thing that you should know about me is if we interact for more than five minutes once a week for any period of time, then if I’m not with you, I’m probably alone — or at work, isolated in some way around a group of wonderful, talented people.
And I’m probably somewhat okay, because I’m distracted with work, or some computer thing I’m tinkering with at home, some mildly interesting article that I’m reading, or some political cause that I’m getting outraged about. Or some random project I’ve either given to myself, or am doing at the last moment for somebody at no charge as a favor.
Sometimes, there are these rare moments when those distractions fade away and I feel a moment of clarity: When I can see my life for what it is. And what I see does not make me happy.
I might be depressed, but have never been diagnosed. I don’t feel particularly good. Since Robin Williams’ suicide broke yesterday, people have been talking about depression. Endlessly so. It was something that he struggled with for years, silently. Lots of comedians struggle with it, so I hear. People speculate that comedians are so good at humor because it’s a coping mechanism for something else that is missing in their lives. I may not be a comedian, but this certainly sounds like a reasonable hypothesis to me. That — and a bit of practice and some presence of mind. People look for things that help get them through the day. For some, it’s probably making others laugh.
The fact that he died and the things that people have been saying have struck far more deeply inside than I ever could have imagined.
I don’t think that I’m suicidal. I suppose that thought has been in the back of my mind on occasion before, but it’s so quiet. I know that it’s thing that exists, just as everyone does, but my sense of survival and my personal code of ethics would never permit me to do it. I simply don’t want to die, and I have too much respect for the privilege of life, because we don’t get another chance and I would never deprive myself the opportunity to witness tomorrow.
Carl Sagan’s words, “we are a way for the universe to know itself,” constantly ring in my mind. I’m an atheist in the core of my being. I know that this is it as far as things go; it’s my one shot in the world. Is that pessimism? Because I don’t see myself as a pessimist. I think that I’m an optimist. I am a humanist. I see myself as a dreamer. I have a deep need to feel myself connected to the future. A better future — that elusive World of Tomorrow — the one that I know that we’re all capable of realizing. Every day, I feel like we get closer, despite every setback. Progress marches on. I want to know how things will turn out.
The truth is that I do like life. I like finding interesting things to learn about; to nerd out about. I like food. I like friends — when I have them. I like sleep. I like cats. I like seeing all the cool things that people post to Dribbble, or Github, or the amazing photos that people post to Flickr. I keep a diary of the most interesting things I find online so that I can go back later to glean inspiration when I need it the most.
At the same time, I feel that I might be one of the most disrespectful people in life whom I know. Because I feel like I’m squandering my own life.
I’m directionless. I’m alone. And I feel like I don’t matter to anyone.
I feel unworthy of anyone’s time or attention. I actively try to avoid meeting new people, or seeing those whom I already know because of the fear of saying something wrong, or that I won’t know a reference about something (or as it turns out, maybe more than one reference). I’ll just say one wrong thing after another.
I haven’t contributed anything of note to the world. And, as much as I’d like to, I don’t know if I believe that I ever will. So why should I burden other people with my inadequacy?
I have a deep fear of travel. I get an intense sickness in the pit of my stomach if I’m in a car that someone else is driving and I can’t see the road — it’s been this way ever since I was a child. Family vacations, errands with mom, whatever. Dramamine doesn’t help with that, but air conditioning can, curiously enough. Growing up, this particular fact annoyed my dad who likes warm weather — rare in Seattle — to no end. Though this is when I would need it the most. Is that just motion sickness? Claustrophobia? My room is very small, but I feel very safe there.
But even if I’m personally driving, which alleviates that sickness to an extent, I find other excuses to not leave my house. I rationalize it by telling myself that the car might get stolen, I might need to get gas for it, or that I wouldn’t know where to park. Maybe I have a project to work on, so I should work on that. I should find something to do.
I try to hide myself; to be invisible.
As a result, I find myself perpetually, profoundly alone.
There doesn’t appear to be a clear path for me to break this cycle. It’s easy to just say, “go to a bar, or go to a party; meet someone,” but if you think you have nobody that you can call, there isn’t any recourse. I’m not bold enough to go it alone and I don’t want to be some kind of creeper.
On that note, I have become exceptionally good at finding ways to isolate myself from others. From darting my glance away at the moment of eye contact, to pulling my phone out of my pocket at just the right moment. I bring this on myself, and I’m aware of it, but I have this overriding need to cling to it.
My deepest fear is that of making a connection with someone, but I feel like I’ll need a connection with someone for me to begin to overcome it! How do I get myself un-stuck from that?
It’s a paradox.
Intellectually, I know that I should be banging into walls and upsetting the balance of life a little. That’s how new ideas are born — by touching life, finding it’s essence, changing it. And that should be a little messy, and I should make big mistakes along the way. In practice, I’m too scared of my own shadow to change anything.
As I wrote this, I experienced a brief epiphany (Perhaps logic works after all?). One reason that I might open myself to others is perhaps that it might increase the chance that I might contribute something of value to the world, sparked through an exchange of ideas and experiences. This seems somehow a selfish reason for wanting to meet people, but perhaps everyone’s motivation needs to come from somewhere. Should I be unrepentant about that? Are my experiences too trite and inconsequential for me to be an interesting person to talk to? Will other people still like me if they knew that I might have some motivation that is not entirely pure and altruistic? If they knew at some base level that I’m just trying to satisfy my own need to stop being alone; my need to do something meaningful with life. Maybe a little bit of selfishness is part of the human condition.
On the flip side, maybe I’m a profoundly selfish person. Because in hoarding myself away from others, I’m missing the chance to do something that might make someone else’s day better. Is that possible? How many chances have I missed to be a force for good in the world? Or am I just being arrogant, inflating my own self-importance? You see, self-doubt is a constant in my life. Second-guessing has become second nature.
I want to do something. And I want to stop being alone in life. These are goals that I have set for myself.
I don’t know how to get there.