I don't know what it means to be "good" at being social, or to have a lot of friends. So far as I can tell, it's just people who do it more often than they don't do it. A lot of my conversations are awkward and it takes me awhile to warm up to people. I write primarily because I know people who read it will understand exactly what I have to say. When it comes to speaking, I fumble a lot, my mind darts down rabbit holes and comes up with banal anecdotes that don't really matter to anyone. In spite of that, I try, and in that sense, I guess I'm social, and I guess I'm okay at it if for no other reason that I keep trying even after it ends poorly.
Every so often, something happens and not only do things end on a bad note, but they leave you bitter, or broken. You get in a fight, or someone you know gets in a fight with someone else you know, and you're left unsure of who's in the right or if either of them are. Knowing how to react feels like dismantling a bomb.
I put myself in a lot of strange situations socially. It's part of figuring out how to do comedy, and partly because I don't think I'm good enough at differentiating between what would be a generally normal social interaction and a strange one. I've definitely hurt people that way, by expecting something of them they weren't prepared for (Hey I'm homeless tonight, can you help?) or by leading them to believe they could expect more from me. I don't do it intentionally but it's a learning process.
Occasionally, your social role and how you really see someone becomes starkly clear. For me, that tends to happen whenever I have to go to a hospital.
Thursday, I am sitting in a hospital room divided by a pulled curtain. On the other side of that a drunk woman is moaning. The fluorescent lights here paint everything pale and it strikes me that this is an odd place to choose lighting that can make everyone look sick. I'm waiting for him to come back from a CAT scan, and I wonder to myself, What am I doing here?
I didn't ask myself that because I didn't want to be there; of course I did. There was an accident, you go when someone you care about gets hurt. It was more the intensity of how I wanted to be there. The second I realized that was where I had to go, my focus became a pin prick, it made a camera obscura and all I could see was this blurry image of something outside of where I was.
I have to get to the hospital. I have to make sure he's okay.
I knew that he'd gotten into an accident before I got the call. He was late and didn't let me know. Simple as that. It's a strange thing to know about someone. There was no future, no spirals of worry, imagining him banged up or destroyed. No regret about any fights we'd had, only a vague sense of responsibility because he'd been coming to pick me up. A friend gave me a ride, I went through a couple rounds of security, and then I saw him. His face was half caked in blood before they took him to the scan and I was left waiting, listening to the assorted ramblings of the drunk woman behind me.
When he saw me he smiled, a kind of smile that's still bright even with half of his face looking like a Halloween mask. I held his blood covered hand and watched him smile at me just because I was there with him.
No ulterior motives. No other sentiment besides, "Hi!"
They took him for a scan and I sat there. I listened to the drunk woman, texted a friend, but mostly just sat there and wondered, what was I doing there?
It gave me time to think about how complicated things can get when you don't know what you're doing. Especially if you don't understand why you're doing it, or you're in a situation where you're forced to wait on an outcome. There's a lot of room for accidents in my life.
(He is fine, by the way. He cleaned up, and escaped with a lucky concussion and a car that looks like a dollar bill after laundry day.)
We hurt each other, but usually, we're not setting out to. I think the fact that it's often unintentional, or at least misunderstood, is why it's so difficult to deal with. If someone wanted to hurt you, wanted revenge or to tear you up to build themselves, those are digestable, logically, even if they're hurtful. Those are motives, but a lot of the most painful things I've encountered are accidents.
We're trying to get over our losses or we're convinced we are past them. We use people because we need someone to talk to, or a warm body to just exist with us. The longer you're out in the social miasma, meeting and connecting with new people, forming friendships, you end up with an entanglement of lives. Everyone you know knots together. Sometimes they hurt each other, and sometimes they hurt you or you them; it's hard to know how to handle it. You doubt yourself, doubt the people you know and love, doubt humans as a whole.
It's the person who whispers to you that they love you when they themselves don't really know any more. It's how someone insists you can't change even though they had no idea who you used to be. It's pushing because you don't know how else to show someone you care about them. It's believing some other fallible person can save you. There are moments you don't really think about, moments that you inadvertently shape someone with. Often, it's senseless and it hurts. We begin and end things, repeat ourselves and our mistakes with other people.
I never thought I would be the kind of person who hurt people the way I did. I'm still puzzled when I see people I know do the same things and hurt people I know they care about. I still get myself into situations I probably shouldn't, so I guess I can't blame them. That holier-than-thou attitude that I know what the right thing to do still lurks in me, either from when I was religious or when I was so closed off I wouldn't take any risk if I had any doubt in my mind that I might fail. I learned walking into that hospital room what you do in the face of doubt: you go with purpose.
I hadn't realized it, but this is something that I'd been working on for awhile. When I felt lost in my life, directionless to the point of being suicidal, I made the conscious a conscious effort with my choices to only choose what I didn't know. I felt lost, and that came from doing with what I assumed I was supposed to do, so I stopped. I chose uncertainty, and I made that choice with a sense of purpose. I wanted to know what happened on the paths I'd never taken. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it was fine. In rare moments, it amazed me.
Later, when I was single, I made the conscious choice not to get together with someone solely because I was lonely. I fucking wanted to have someone, almost anyone, but I knew how that would end, and not well for me. I waited. My days were fine but I'd cry myself to sleep. I'd wake up, live, then fall asleep, crying almost as if to ensure that I was empty by the time I was dreaming. When I finally decided to look for someone, I had a purpose; I wanted to find someone I liked and that I was a person I liked when I was around them.
There is a difference between having a sense of purpose, which I don't know that I do, and acting with a sense of purpose. I'm hoping the latter breeds the former.
I can never always know how my actions effect everyone involved, and I'm trying to keep that in mind about the people I know. Everything is so tightly woven. I don't want anyone to get hurt, but sometimes being indecisive about how to let everyone come out clean leaves you hitting someone hardest. I tread lines when it comes to caring about people and I know that. The thing that I hope saves me is my intent. I may not know what I'm doing, but I know my intentions thoroughly. I won't act until I'm sure of it, until there's purpose. That's the best way I know how to navigate. The truth beyond that is relative and open to a lot of interpretation.
We get banged up, there are accidents, and often, we're forced to wait. The only thing that makes you feel sane, that you can be trusted or trust others, is understanding why you're there in the first place. You went there with a purpose. The rest follows.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about meaning and motive, and I'll probably continue thinking about shit like that until I die. I don't consider myself a very intelligent person, but I do think of myself as very thoughtful, if it didn't sound like some shitty app startup, I'd call myself "ideaful." That's really all I've got going on, I put together a lot of ideas. I also have lived in such a way where I vocalize my ideas to bored people who are stoked to have something to do, and mostly for that reason, my ideas become realities. I'm not really sure how difficult that is to do, it's never been hard for me but I hear others struggle. I guess it depends on the mass appeal of the idea and the bonds you have with other people, but I don't really have any answers to why some shit works and some doesn't.
I'm a very curious individual, I like to see what happens when my ideas come to fruition. In essence, that's creativity; that's how art is made, jokes are written, sites like this are built up. As I get older I'm beginning to realize that curiosity is like an appetite, and it requires something to feed it; there are times when that can get dark, and violent.
Curiosity is a carnivore. The roots for the word "curiosity" in Latin stem from both "cautious" and "care", elements I'd argue real curiosity isn't concerned with. Curiosity is the path that destroys wonder; curiosity wants to learn, test, and create. Even so, curiosity is proactive wonder. In itself, that sentence sounds like the kind of shit middle school science teachers throw around before they tell you about space lightning and hand you a pamphlet for astronaut camp, and not a very terrible thing. Curiosity is just natural, it's human, it helps us achieve greatness.
All of that's true, curiosity is natural, but nature as a rule is indifferent, and indifference can lead to some very complicated, very evil things. This is why I'm troubled by the nihilists.
Speaking as a very curious person, I test things. "Same shit, different day," are the most terrifying arrangement of words in my vocabulary. I spend a lot of my time and squirrely resources trying to find ways to make that statement inherently false.
I will fuck up my life just to see how far people will let me go, and to learn what exactly it takes to get it back. I am an emotionally unrefined person, and it's been a carving process to shape my understanding of how I feel. I don't like to have any opinions that I don't understand. You're taught growing up that doing things are wrong, but until you do the wrong thing, do you really understand why? Maybe I'm just mistrustful, or maybe I just don't believe people know my best interests better than I do.
I'm so curious about what motivates people and what has meaning to them, and if I see someone value what is ostensibly meaningless, it's hard for me to resist the urge not to break it. In some fucked up way, I view people as toys. I like them a lot, and I play with them, but I don't really think twice about dropping them, or how they might feel about the situations I bring them into. My concept of emotion is too limited, and this limit is something that frequently motivates me to do emotionally detrimental things. I'm pushing myself because I'm curious, I don't understand, and I want to. I can't say I'm proud of myself for a lot of my shitty situations, but doing them made me understand myself better, and appreciate and understand why I did those things and maybe why I shouldn't do them again.
I'm often lumped in with the nihilists, the ones who believe that life is meaningless, and therefore you should just fuck everything and stop worrying. I should point out I'm referring to the nihilists in my life circle and not some better understanding of people who ascribe to that philosophy as a whole. I don't reject this belief as nonsense but I find it a little ... for lack of a less condescending word, unsophisticated.
Living like that suggests you live without context. I don't think life is meaningless, but I don't believe that anything inherently holds meaning either. We assign things meaning, and I also hold that belief about people. I think this is why I don't particularly like to be touched; it doesn't mean anything to me. If you believe that nothing is capable of having meaning, and you're running through the world, setting shit on fire to see the world burn, I can't imagine you're learning anything. I have to admit, I was this kind of person for a long time, and then I got kicked in the teeth and realized learned how little I enjoyed that feeling. Learning that was so valuable, I began to look for other things to learn about pain, and I guess that's the point I'm at in my life right now, or the one I'm just coming out of. It's honestly a bit hard to tell given how the context of time is so fluid.
Maybe nihilists don't want to learn anything. Maybe that's not as big a hobby to some people as it is to me, I don't know. I think I'm getting away from myself.
Here is what I learned about curiosity: just like everything else, it holds no inherent meaning. Curiosity is no more innately positive or negative than eating or shitting. It is one of the billions of processes our chemical mill of a brain undergoes. Curiosity does, however, extrapolate some sense of meaning through intent, or more specifically motivation. This is where we find our mad scientists, our mad artists, madness in general, I suppose.
Motivation and intent are different creatures. Motivation is the drive that propels you, intent is the cause. You can have pure intent and bad motivation, I think that's one of the more common flaws of curious people. I find motivation is frequently an emotional buildup, but which ones vary on the day to day.
I've felt lonely most of my life, which is odd because as far as most things go, I have a pretty social existence, and I also really value being by myself. Loneliness also shares the ironic condition of being a near epidemic. We are all lonely. Loneliness is a pretty powerful motivator, and it can back some pretty good intentions.
Your motivation can be loneliness, and your intent can be to feel accepted, but because the underlying motivation isn't acceptance, whatever you're going to reach in the end is going to be a little bit sideways. I realized this when it came to seeking romantic partners; I do it when I feel lonely, which is a pretty logical reason to want a relationship but an awful footing to start out on.
That's why we spend so much time lying to each other, because we want our motivation and our intent to be the same thing, but sometimes they don't correlate. When they don't, we end up doing terrible things. I think the only reason you should seek out a relationship with another human being, romantic or otherwise, is because you like that person. That person won't necessarily make you feel less alone. Loneliness is part of your human package. What you'll develop though, if you base a relationship off of each other instead of a need to feel less alone, is a stronger bond that will palliate that sense of loneliness, if only for the times you're together.
This is especially true for physical intimacy. Being with someone sexually will make you feel less alone for the moments you're doing it, but you'll end up facing that same chasm shortly after, and it will only feel more exhausting, more abysmal. You've gotten literally as close to another person as you physically can, and you are still alone. That's such a terrible feeling we frequently inflict upon ourselves, and each other for the sake of not feeling lonely.
If you are looking for meaning in anything, if that is your intent, it's important to understand that your motivation for that search should not be the feeling of loneliness. Ideally, it's that sense of wonder that motivates you, and ironically, that sense of wonder will get eaten alive by your curiosity. Learning is a bit self destructive in how it decimates your sense of wonder. Often times we travel into these tunnels just to find what's shining at the end is the sunlight we had just left behind.
None of this makes learning or curiosity bad, by the way, like I said, it's natural, and therefore indifferent. What you gain from learning, that you lack with wonder is understanding. So far as I know life tends to be that cycle on repeat ad nauseum. The thing that makes it enjoyable or not, detrimental or not, is motivation. Figuring out why you do anything is greatly important in not becoming your own monster. To figure out why you do anything, you have to figure out what you are, and that's an undertaking not a lot of people have the time for.
Some people are simple, or they think all of my thoughts are unnecessary. They prefer to be conscious without being thoughtful, and I don't have any argument as to why you shouldn't be like that or why you should be like me. I am the way that I am, and I come up with ideas because that's apparently what I do. There's no way for me not to be this person that I am, not without an exhausting amount of effort towards making each day very similar. If you think about it, not being yourself is effectively a form of living suicide. You're killing yourself every time you try and pretend that's not who you are. No wonder people get so depressed in their shitty jobs they don't want to be doing.
I don't really know what motivates me aside from I want to understand what I feel. My feelings are partly mine and partly something else. I have a monster that lets me know which paths I shouldn't take. It's hard to necessarily know what motivates oneself, and I can't say I often know why I desire to do the things I do. I think as humans, we seek comfort, companionship, and a sense of divinity in one another. Our hope and our hell is other people. The only difference is that motive. Once you learn to recognize why you want to do something you can decide whether or not you should explore it. If your only reason is to break someone because you are hurt, or lonely, you shouldn't touch it. If you want to understand something, to join the aether as it were, only to become more of an individual on your way out, that's about as good a person as I know how to be, a carnivore with a conscience.