This post is part of an ordered sequence of posts. If you are new to the site, please click here to start at the beginning.
I had to pause before beginning to write this part of my story. I suppose my feelings of defensiveness are getting the best of me. In the few drafts I’ve written (and erased) I’ve felt an impulse to provide a defense for almost everything that I write because there are so many implicit or explicit assumptions that have been made about what happened during this time. Nevertheless, I will try my best to not take on a defensive tone and simply explain what happened as honestly as I can.
My last post closed with an explanation of the extremely negative state of mind I was in at the start of my second year of university. My mind was filled with regret, shame and feelings of worthlessness. I had almost resigned myself to being the crazy old cat lady (minus the cats) because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to attain any sort of social existence. I felt like no one understood me. I wanted so badly to talk about philosophy with someone who was familiar with it and loved it as much as I did, but to me it seemed like no one was interested in that sort of thing. I wished that I wasn’t “smart.” I would have traded social competency for my brain any day.
One evening in late September 2010 I was sitting at my computer browsing the internet to kill time (probably avoiding homework) and I noticed an ad for an online dating site. This made me think “wouldn’t it be funny if I signed up for the site and was completely honest about myself, without trying to advertise myself as some wonderful, attractive person.” This idea amused me and in a few minutes I had a profile set up, complete with a candid explanation of myself in the “about me” section, in which I did not refrain from explaining what I saw as negative aspects of my person. I was utterly amused by this for some reason and had not yet thought about what I might do if any poor fellow would respond to what I’d written. It didn’t take very long, though, and I started getting all manner of responses. Most of them were not very exciting and I just ignored them. I had short conversations with a few others.
A message that I received on the same day I set up the site, though, turned into a very lengthy conversation which is highly relevant to this story. The initial message was nothing special. Mostly a response to the philosophical question that I had posed in my profile (I really did want someone to talk to about those things) and a few comments about other things I’d written. He sounded like he had interesting things to say and I decided to respond. Our conversation was quite candid as we covered a number of philosophical topics and moved on to other topics. At this point in my life I was in a very just-blurt-out-what’s-on-my-mind state because of all the stress of the current troubles I was facing. It was like I didn’t even care anymore and everything was sort of a joke to me. So I made no effort to hide the negative things I was feeling about myself. I figured, who really cares if some random whom I’ll likely never meet knows this stuff?
It didn’t take long in the conversation for my negative attitude toward myself to become obvious and his response to this was quite interesting. I had no idea what sort of response I was expecting, probably some form of pity. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be confronted about things that I was doing which were ultimately making things worse for myself and those around me. The first thing that he called out on was my “intellectual martyrism” (something he had experienced and he recognized a similar attitude in me). I had allowed myself to believe that because of my intelligence I couldn’t have meaningful interactions with people who weren’t as “smart” as me. This belief was blocking me from the reality that I am, in fact, NOT so special that I am on some separate level from “normal” people. I was just making myself think this was the case and it became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. I told myself I couldn’t have a social existence because I was too smart, so I didn’t have a social existence. But it wasn’t because I was too smart. It was because I was telling myself I was.
I have to admit, being called out on this (and other things) made me uncomfortable. My first impulse was to say “What do you know? You don’t know anything about me. How dare you tell me what I’m doing wrong” and end of the conversation. But when I thought about it I knew that there was merit to the things he was saying and that, even though I felt like I’d rather prefer some sympathy, that was not what I needed. I needed someone to tell me with blunt honesty the things that I needed to change, if was ever going to change. I began to feel hopeful for the first time in months. I felt like maybe I could work through these things in my life. I knew that it would be excruciating to face the years I’d spent dwelling on the negative aspects of my character. I decided that I wanted to be called out on more things. It hurt a lot to hear someone else blurt out things about myself that I didn’t want to admit but I knew it’s what I needed.
In about a week we’d exchanged about 17,000 words on all manner of topics. However, the topic of religion had barely been touched. I had not yet revealed my beliefs at all and was not entirely clear on what his were. My next post(s) will describe what happened after I shared what my beliefs were…