There are numerous things I used to say that I turn back to now and can’t help but cringe. There is one statement, though, that encompassed them all – “I hate people.”
I spent years of my life blaming my isolation on the faults of others and not being able to stand being around them. There was always a reason for me to stand outside of any social circle and avoid any attempts to find a reason to join in. It was mildly fulfilling at the time (no one is perfect, so there is always a fault that can be found), but it was never justified.
All I wanted to do was to highlight the faults I could see in other people to dodge the mounting list of faults glaring back at me in the mirror. Pictures of myself at the time would clearly depict this image as well. I rarely smiled, would often stand alone, and when around people I had never met, would evade any interaction at all costs. A fantastic example of this, which is also a favorite story of mine now, would be how my now wife has no recollection of me for the first year we knew each other. We worked side by side multiple times as cashiers, but I attempted to make such a small impact on people’s lives that I honed it down to near perfection. Fortunately, my unabated desire to spend time with her eventually broke through my social inadequacies and I was able to convince her to spend time with me, despite my reservations.
I’d love to say from that moment I realized the fault in my perspective, but she could attest to the decade or more that I spent still convincing myself that I had no need to spend time with people I could not stand being around. I hated myself, and I wanted to hate other people, too.
Sometimes it’s easy to admit disdain for yourself, and other times it can be akin to boring a hole through a mountain with a spade. Because the moment you say it, your afflicted with the knowledge that you are responsible for how you handle and address this revelation. I admitted my contempt for the man I saw in the mirror on numerous occasions (cue Michael Jackson), constantly brushing aside any attempt to understand why, and plowing forward through my life.
But then I stopped. There was no major event. No great epiphany. I was just lonely.
I built the life I assumed I wanted, and it was depressing.
It was slow, and sometimes agonizing work to filter through my automated responses to interactions and invitations that inhibited me from enjoying life. And the truth is, I’m still struggling. I enjoy trying to meet new people and experience new things now, but I am far from good at it. Because of my late adaption to the process, I can miss or misinterpret social cues, often leaving people’s company wondering just how horrible they must think of me for what I did or didn’t do/did or didn’t say.
So, what am I doing now to try and right this ship I was so intent on steering into the oncoming iceberg in years past? I’m directing/promoting a trail race and inviting as many people who’ll indulge me to come and be a part of my life that I love. It’s a grueling experience in which I am determined to put myself out there as much as possible to meet new people and show them a passion that I have in hopes that they may share in it.
I still struggle. I still have inner turmoil. And I don’t consider myself special for it, or for my choices to move forward from it. From the people I have met, and from the information I’ve sought out, this is normal. This is life. This is a common struggle.
So, let’s find a way to do it together. Come and awkwardly say hi to me, and I will in turn, awkwardly say hi to you. And we can both go home hoping the other doesn’t now hate us for eternity.