Failing the social part of college – again

The best summary of my experience with social interactions is given by Dexter (novel, not TV show) as he watches Cody´s first encounter with the boy scouts: I still remembered the pain of it; realizing that this was all and forever something for the others and never for me – that laughter, friendship, the sense of belonging, were things I would never really feel. (…) I remembered the dreadful clumsiness of those first years of trying (…), watching with such intense focus for a hint of belonging that would never come.

When I started to pursue my new course of studying I was determined to do everything right this time. Be an industrious student, get to know people, participate, belong. I mostly managed the “industrious” part. The rest, however? Blatant failure. I have not magically stopped being weird. If anything, I appear even weirder. I barely even see a hint of subculture in anyone from my classes. I don´t even know what good it would do me if there were a lot of goths, punks and metalheads around, since I´ve always been an outcast among the outcasts, but it would at least be a little reassuring, maybe? Then again, I actually don´t know if I register as “subculture” with others, my style is rather tame by now.

I´m not even sure, to be honest, if it´s really my fellow students who feel I don´t belong. Of course they will have noticed that I´ve not made any friends yet, but it´s not like no one talks to me, ever. It might actually be me myself who lacks the sense of belonging. Hence the quote.

I think much of my depression of the last few weeks stems from the fact that I noticed I was still as weird, of me feeling there was no one there in a crowd of a thousand people I could spontaneously relate to, and that once again I was doing everything wrong again. Withdrawing, instead of approaching people. Shutting down instead of talking to the people next to me. Reading during breaks. Secretly hoping that I don´t meet anyone on the way from the train station. It was not just my anxiety, but also my very own needs that made me repeat the same old pattern.

Going back to uni after more than a year since my last lecture was a shock. The crowds. The noises. The constant stimuli. So many faces, so many gazes to avoid. I found myself smiling awkwardly whenever I went through a crowd, a half-assed attempt at nonverbal communication, not sure if anyone was taking notice of me or not. It didn´t take long until I loathed how small the hallways were, how narrow the platforms, how slow the people. I felt violent surges of aggression at every obstacle, every noise, every interruption of my attempts at studying somewhere in the hall. Then I stopped going to lectures and spent as much time studying alone at home as I could. It makes me feel like a miserable failure. I feel like I should have pushed myself harder, like I should try harder to belong, and to feel like I belong. It seems to me as if, by feeling alienated from my fellow students, I´ve proven myself unworthy of this whole course of study. It seems like a bright and clear sign that says: “Not for you, apparently. Go on searching.” Or maybe: “Are you sure this is the right thing for you if you feel so alienated? Sure there has to be a group of people where you fit in?”

Yes. Nerds. The only people I consistently get along with are nerds. Unfortunately, though, I don´t give rat´s ass about Starwars, computers and theoretical physics, so I guess that´s ruled out as a career choice. Precisely because of that, even with my nerd pals I often zone out, quit listening and feel like I don´t belong. The difference is that they don´t find it weird. They simply aren´t as pushy as normal people. Befriending them doesn´t require being on Facebook, smiling a lot and drinking beer. They don´t feel threatened, offended or provoked in some way by unorthodox behaviors. They don´t demand explanations, leave alone justifications, as normal people regularly do. Maybe it is some form of caring on their part, but I find it hard to perceive it as such. As far as I´m concerned, the constant inquisition as to why I don´t have Facebook and whatnot is pushy.

In a way I feel sorry for potentially pushing away people who might at least not be completely disinterested in me, at least not from the start, but I simply don´t know what to do with them. I don´t want to get Facebook. I don´t want to argue about getting or not getting Facebook. And I don´t want to be told by kids who are 6+ years younger than me what I need to do. Also, I don´t want to have to explain myself if I´m tired and my eyes are puffy since I had a breakdown the night before. Not when the only two acceptable reasons are “ill” and “hungover” because we don´t actually know each other well enough to tell the truth. Not being ignored can be incredibly stressful, and I feel like a mutant for perceiving it so. I can already hear the admonishments in my head.

These admonishments largely deal with the idea that I need to do anything about this. I cannot just have a negative attitude towards social interactions. It´s mean towards others, and I, too, am missing out on so much great stuff, I just don´t know it yet. The voices don´t sound cruel, they sound like someone who despite having the most benevolent intentions genuinely can´t understand me, but that is precisely what makes them cruel. The complete lack of understanding. I am a conundrum. My feelings are beyond comprehension.

But do I understand myself any better?

I don´t know why the way other people approach me feels intrusive rather than kind to me. I´m tired of blaming myself for this, and I´m equally tired of blaming others. Both approaches suggest there is a solution, that spontaneously connecting with a wide range of people is possible for me. And yet I´m not even interested in advice or solutions. When I don´t feel connected to others, then why exactly would I want to train how to make friends with them? That seems awfully stressful to me. It´s like lying once to get yourself out of trouble, and then having to lie again in order to keep up appearances, and in the end you have all kinds of obligations and social duties which you´d have never signed up for if you´d had the choice. I´m not going to learn how to win the favour of people I don´t really want to befriend. That would actually be highly unfair towards them.

I don´t want to learn how to fit in better with a world I feel alienated from. I want to walk into a place and fit in just the way I am. Nerds are the best fit I´ve found so far, even though we have different interests, but this is not quite what I´m looking for. I´m not so much looking for individual friendship opportunities (I´m happy enough with the ones I have and I don´t think I could juggle any more personal relationships anyway) as I am looking for a world in which I don´t feel like a stranger. I guess that one would be called Utopia.


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