Like the title says…
Before I even get started: no, this is not an article about masturbation. I know that “exploring oneself” is occasionally used as a euphemism. Funny as it could be, that’s not what I’m writing about.
With that out of the way…
When things hit rock bottom, emotionally at least, it seems inevitable that one is left to do some soul-searching. You have to find a way to pick up the pieces of yourself and move on; other people can help, but ultimately you must do this on your own. Sometimes though, this search within oneself for answers can lead down dark paths.
Some of my own perils and pitfalls are a result of my own, shall we say, fairly unique, situation. I was a social pariah for the entirety of my teenage years. I didn’t get along with what few girls I knew, hell, I didn’t get along well with most people, period. It wasn’t until the age of 24, and after I had mellowed out from my angst somewhat, that I ever entered into a real relationship. It was also not until that age that I “lost” my virginity.
Wait. Hold the presses. Am I, a heterosexual male in America, admitting that I didn’t light the sheets on fire until the age of 24? Yeah. You probably wouldn’t believe that I never drank until the age of 23, either, but I digress.
I was weird. I was awkward (still am, really), shy, angsty, stuck up, and aloof. I ached from loneliness but couldn’t lower my defenses long enough to forge a real connection. Or even a conversation that wasn’t work related.
The point of bringing that up isn’t to embarrass myself. Believe me, I do plenty of that without any of my own help. I mention it because it created in me a strong, difficult to shake mentality that said I was destined to be alone, and that the closest I would come to finding love was in my dreams, or by proxy through fiction (movies, games, etc.). That’s a stupid mentality to have, but I believed it. Now, years later, after having been put through a tumultuous relationship and subsequent breakup, being used for sex and emotional comfort by a different woman, and having several unsuccessful trysts out of impulse, I have found myself reverting somewhat to that old mental state. My confidence is all but gone. I have a really difficult time interacting with women who aren’t my co-workers. I freaking adore women in so many ways, but my luck with them is about as good as the chances of Firefly being brought back on the air.
My forays into the world of sex, relationships, and actually interacting with women feels kind of like a really long dream that I only recently woke from. Even thought I know that factually, it all happened, a small part of me wonders if I made it all up in my head. The honest truth is that spending my formative teenage years, and so much time after that, without meaningful human contact, might have left me a little damaged. I don’t know, verdict’s still out, I guess. The worst part though, is questioning my own sexuality. I don’t mean that in the usual way. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am heterosexual. What I mean is, when the lows get to their lowest, I occasionally stop and ask myself: “would you ever get so desperate that you would accept attention from someone you weren’t physically attracted to, just to not feel alone?” The answer is always no, but the fact that some part of brain thinks to ask it kind of hits me hard. Online, I’ve found myself attempting to field conversation with people I know I’m not attracted to, just to at least pretend that I am worthy of attention.
The point is, when I find myself hitting this rock bottom level of confidence, and I feel like I used to years ago, I find myself questioning things that don’t need to be questioned. This is where being an inquisitive introvert whose mind never stops backfires horribly. Mentally, I get bored easily. Being bored, lonely, and depressed is a bad combination. Being all of those things and getting on the internet is even worse.
And no, before you go there, I’m not just talking about porn. I know for some, “the internet” and “porn” are the same thing. To me, pornography, erotica, or whatever else you want to call it, is one of those things that just is what it is. It’s been around for millenia in some form or another. I can take it or leave it, but again, sometimes boredom takes a toll. But no, that’s not the crux of this paragraph. The worst thing on the interwebz for a person like me in my state of mind, are personal ads and dating sites. They are an absolute scourge to wade through, and yet, being bored, lonely, and a bit foolish, I find myself looking through such things anyway, as if I’ve never seen one before. Although it is a better option for an introvert than, say, a bar or club (I shudder just thinking about going to a club), it still kind of sucks. I plow my way through dozens of profiles that just instantly get flagged by my brain as “uninteresting.” On the rare occasion that I find someone interesting, my awkward yet thoughtful and sincere messages introducing myself to them get ignored. There have been a couple of exceptions, but that’s pretty much standard operating procedure.
Straight up personals ads are even worse. Craigslist is of course the most notorious of these. Though in extremely rare instances I have actually ended up talking to a real person through a site such as that, the overwhelming majority of the time, you’re really in contact with either a spambot, a person who is not what they claim to be, or just a complete freakazoid troll who posts for shits and giggles. Or a hooker. Ew.
It’s almost a sick sort of game on personals and dating sites. I’ve found myself, not even thinking about it, writing to people who I actually have no interest in just to see if I’m even capable of attracting someone’s attention. I’ve responded to ads so ridiculous that I feel like I must have been drunk to even consider it. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be kind of funny. Now that folks, is low confidence for you.
Ugh. Thanks to sites like that, pictures of me are probably on some Nigerian hacker’s desktop. Or in the library of a drugged out, crazy pic collector. But hey, that’s the internet for you. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Okay, okay! I’m probably losing some of you. I’m sure by now this post is bumming you out, but bear with me just a little bit longer. There is a moral to the story.
Despite all that I have said, candid and potentially humiliating as it is, I still like being who I am. I don’t want to not be an introvert. I am writing this down as a form of catharsis, a way of reminding myself, out in the open, that yes, I sometimes get depressed. Sometimes I get lonely. Sometimes I make poor decisions. I am in fact, human, and I sincerely doubt that there are many people who haven’t, even briefly, found themselves in a similar quandary. Pain and heartbreak make us do crazy things. But I am also writing this for those of you out there who might feel even a little bit the way I do. To those people I want to say, that the sun will rise for you. You will feel worthwhile again. Happiness can be found again.
And… for all the good that exploring your own mind and soul can sometimes do, often it is better to just let go. Responding to loneliness with desperation is a recipe for disaster, and that is not a path that I choose to subscribe to any longer.