Venting on the Internet, Because Why Not


Childhood and Change, or Becoming Less of An Asshole

As a kid, I didn’t do much.

Not in that I didn’t go outside or learn things or travel. I regularly took walks and attended extracurricular courses, and I went on vacations with family, but for all I learned to be a good student, a good artist and a good writer, I never learned to be a kid.

I think it was because up until a few years ago, I basically didn’t have any friends. I mean I did play with other people at school sometimes, but I never went out after school, never had sleepovers and hung out and fooled around. I don’t think I even knew how. Even now, I’m still learning the ropes of social life. Of course I had my brother, but even with just a two year age gap it wasn’t the same. My life was simple. I would do “productive” things as set out by my parents—studying, basically—and whenever I had free time I would go on the internet and play games. Over time I think I actually developed an addiction to online media. On the weekends, all of my outings were done with family, but I never really enjoyed the outings. Instead I would always look forward to going home, after which I would be able to spend plentiful but precious time on my computer and tablet.

It took me a long time to realize my addiction, and even longer to realize I was lonely. I remember in those early days that I thought I was too good to have friends, that life was better when I didn’t have to worry about other people. It didn’t help that I was (and still am) very weird and could never seem to fit in anywhere. Being from an immigrant family, being (probably) neurodivergent, and a whole host of other things, I never really found a home anywhere outside my own mind.

I thought I was all the more mature for my isolation, and I think my parents kind of fed into that by encouraging me to study above everything else—I don’t really blame them because our cultural background does put education as a thing of high priority—but now after making friends, I realize having friends is a key part of growing up. In more ways than not I was much less mature than other kids my age who didn’t have as good grades but had lots of friends. Hell, even online I didn’t have much social interaction, instead opting to lurk in various social media and forums to just soak in content.

Books helped. It wasn’t entirely true that I spent all my free time online; I read a lot of books, mostly science fiction and fantasy, as another way to escape reality. This is probably what later inspired me to start writing. However, I didn’t know it then, but there was something sorely missing from my life that made me want to live in fiction. My parents often weren’t too happy with the fact that I basically lived to be online, as it interfered with school and studying, so at first I thought this missing piece was my inability to live in base reality. But each time I tried to quit being online I would find myself with nothing to do offline, so I would crawl back to my computer like an undisciplined alcoholic.

Eventually, and only a few years ago, I finally came to the realization that I was cripplingly alone. I couldn’t live in base reality, because the most fundamental thing we live for—human relationships—was largely lacking from my reality. It was a combination of finally finding people I could somewhat relate to, and also having a lot of self-reflection time provided by the isolation of the early COVID-19 pandemic, that changed this. Somehow, as a mostly cishet individual, I found a social home in the local LGBTQ community of all places and made several queer friends. Turns out the weirdness came in handy. There was also some D&D involved. After finally experiencing a hint of the intoxicating joy of not being alone, but being heard and known and understood and above all appreciated, I knew at last what I had been missing. Long talks on the windy beach and restless nights by a flickering campfire helped make me human at last, and not just someone who only studied and consumed content.

I had to learn a lot of things. And not just in understanding people who lived and loved in such uncommon ways, but in being a person in general. Looking back now I realize I was kind of an asshole to a lot of people. Not only would I avoid social interactions out of shyness, but I would often lash out at those who tried to interact with me, and at one point even grew unhealthily attached to someone who was only giving me basic kindness.

To start getting this asshole-ness out of me and start being a decent person, I learned how to carry out small talk, how to be comfortable around unfamiliar people, how to make friends, things like that. The first queer friend I made (who may have made an appearance in another blog post) helped me with that a lot just by hanging out with me. In the end that’s all it took, for someone to have the tolerance to be friends with me, and from there I learned everything rather naturally. I learned things that I should have known long before my late teenage years, and things that I was expected to know, but things I was never otherwise taught.

I could have stayed the way I was—spiteful and shy. In truth I could have still made maybe one or two friends that way, even if those friends would have been as shitty as me. I could have still alleviated my loneliness without fixing my other problems. In the end, however, one thing that made me realize I had to change was writing. I struggled with characters and dialogue so much in the beginning, and over time I found out it wasn’t an issue with my skill, but rather with my life experience. How could I write about something I had never known in real life? That motivation kind of pushed me over the edge of change and made me go beyond my comfort zone, made me actively seek out new experiences and become a kinder person.

One final thing: working out helped me a lot. It might not help you, but it helped me; it turned out that feeling more confident about my own body gave me confidence in a lot of other places, so that I was just a little less shy meeting new people. Establishing a regular workout regime was obviously kind of helpful, too, though by the time of writing this post I haven’t regularly worked out in over seven months.

The Next Chapter of Life

I never learned to be a kid. And I don’t think I ever will, because by the time I learned to be human I was no longer a kid. I wish COVID never happened, not only because of all the suffering it brought onto the world, but because it took away three years that I could have used to make friends and live life. I often lament the fact that I never got to enjoy so many of the happy childhood memories a lot of people around me talk about. I never had sleepovers or hung out in the forest or had fights or got in trouble with friends. Instead, all I had were textbooks and computers and family trips that I never took the time to enjoy (because the internet would always be back home or back in the hotel). I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, but sometimes it’s so painful to think about the fact that I missed out on such a bright and blissful time in my life. It goes without saying, too, that I didn’t get much social life out of high school until the very end.

And now that I’m moving out of my home city, I feel like the last chances I’ll get for childlike joy will be very soon gone. Time moves on and my future is sprawled ahead of me. I know the whole world is (ideally) open and I should sieze every opportunity I get. Hell, I got a great summer job (this week was my first week and it went pretty nicely) and I got into my dream school! But I’m also leaving behind so many regrets, so many impossible what-ifs and should-haves that so many others my age take for granted. God, I probably sound so privileged complaining about this, because I know there are people who’ve had to deal with poverty and familial issues and a whole host of other things much worse than what I’ve gone through, but it seems as if the world has gone and left me behind. I’m a tattered cloth that will never be sewn back together, because if I try to go back and fix myself I’ll let the good parts of myself tatter too.

Maybe I’ll forget about all this soon. Maybe once I get caught up in my studies and my career in this declining economy I’ll realize my childhood doesn’t really matter, and maybe I’ll one day I’ll get a house and find someone decently special and start a family just like society expects me to do. Isn’t that what I’ve always wanted? To fit in with everybody else and not be alone?

And now we’re getting to that: fitting in. Even though I never fit in as a kid, and I still don’t fit in with many norms of society—my personality, appearance, ethnicity, and possibly sexual orientation all aren’t the “norm” here in North America—I always had a desire to be different. As much as I hate not being able to relate with and make friends with most people, I also viscerally don’t like the idea of being “normal.” Whenever I think of my future, it seems to be laid out for me like this: I graduate from university, get a job, move into a single family home in a suburb somewhere, get married, and have kids. But is that really it? I know it’s unrealistic to expect some grand adventure in place of that, but it seems so bleak that my stunted childhood might be followed by a dull future.

Who knows. Here I am, up at 1:00AM typing madly into LibreOffice, probably delirious from sleep deprivation. Maybe this bout of pessimism will pass and I’ll realize how good I have it. And certainly I’ll have a lot of opportunities to be happy in college. But for now, I just wanted to get these thoughts out of my head and into the world. I’ve actually been keeping an audio diary on an old microcassette recorder since at least last September, but I feel like these blog posts are a better way to put down my thoughts.

Ok everyone peace out. Gn