First World Problems

I’ll admit it right out front – to a lot of people this entry will probably come off as whining.

For the most part, my life is pretty good. I rent a nice apartment. I get to shop for my food, and not always have to choose the cheapest, and thus probably bad for me, stuff. I can, through the assistance of my family, afford to work part-time and go to graduate school, and have a reasonable amount of free time. As a white, heterosexual male in the US, I am almost certainly a part of the least-discriminated-against group in the country; I don’t have to worry about getting stopped by police for made-up reasons, or have my sexuality mocked or made fun of or hated. I have friends I can talk to, and I have a supportive family, and they’re a group who has stood by me through a lot of stupid stuff I’ve done.

But for all this, I feel like there are pieces missing. For those of you who may know me personally, you probably know I’m not the most sociable person at first, and even after you get to know me I can be kind of awkward. I don’t go out socially on my own a lot, because going out to eat, or to movies, or to other social events alone feels really awkward to me, and if I’m going to be faced between a decision to stay at home and read a nice book or go out and feel really weird for doing so, I’m probably going to pick the book. This, naturally, tends to limit my exposure to other people, people who might help to expand my social circle; right now most of the time I’m really around other people physically is at work.

I love my friends, and they’re awesome people, but because of my general avoidance of social situations, I don’t get many opportunities to make more. I also don’t get a lot of chances to meet women. As noted above, I’m socially kind of awkward, but when it comes to meeting women, ‘awkward’ plummets to ‘nearing panic attack’. I’ve never really had a girlfriend, and I’ve been on a grand total of one date in 36 years. I have no idea where to go or what to do to met women who might be interested in a guy like me; most of the people I know who have stable relationships met their significant others through school (not an option for me, because my school is online), and while the women I work with are generally pretty awesome, that seems like an area best avoided – not because I’m not interested, but because the complications of having to go to work with a woman (or women) who have told me they’re not interested run from general awkwardness to the possibility of sexual harassment claims and getting fired.

I’ve tried online matchmaking sites, but as those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may have noticed, I’m frankly a huge nerd, and the sites that tend to get the most traffic and have the most available women also tend to be not terribly friendly to guys like me who rank pretty highly on the nerd scale. I like being a nerd – I’ve never thought of it as a bad thing – but it can certainly make things like trying to figure out where on earth to go to meet women who are similarly-minded difficult. If there are nerd bars, I’ve never been to one, and even if there were, I don’t drink (not that I can’t, I just don’t), and as noted before, I don’t tend to like going places alone – it makes my general feelings of awkwardness very magnified. When I was in the step-down program after Menninger, a counselor encouraged me to try speed-dating as a way of getting used to the whole asking women out thing, but that idea literally gave me a panic attack – and I can’t imagine a guy hyperventilating and nervously twitching would have been terribly attractive at the actual event.

It’s weird – I can get dressed up as a fictional comic book character and go wander around a science fiction convention and not just feel like I belong there, but feel confident. But put me in a situation with women who might hypothetically be interested in me, and my heart starts going crazy. Not the crazy of being in love, either, no, it’s the crazy you’d get if you put me in a room full of spiders. I become kind of a blithering idiot, and while some women might find that attractive, I don’t think I’ve met one yet.

So, what does someone like me do when confronted by the desire to go out and find someone to date, and have a relationship with? I honestly don’t know. When even asking a woman out is basically the start of a panic attack, and a rejection feels like both a literal and metaphorical gutpunch, I honestly have no idea where to start. Joining some sort of group that shares my nerdy interests that is in the area has come up, but the ones I’ve tried have been almost exclusively male. My mother has suggested joining a church to meet people, which is a fine idea, but I don’t think (and I may be very wrong here) that I’m going to find a lot of nerdy or nerd-friendly ladies at church, and my faith has been something of a sticking point in the past. I’ve read books on this, and talked to various people, and nothing has really panned out.

See? Like I said, this entry probably came off as whiny. Honestly, though, I’m not trying to complain. Like I said, for the most part, my life is pretty good. I’m trying to explain one of the issues that keeps going through my head lately, and getting those types of ideas out in writing – which is what my blog is for – has been helpful in the past. And who knows? It may generate some responses that could be genuinely helpful. Guess I’ll see.

Superbetter Quests

As I’ve noted before, I’m playing the game Superbetter, as well as reading the new book that came out a couple weeks ago. Since I’ve been reading that, I thought it would be helpful to try to share some of the quests, to show people what I’ve been talking and writing about. Thankfully for my lazy typing fingers, someone else beat me to it. Three of the quests from the book are listed in an article by CBS News, and since I’d rather not tangle with a major TV network, I think I’ll just post the link to the quests here:

Become more resilient with these “SuperBetter” quests

I’ve tried the first quest – Plus-One Better – and it’s been an interesting experience, trying to reconnect or forge stronger connections with people through something using the bare bones social mechanics of a Facebook game. But it intrigues me. As for the other two quests, I thought I’d try to post at least a bit of my own results here.

For “Collect Your First Five”, my list is this:

What song makes you feel powerful?

  1. Protectors of the Earth

What food makes you feel energized?

2. If it counts, energy drinks; they can help keep me up even when I’m feeling absolutely listless, and kick me into next gear on a good day.

Is there a mantra that makes you feel more motivated?

3. Dum spiro, spero (While I breathe, I hope); also, “Hige° sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen° lytlað.” (Mind shall be harder, heart the keener, spirit shall be the greater, as our strength grows less).

What reliably inspires you when you read it or watch it?

4. Either Captain America movie, especially this speech by Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Is there something small you like to do to help others?

5. Just ask my friends if there is something I can do to help, because my good friends know that I’d do anything to help them.

As for the list from the third quest, “Assemble Your Hero Dream Team”, I’ll put the heroes – and the top thing that I admire about them – here. This is only the three that are noted for this quest; my real list would be much longer, and geekier, and would likely be disturbingly hard to identify in toto for most people. So, here goes:

1: Captain America (duh); Captain America’s greatest virtue, to me, is that he has a very strong moral compass, and he’s willing to follow it; he sees the right thing to do, and he does it, even if it’s difficult, painful, or dangerous for him.

2. Commander Shepard (hero of the Mass Effect video games); while there were many ways you could play Commander Shepard, the way I played him, he was an inspirational leader; he could unite people from all walks of life, from alien cultures and bizarre mindsets, who were almost total polar opposites, and bring them together as a cohesive force for good.

3.Miranda Zero (of the sadly short-lived Global Frequency comic); she took initiative when nobody else would and created an independent organization made up of unusual experts in order to help save the world; she pro-actively went out looking to do good, without trying to take over – she saw something that needed to be done, and she went out and did it.