Disillusionment and Loneliness

Over the past year and a half or so, I’ve found myself thinking that it’d be a good thing to let people into my life more, so, you’ve probably seen me writing about relationships with people a lot.  In a small way, I’ve sort of stepped out to connect, talk, and just get to know the people I’ve been meeting.  For a long time, I showed no interest in getting to know anybody, so maybe it’s a small improvement.  Some are students I’ve met at the university, others are women I’ve met by various means.  I’d like to share a little about the loneliness I experience, and my attempts to overcome it and have more of a social life.

It’s extremely difficult for me.  Surprisingly, I make friends easily.  I’m on good terms with pretty much everyone I meet.  Nobody dislikes me.  If I’d rate where I think I stand in their eyes, most would either be neutral toward me, or slightly positive.  That’s not really my problem.  The thing is, I don’t connect and relate to the people I meet.  None of it ever feels right.  When I reach out, that feeling of “this isn’t it” becomes even more apparent than it used to, and I can see why I sort of burrowed into my own world years ago.  I sort of just gave up on relating or enjoying other people’s company.  I’ll try to paint a picture of the sort of loneliness I experience.

I’ll go to get my haircut and there will be all these men in the barber shop.  Sometimes they’ll all get to talking politics and I won’t agree with anything they’re saying.  They’ll discuss their right to pack guns everywhere they go, how the poor and immigrants are responsible for the U.S.’s current fiscal mess, their disdain for universal healthcare, and those sorts of things.  The worst part of it is, their “opinions” are just regurgitated talking points from political pundits and television news.

I’ll visit with my family and they’ll tell me, “Jason, you need to get out more.  Come to our church picnic.”  After a lot of hesitation, I decided to go to one.  So I made it to the park, pulled up to their pavillion, and right as I got there, a man came up to me and said, “Can I ask you a few things?”  “Sure.”  Then he pulls me aside and asked me if I believed in the devil.  I said, “No.  I don’t think the devil exists.”  Then he looked at me with pity, “You know, the greatest lie ever told was that the devil doesn’t exist.  He’s out there and he’s deceiving you.”  That’s the basic gist of how I was treated and the general tone of the conversation with people there.  It’s not, “Hey Jason, it’s so good to see you!  How you been?”  I’m just the heathen, backslidden child who has lost God, and they all just look at me with pity.  Not much of a good time.

It’s painful for me to endure that.  A lot of the church members were people I grew up with.  I can remember being with all of them when they were younger, playing football and basketball together.  We played video games together.  We were all family then.  My entire childhood revolved around those people and that church, considering I was the pastor’s son.  Now it’s like I have this mark on my head, almost like a contagious disease.  Many of them are so steeped in religion that they fail to realize that I’m the exact same person I was then, and that the same love I had for all of them as a child is still there.  I have so many memories. I can remember crashing the arcade, rollerblading, paintballing together, and everything else.  Considering the memories and good times we had all shared together, it’s painful to think that now, just because my beliefs are a little different than they were, it’s all gone.  I’m just sort of cut-off and forgotten.

At the end of my late teens, the whole social world I had been a part of as a teenager, with the church and all that, all that came to an end.  I couldn’t believe in any of it anymore, so I stopped going.  Then I graduated high school and all my friends moved off.  So what did I do?  Like most lonely people, I was totally absorbed in my work, and it wasn’t work I was particularly enjoying.

I was hoping to become very wealthy so I could pursue things I was much more interested in, but I saw that in order to achieve the success I was after, it would consume my entire life.  My whole life would be business meetings discussing software projects, and I’d have a lot of long hours, alone, writing all the code for these large projects.  And for years, that’s exactly what I did.  Twelve hours a day, sitting in front of a glowing screen, writing all kinds of code for different companies.

I was making good money and I could have easily gone on like that.  But one day I was sitting there in front of this glowing screen, and I started thinking about my goals at the time.  I had them all written down in this notebook, and it was all so lonely and empty.  My biggest dream was to buy a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere, next to a lake, and own all the land for as far as I could see.  I didn’t want anyone around me.  I wanted total isolation and no contact with anyone.

Then I got to thinking to myself, “When did I become this way?”  Even if I achieved that kind of goal, what kind of life was that?  I just went for long walks by myself thinking, “What am I even doing?”

After that realization, I just sort of quit it all, cold turkey.  I very quickly cut off all my relations to that world, and I took what money I had saved up and spent years reading books.  I went back to the roots of what I was interested in as a teenager.  Philosophy, science, history, and all sorts of things.  I wasn’t going to wait until I was old and tired before I pursued the things I’d always wanted to do.

And while I learned a great deal, this new life wasn’t really a very social either.  Most of it was once again, me alone in a room, but instead of staring at a glowing screen, I was staring at these books.  I read a lot of books.  All I did was think.  Think think think.  Study this.  Read this.  Think about this.  Long walks, thinking, thinking, thinking.

Then I thought, “I should do this sort of thing for a living.  I should research the nature of space and time.  Physics would probably be best.  I’ll be around other smart people, we’ll talk, discuss ideas, and it won’t be so lonely.”  So, I enrolled to attend a university.

I had a very romanticized view of the university.  There were going to be these groups of students, sitting in open grassy knolls, discussing politics, science, and philosophy.  I was going to meet these other intelligent minds and we were all going to go for long walks and discuss our ideas, help each other grow, and become lifelong friends.  There would be intelligent women, and we’d also go for walks, and we’d discuss our lives, our interests, and our research.  We’d recommend books to one another, fall in love, and have all kinds of sex.  We’d save up money and travel together.  She’d hop on the back of my motorcycle and we’d go visit beautiful places.  And on and on.  I had some beautiful plans.

Reality quickly set in though.  I don’t want to be spiteful or mean, but I became disillusioned very quickly.  I was surrounded by immature kids, ten years younger than me, and none of them wanted to be there.  Most of them just wanted to play Xbox and Playstation and barely put any work into their studies.  As for the women, they were immature, boring, and even worse, had no life in them at all.

I figured I’d make the most of it, so I went on some dates.  On one date, we were sitting there talking, for hours.  Five or six hours – a rather long time to sit and talk with someone.  And we talked, a lot.  Within that time, I got to know all kinds of things about her.  I learned all about her career aspirations, things she’s into, food, music, and everything else.  And you want to know something else?  She never asked a single thing about me.  It was totally one-sided.

University aged women I’ve met tend to talk about drinking games, movies, random things that happen which they find amusing, funny Youtube videos, Facebook, and their phone.  They love their phones.

I was sitting with this attractive woman as she talked about her phone for an hour and a half.  Suffice to say, it’s difficult to feign interest for that long.  She had one phone that she had left in a taxi cab.  Another phone she dropped in her toilet while fixing her hair.  Her father bought her first phone but wasn’t going to buy her another one, so she had to get a job.  So she saved her money and bought her new iPhone and wasn’t going to make that same mistake again.  She got an insurance policy on it.  Then she informed me about each and every policy available, in detail.  Blah blah blah.  Every ten minutes or so, she’d get a text from someone and she’d say, “Oh, one sec.”  Then you’d see her working her thumbs, mashing on this little screen.  We were interrupted probably ten times within that hour and a half.

I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to experience any of the things I had wanted.  Very few of the students had enough interest in their studies to even do their homework, much less spend their free time further discussing it.

In fact, I sometimes tutored girls who would ask me to help them.  Never guys, but I’d tutor cute girls  🙂  I can remember tutoring one girl in the library.  She was so pretty.  I was sitting right next to her and she’d look up from the paper, asking me if she did it right, and for a brief moment we’d be making eye contact.  She was probably 20?  21?  The physics was so easy to me, but I was easily distracted.  I tend to space out, and as these girls would work problems, I’d just glance over at them and think, “My gosh.  So beautiful.”  Then they’d start talking.  “I hated Calculus.  I can’t stand it.  I can never remember any of it.”  Then I’d gently smile, “That’s ok.  I’ll help you through it.”  Then we were doing a physics problem involving work and the conservation of energy.  She was so frustrated.  “I hate all of this.” Strange thing is, I was having a great time.  It’s a bit painful hearing someone say how much they hate the things you’re most passionate about.

I had always imagined sitting with a beautiful woman like that, she’s new to physics, and I spend an hour or two talking about how I became interested in the nature of truth, what can be known, the nature of space, time, and reality, and how interesting it’s all became, especially the further I’ve explored the topic.   In reality, I sit beside the beautiful woman, she hates math and physics, has no interest in it whatsoever, and as she tells me how much she hates it, it feels like a strange time to tell her about how passionate I am about it, how I got interested in it all, and what it all means to me.  It’s a very lonely experience.

I’ve had that experience happen in my life too many times to mention.  I can remember in high school, I was a jock on the basketball team, and I was with this beautiful woman in the hallway.  She asked me what I was going to do once I got out of school and I told her I was interested in computer programming.  I thought computers were neat and would like to learn even more about them.  She gave me this what-in-the-world look I’ll never forget and said, “Why would you want to do that?”  I was too embarrassed to even reply.

Another woman I met at the university treated me strangely.  She would randomly throw numbers at me and ask me to add them, multiply them, divide them, and so on, all in my head.  I would and she’d just laugh and laugh.  I didn’t know if she was just being playful at first, but she was actually mocking me.  She told me I was a machine and then laughed.  You know, she was the liberal, artistic type.  She danced, and sung, and was in touch with her emotions, unlike us mechanical, droll physicists.  I’d never felt angry toward anyone on campus before, but her, I was rather furious.  I was going to say some mean things back to her, but I kept my cool and said nothing.

I realized that the sort of magic I was wanting, the group of friends which discussed important ideas, the fun, all of that, it was never going to happen.  Like many things, it was all a fantasy in my mind.

The only good part of the university experience for me has been meeting and talking with the professors, who are great people, smart, knowledgeable, and very thoughtful.  My experience with them has been that they’re very busy and not really in the mood to spend hours discussing difficult things with students.  They’ll help you with your homework, and if you ask deep questions beyond homework problems, they’re glad to contribute, but you can’t just come into their office and say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about this or that.  What do you think?”  They’ll avoid you.

I’m starting to hit that age where I no longer care.  I feel myself getting older.  Time is passing and there are things that truly interest me.  I wonder why the stars shine, what the world is made of, how the mind works, what space and time are, the economy, how to build a better world, social and political issues, and a whole slew of other things.  I have things I want to do and things I want to understand.

The sorts of people I’ve been describing are not really worth my time.  I’m not going to try to get the pretty girl to appreciate physics.  The artistic dancer can keep her narrow world-view and tell herself that her dancing and art is the only thing in life worth having, not unlike a religious fundamentalist.  The religious folks can shun me if they want to.  People can say I’m a machine.  They can run me down for thinking it’s possible to infuse intelligence into our machines and build beautiful technology like Google and smart-phones.  Whatever, I really don’t care anymore.

It’s coming a point to where if my relationship with you doesn’t bring me closer to the universe, if it doesn’t draw out curiosity, wonder, and awe for this existence, if it doesn’t help me grow, develop, or become a better person, I need to be spending my time elsewhere.

When I was recently employed to work in this lab to do research, I had this picture of meeting with this group of fellow scientists, all of us focused on solving important problems, sharing ideas, hanging out, and working together.  I found myself in a place I’ve been before.  I look around me and I’m alone in this basement, tediously calibrating equipment, mixing chemicals, and writing computer programs to analyze and take data.  I was down there, listening to the hum of vacuum pumps and thought, “I’ve been here before.  I know this place.”   I stepped outside into the July heat, leaned against the physics building, and stared off at the clouds.  “It’s not here either.  I wonder if it even exists?”

I’m probably a very lonely person.  Whether I’d know what it’s like not to be lonely, I don’t know.

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18 Responses to Disillusionment and Loneliness

  1. John says:

    I am a 25 year old male sharing your world view and I can feel the pain of loneliness you are talking about.

    I can confirm that I had a way-too-romanticized view of University as well and I felt like you countless times, especially as of the mindset of the average student, but I also managed to meet some one-in-a-thousand human being that somehow shared my interests and world view, so I never completely lost my hope about this.

    It was and still is hard to meet people among with I feel at ease and with whom I can easily talk about everything without filters and have deep philosophical conversations in front of a coffee at a weird time of the day, but I managed to know two such people in real life and everytime I spend time with them, I come back to my own thing full of energy and eager to continue my life. Sadly, these people have different life projects but I often wonder how powerful a small group of like-minded people could be when its made out of people like you and it would surely be lovely to feel part of it. In a such social setting, its the outsiders that would feel ‘the odd ones’ to you, and being able to bounce thoughts and feelings with a lot of people you know you deeply relate with and with whom you can actually produce things, would surely enable a great deal of magic to happen.

    As I said, I am finding it extremely hard to find such kinds of personalities to join my forces with. To compound the problem, people like us aren’t exactly known to linger where the bulk of socialization happens (nightclubs or similar public locations) and the places we are usually found at aren’t known to be huge social hotspots either (unpopular university faculties, labs, astronomy clubs). Some of us are even socially uneasy, anxious, introverts or all of this, and these feelings are often made worse by the feeling that you are somewhat ‘the odd one’, which confirms that you are spending time with the wrong people but unless you are spending the bulk of your time with awesome people you end up feeling ‘the odd one’ most of your breathing time, sometimes hurting your self esteem.

    Luckily, Internet made me realize that people like me and you do indeed exist in great numbers and are basically some of those people silently advancing our species without always getting the due popularity out of it, but I am proud and hopeful when I think about how this is slowly changing.

    I am thankful for your writing efforts and I understand that some of your posts may take a long while to create, but I follow you since a long time and I hope you will never stop posting when you will get busier in your life because you helped me more times than you know, both in thinking deeper about the big picture of our existence and in feeling less alone when I felt like it the most.

    I am also confident that the number of people you positively influenced and that you never hear back from is much bigger than you think.

    Take care

  2. Steve says:

    Jason, I was very moved by your post. In fact, I think it’s one of the most poignant blogposts I’ve ever read, and I’ve read my share.

    I empathize with your feelings of alienation and loneliness. I’m a good deal older than you and not nearly as bright, but I too have always felt myself to be on the outside of society looking in at shallow people and at customs and conventions with which I’ve never felt comfortable.

    If I were smart enough, I’d have probably pursued a similar course to yours, studying math and science and, because I love to write, writing about them for the popular audience. People like John von Neumann, Roger Penrose, Brian Greene, and Ed Witten have always been the ones I admire most, even if I could never even begin to understand most of their contributions.

    And then there’s Spinoza, whom I may admire most of all not only for his philosophical efforts to harmonize a stoical psychology and practical ethics with a monistic metaphysics, but who apparently found fulfillment in an uncommonly solitary life of principled pursuit of his work and ideals.

    Jason, when I read your post, I wanted to offer you advice and consolation, because it sounds like you ache with a loneliness and emptiness I understand only too well even as you try to insulate yourself from it by telling yourself that the shallow people around you aren’t “worth” your time. But I realize that I’m in no position to offer you any advice likely to be of help.

    So, I’ll just say that I wish you well with your life’s path and that I hope you can find people and pursuits, or, perhaps more to the point, a way of seeing people and the world at large that fills your emptiness with love and fulfillment.

  3. Thanks you guys.

    But Steve, you’re right. Saying people are not worth my time is not really the right attitude to have. When I sit here thinking about it, I don’t really have a solution to the problem.

    For example, I’ll listen to a guy like Alan Watts, and as I think about the world and people, I’ll feel this love toward all life in general. I’ll be at peace, working on my studies which benefit mankind, trying to better understand myself and the universe, and I feel in a wonderful state.

    Then I leave my own private world, and I’ll go into town, or be taking part in some event, or whatever, and I’ll be sitting at the table listening as people spew all kinds of hatred toward gays. As I sit there, the only thing running through my mind is, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be a part of this.”

    I feel for people. I understand they’re confused and in a very low state of consciousness. I don’t hate them, but it’s painful to be around and watch. I dream of a better world. I want to live in a place where there’s love, acceptance, tolerance, and beauty. So what can you do?

    I remember growing up, we lived very near a trailer park which was way up on this big hill. Quite literally, wind would catch the trash and blow it down the hill into our yard. You’d just wake up in the morning and there’d be junk all in the front lawn. An endless supply. Mostly Wal-Mart bags, trash-bags, plastic wrappers, beer cans. Just garbage.

    There was a lot more than just trash though. You’d park your car in the driveway, get up to go to work the next morning, and some delinquent would steal all your gasoline. Your tank would be empty. And thinking of cars, in fact, when I was in my late teens, I finally was earning some decent money, so I bought myself a newer truck. It was a Chevy S-10. We didn’t have room in the driveway, so I had to park it alongside the road, in front of the house. A meth addict came zooming down the hill at 70 mph and slammed into my parked truck, throwing it up in the air and crashing into my parents cars, also totally wrecking everything in the front yard, even knocking down trees. Somehow, miraculously, the guy got out of the car and ran off. The junky beat up car he had just wrecked was itself stolen.

    I remember going for a walk one evening and the state of Missouri had put in a bunch of cheap government apartment buildings nearby. The state was doing some relocation program, taking young delinquents from the inner city and moving them out of there. They put them right near our home. Joy! They had this gang mentality and as I walked by on the sidewalk one day, they all started yelling at me. “What you lookin’ at white boy? You lookin’ at what we got in this trunk, mutha’ fucka?” There was some low-rider, loud rap music blasting, and the trunk was open. I was totally taken back. What were these guys even talking about? Were they going to beat me up and take my wallet? I just kept walking as they yelled slurs and other things at me. “Yeah, that’s right. You just keep walking you piece of shit!”

    My little brother went to the gas station nearby to buy a pack of cigarettes many years back. He had spent years saving up to buy a really nice car. He left the car running since he would be back in just a few minutes. One of those ghetto gangster boys sprinted over across the parking lot. He was literally hiding in some dark corner. He jumps in the car and skids tires and speeds off. He drives it to the river way outside of town, picks up his buddies, they all smoke meth and then douse the car in gasoline and burn it to the ground.

    Like a good neighbor, the ghetto boys are there! Woohoo! Now I can’t even take a walk around the neighborhood without dealing with that. Stealing your gas, your car, and your hubcaps. They bust out your windows and take your stereo.

    I’ll end it there, but that sort of crap went on all the time. I understand love and forgiveness, but when does personal responsibility ever come in? Practically speaking, when can you say, “You people, stay away from me. Your self-destructive behavior is not only dangerous to yourself, but also to me. I don’t want you near me. I don’t want you near my family. Stay away from me.”

    My mindset is that I owe those people something, but not everything. I’ll help contribute toward their medical care. I’ll support programs that keep them fed, and help them support their children, and provide clinics to help them overcome drug addiction. By all means, I support any program that helps them learn a trade, get educated, and do something with themselves. I believe in social programs and safety nets. But eventually for me a line gets drawn. Where that line is drawn is kind of a gray area for me, but it’s there.

    I don’t feel that people who live in gated communities are snobbish. If they want to be able to go for a walk through their neighborhood without worry about being mugged, that’s fine with me. If they want to live in a neighborhood where people aren’t allowed to have broken down cars in the front-lawns or burn tires, heck, I support them. I’ve been around neighborhoods where there’s cars on blocks which rust out and junk everything up. And people in that trailer park would literally burn tires sometimes, and I can remember the stench.

    I don’t know what you do with people. If I live out in a log cabin, planting beautiful flower beds all around my home, and have nice things, I don’t want to deal with those people.

    Some people say that money doesn’t matter. To me it always has because when you have it, you don’t have to deal with that stuff anymore. You build your own world following your own rules and you point at those people and say, “You, if you act like that, you’re not allowed anywhere near here.”

    It’s not hatred, it’s just reality.

  4. Rae says:

    Jason, I have a very insightful source of how to fortify the health of your interactions with people. There shouldnt be conflict in two people with different ideologies, no matter how radical the differences are. There is a time and place to battle theosophies, and a family get together isnt one. His name is Mark Manson, and no hes not a saturated self help guru thatll give you bullshit mantra, or anything like that. He simply shifts your beliefs in slight, but effective ways. My intelliegence used to isolate me to death, and to this day Im not perfect, but I am steadily improving.Its OKAY to have a small social circle. Id check out his site, its amazing. Its markmanson.net . Oh, and Ive been a fan for years! Your work is much appreciated.

  5. Rae says:

    Hey, and to be honest, some people ARENT worth your time. Its not a slight against them, but an honor to of your own path. Thats where boundaries come into play, and if people have a problem with you being busy, than theres nothing you can really do. You shouldnt have to understand peoples inability to understand you. As long as you arent making plans, you arent obligated to acknowledge them.If your in a hurry and you run into them, give a kind smile, and appreciate there presence, and day “Hey, Ive got to run, but it was mice seeing you”. You arent responsible for how people react to the words you say, so long as your intent is pure, and your message is recieved. That doesnt mean be a dick, but you can do what is in your power to make the interaction an out how you TRULY want it to.

  6. Rae says:

    Sorry for spamming, Im on an Android and its pretty difficult to comopose a well formatted comment.I recommend compassion for ignorance though, in the end its NEVER going to stop bothering you. Ever. But if you learn to understand that everything in their life has lead them to form that ignorant POV, and if you want to avoid conflict just brush it off in any way you best see fit. Ive noticed that the more I learn, the more esoteric I feel. I have had a great deal of mental anguish cause of this. I cant tell if its narcissism, or just society. But a good stroll down the street will eliminate the former in a heart beat. Ive come to the conclusion that I can learn a lot about peoples dispositions, and even a Diamond might surface in spew of shit that I hear coming from peoples mouths. Oh my listen to me. Im just venting, because I feel a lot of empathy for this.I know that this is all over the place, but Bill Nye had a quote that made people more interesting to me “Everyone in the world knows something yu dont”. A lot of intelligent people struggle with seeing value in human interraction on a wide scale. Often times I used to find myself thinking, “Why am I even doing this?” Now, I genuinely feel connected to people that I talk to. Doesnt mean I have to make them apart of my life, I just appreciate what they have to offer. Cause like Emmingway knew, people are always doing there best no matter what the pretenses were, and no matter what the outcome was. There should be no judgement on that. That goes for yourself as well.

  7. Rae says:

    Understand this. To alleviate emotional pain, you need to feel loved and appreciated. It almost sounds like you were dissappointed by what people have to offer. So dissappointed that you unconciously disregarded their value as a person as a whole. Its a very apathetic point of view. This is NOT a pre-requisite for expanding your horizons in any scientific field, or improving your mathmatical dexterity. I cant tell much about you from this post alone, but its almost like youve nullified the need to talk to anyone. Im not here to place guilt,or anything. Nor am I here to validate your feelings and simoly take my leave. I dont know whether or not your anti social behavior sprouted from emotional trauma, or the logical path that Ive followed too. Human existence is absurd. Can you elaborate more please? Is it that you literally feel no emotion, or incentive to interact? Or is it out of spite cause of their temporarily possessed ideologies? I havent fully resolved this myself to be honest. Im interested in discussing in great detail. Kid Cudi summarizes it perfectly in a pseudo-cynical line “In time, theyll burn”. Their will always people who disagree, or simply can not comprehend the thoughts you possess. There is always a logical way to go about this where both parties can benefit, and its always important to ask yourself if you are in line with it. Scorn, wont resolve it. Frustration will persists. But, how you handle those emotions will determine whether or not it will be a productive outcome from the incident.

  8. Maggie says:

    Hi Jason. I’d like to comment on the girl who treated you strangely. Maybe you shouldn’t think of her as being mean. It’s better to think that she thought highly of you. It’s better to think of her treatment towards you as a compliment. And better still to ride along with her jokes. You could’ve joked with her too. It wouldn’t sound mean if it was a joke.

  9. Greg Thompson says:

    A lot of the girls I’ve went out with behave very similarly to the one you described – not necessarily talking about her phone a lot, but more specifically the curious aspect of literally NEVER asking a single question about me, the guy right in front of her, in whom she is supposedly interested.

    It never seems to occur to most girls to ASK about what the guy’s into and what his hopes, dreams, philosophies, maybe past accomplishments, etc are and actually LISTEN to and REMEMBER the answers and form her own opinions based on those answers for use later. It absolutely baffles my mind why virtually no girl does it.

    There are those who do, of course, but you’d think the number would be much, MUCH higher.

  10. Jennifer says:

    HI Jason–

    I’m not as smart as you, but I am a curious person like you, interested in the world, other people, great conversation. I’m glad I found your blog, and I’ve been reading it for about a year. I think I’m considered ‘odd’ by some people, based on the looks I sometimes get, but I’m older now and it doesn’t bother me any more.

    You mention a few things that I have experience with. First, women. Specifically, college-age women. I am a professor of writing/communications at a college in Ontario, similar to your two year junior colleges in the US, I believe. I am around young people all the time and enjoy watching them and their interactions. It’s rejuvenating being around them all the time, but as a teacher I guess I get to see the best side of young adults, for the most part. However, the behaviour of the young women you describe is very familiar to me. What do I think? Unfortunately, these women have been brainwashed into believing the version of young womanhood they see in popular culture everywhere around them. What should young women be interested in? Shoes, shopping, ridiculous reality shows, and gossip. In my opinion, these women are simply not of strong enough character to resist the role that society carves out for them. What a horrific waste of human potential. I can’t make that sentence strong enough to convey the force of my dismay, disgust and anger at this situation. Maturity may cure them, but some strong females reject these infantilizing and disempowering (horrible word–can’t think of another right now) cultural forces from the outset. It’s these women you should be seeking out. Sorry, often the overtly beautiful ones are those most burdened and shaped by negative cultural forces. Not all, of course! The silly and narcissistic women you describe may be intelligent, and at heart thoughtful, but the weight of the societal forces around them change them into ridiculous caricatures. The hope is that they one day mature enough to become their own person.

    Many times in the past I have sat in lunchrooms with intelligent women, good at their jobs, many with degrees (and advanced ones at that) when the only subject of conversation is what they ate last night, how “bad” they were, and how they are going to atone for their eating sins. Or, the opposite conversation: “I ate my blueberries this morning. Got my antioxidants.” Really? That’s all you have to say? I’m so bored, and they’re so boring I sometimes want to slap them awake. What about the upcoming election? What about our college administration, and the educational decisions being made? What about the immigration crisis in the States? Even talking about your garden would be something, for goodness sake! (I want to write an expletive more forceful, but will refrain.)

    I am happy to say that at my college I work with many interesting people, good conversationalists, and if I have any kind of question I know the person to ask as they have degrees in math, or sociology, psychology, or even horticulture and culinary and so on. It’s great.

    The other thing that is responsible for part of my contentment is that I am a teacher. Jason, you seem to enjoy teaching people about things that interest you, and engage you. I strongly suggest you perhaps build on this. Maybe you won’t make as much money, or it doesn’t fit into your plans, but being a teacher is a good position to be in. As you note, you have good conversations with your profs.

    If teaching isn’t for you, maybe you can give lectures or talks. Reach out in some way to the public, perhaps(other than through this blog). Does your local library system allow people to give talks on subjects and offer space to do so? If you gave one, the people who would show up would be eager and interested to hear what you have to say. Reach out to high schools and share your varied experience with students making decisions about what educational path to take. Being in a mentor/teacher role is enriching and good for the soul.

    Many people don’t like to be offered advice, but I’m one of those people who feel compelled to do so. Sorry in advance. It’s what makes me a good teacher, I hope. Anyway, my wish is that you find what you’re looking for. I know it’s out there, and there’s no reason it can’t be out there for you too.

    Best Regards–Jennifer

  11. Jennifer,

    I’ve often thought that it’s cultural as well. I suspect that as they grow older, they’ll break out of it. Also, you’re not to first to tell me I should be a teacher. Everyone tells me that actually. The only thing I would dread about it is grading homework assignments. I wouldn’t like that at all. But one of my professors had a nice way of dealing with that. He would only grade quizzes and tests. As for homework, he had us all divide up into groups and if we didn’t know how to work something, we’d ask our group questions and work on them together. As we worked each problem as a group, he’d come around the room and check that we attempted to do each problem. As long as he saw we tried, we were given full credit. Also, he dropped two quizzes and one test. I liked that set up.

    Why do people think you’re odd?

  12. Rae,

    I wouldn’t say I have no value for them as people. I always respect them and treat them well. I’m a very kind person. It might be accurate to say that I feel no incentive to interact with most people. I don’t think they get much out of it, nor do I. It’s not that we dislike each other. I’m either neutral, or slightly positive toward them.

    The main problem is that talking with them is just idle, boring randomness. I’m not into that. I want more from people around me than that. It’s not that much to ask for. It doesn’t have to be what most people would consider “intellectual” conversation. It just has to be real. I want to connect to the other person, feel like we’re bonding, getting to know one another, sharing one another’s lives, etc. I want to feel like we’re learning from one another, sharing experiences.

    I’ve shared this before on my blog, but one time I met a very old woman. She was actually very sick and I ended up spending several hours talking to her and really enjoyed it. She had majored in literature in college back in the 1960s or something. From what I gathered, she sort of wandered through life, rather aimlessly. She talked about concerts she’d gone to, things her generation had hoped to change, how they’d failed, what she thought of the new generation, and so on. We talked about getting older, death, and marriage. I asked her above love, about what she did and did not like about being married, about children, and all sorts of things. I really enjoyed talking with her. She felt like a real person to me. I related to her, I felt like I understood her, who she was, and what she was about.

    I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to find people like that. I meet them online though. It’s always nice to meet people like yourself.

  13. Greg,

    I came across an interesting article, but I can’t remember where it was now. A younger woman went on a thousand dates with different men over a period of five or six years, then she wrote about the experience. She started in college, but then continued on with this experiment a few years after graduating. You mentioned talking about past accomplishments when out on dates. She had an interesting way of viewing that.

    From our perspective, we’re sharing our life history with them. These are my goals, here’s how far I’ve made it, here’s the life I’m offering you, here’s what’s important to me, here’s how I want to make an impact on the world, etc. Sounds good, right? Well, many of these women don’t seem to view it that way at all.

    Basically, as she dated all these different men, it seemed to her that each one was trying to impress her with their education, where they went to school, how much money they made, their home, their car, who they knew, etc. She expressed contempt for all of this, as she felt it was all very shallow. The men were more concerned with trying to impress her than getting to know her, I suppose.

    Ironically, she wanted the men to get to know her, but she had no interest in them. I couldn’t figure out what the men were supposed to talk about. She certainly didn’t care about their past, things they’d worked on, their dreams, etc. She’d always spin it all in some negative way. If they had an indepth intellectual discussion, she thought they were trying to impress her with their knowledge. If they expressed how much they loved their car, they were doing so because, once again, they were trying to impress her. If they showed her their nice home, once again, same thing. Sadly, she always related it back to her. It all revolved around her, as if everything the man did prior to that date was all done in anticipation for the big day when they’d finally meet her and get their big chance to impress her.

    And why were they trying to impress her? I guess the big hope was to take her home, sleep with her, then abandon her, I guess.

    In fact, sharing details of your life and accomplishments would be a bad thing with this particular woman, and I’m thinking many others as well. It puts them in this defensive position. They view it like you’re competing with them. Now she has to be good enough to be with you. She has to step up to your A-game. That woman’s article was filled with complaints about that. She hated that dating was all about her having to dress up and look her best, act her best, etc. She had to be funny, witty, interesting, etc.

    It’s a weird way of viewing it all. It was impossible to connect to her. She had a negative way of spinning everything. The only way you could interact with her would be to emit this shallow, positive, fun-loving energy. Anything of substance was poisoned by the way she interpreted things.

  14. Greg Thompson says:

    @Jason Summers

    Yeah I can see that. It makes sense and lines up with what little info I’ve been able to get out of these types of girls who seem to behave this way. It really is almost like an adversarial competition with them from the very beginning when what I really want is harmony and mutual passions, or at least appreciation of a passion. (It’s difficult to get real feedback because they are usually passive aggressive in terms of how they react to perceived incompatibility)

    Basically what I hear during the last part of her mindset you described is something like “Waaah! Why do I have to look my best, behave my best, and be interesting?” Frankly that is both a sad and disgusting attitude to me. I try to do these things, not only because it is SUPPOSED to attract women, but because it’s just a good authentic way to live.

    It must be cultural, or at least culture has a large part to do with it because many of the foreign girls I meet do not behave like this AT ALL. For example, one girl I met awhile back finds it fascinating listening to me talk about guns, yet she does not like the topic of firearms herself, nor is it something she would ever approach by herself. Yet she gets a genuine fascination out of observing MY interest. This is the kind of harmony I was referring to. Likewise, I’m not thrilled with everything that she is into, but the way she talks about it does ignite a certain interest.

    An interesting study would be about WHY and HOW American women become like this. I don’t like the answer of simply blaming the media – that just seems too much of an off-the-cuff throwaway answer. I find it hard to believe people let the media they consume dictate their thoughts so uniformly, especially in this age where we can find and subscribe to just about any type of niche we want. I always like to search for a “deeper answer” but in this case maybe there is none. Who knows?

  15. Jennifer says:

    @Jason Summers – Hi Jason–You’re right to be concerned about marking as a professor/teacher. It’s brutal, and the worst part of my job. I hate it! The marking I have to do is writing/English/grammar, very tough and requiring great concentration and a lot of time. However, I know that I’m helping the ones who want to be helped, and I really enjoy the students, so on the whole the balance tilts to thinking teaching is a great job. As you note in your recent post about the lack of positive incentives in the work world today, there are many positives in teaching that make up for the harder parts of the job.

    The marking/teaching method you describe your prof as having worked out does sound like a good system. Not everything has to be marked! Much of the time knowledge should just be for the sake of learning–we evaluate too much in our educational system.

    I am considered odd, I think, because I “come on strong.” I am quite friendly and open, and in this world (at least in Ontario, Canada) you are to be reserved and quiet until someone gives you a cue that you’re allowed to join a conversation, or assume a friendship.

    After many years, I realized that my father was the same way. He was from England, and was quite a charming man, with a booming voice and strong personality. I’d be standing with him while he complimented/flirted with a nurse, for example, and watch her blush with pleasure, but I’d also sometimes see a little panic because what he said wasn’t expected. No, he wouldn’t sexually harass, but say something like “it’s okay that you don’t have my chart, because each nurse I meet here just keeps getting better looking!” My father didn’t go back “home” to England to visit for over 35 years, and when he did he said to me that he realized why he felt like a fish out of water the whole time he was in Canada, because people where he was from talked to strangers all the time, complimented them, made jokey comments etc. whereas in our hometown he was often (and like me) viewed by people with startlement and sometimes a little hostility (like, do I know you?). It is definitely cultural. People in Ontario may be very polite, but they are often not friendly. The cultural background of my father and by extension our family is working class English I guess.

    So, I’m not too odd, I don’t think, but have been hurt over my lifetime by cold reactions and looks and so on. I’m not going to change, though it would be easy enough to conform. All I have to do is move to the midlands of England if it gets too much 🙂

    On an unrelated note, I have been reading a book which has made me think of you (given your computer programming background). Have you heard of/read Jaron Lanier? I am reading “You are not a gadget” and it has been a revelation for me. Every page has something incredibly thought provoking, and quite scary, at least to me.

    Hope you’re having a good summer! Bye for now–Jennifer

  16. Jennifer,

    Yes, I have heard of Jaron Lanier but I have not actually read You Are Not A Gadget. I have heard him give various talks though. Through him, I’ve become disillusioned with a lot of the tech world. As he points out, those who organize and manage other people’s content seem to make all the money. Even worse, the internet is governed by a sort of digital communism, and he points out how the real content creators get nothing for their contributions. As he puts it, small fragments of our work are taken, often without credit, and given to this collective hive mind. Sites like Wikipedia are written anonymously, and there’s no way to establish credibility or determine the author’s point of view.

    I really agree with him when he dismisses the wisdom of the crowd. It stifles all real innovation and creativity.

    I find most of the online world to be a distraction. I don’t care for citizen journalism, as few of us have done enough research into anything to know what we’re talking about. Niche websites exist all over to net, and bad ideas circulate and out propagate good ones. Just look at the conspiracy theories that dominate the net. Millions of people now believe our leaders in government are actually shape-shifting reptilian beings from another dimension. I’m not exaggerating.

    Twitter feeds of people’s useless, unfiltered thoughts is a complete waste of time. Most of instagram is large archives of selfies and people’s lunch plates. People feel every petty detail of their lives needs to be shared with the world.

    The business model for half of these tech companies, to me, is just downright sleazy.

    Maybe I’m getting too cynical, but from my perspective, the online world only gets sleazier each day. Everyone’s always trying to trick me into clicking something. For one of my next posts, I want to comment on advertising, particularly how we can’t even tell real articles from advertisements anymore. They camouflage themselves in the real content, posing as critical articles but are actually advertisements written to promote their products.

    I like to watch old videos of intellectuals talking about how great the internet was supposed to be. It’s interesting to watch Isaac Asimov speculate how the internet would bring all knowledge to every child’s fingertips, and he or she could explore the cosmos and learn anything they could think of. It would empower them to learn anything they set their minds to.

    He gave an example of a young child being interested in baseball. He imagined they’d begin searching the computer about baseball and then become interested in how all the player statistics were calculated, and that would lead them into mathematics and physics.

    Could that happen? Sure. Does it happen in reality? Not very often. Kids instead spend hours and hours watching Pewdiepie mindlessly play video games. Young girls laugh at Jenna marbles acting like a blonde ditz, and others amuse themselves with Howtobasic smashing random things on his kitchen counter. Look at all the channels that are popular on Youtube. How many of them are deep or even remotely thoughtful? It’s depressing.

    We have the means to share ideas at the speed of light, but the digital world is primarily a junk yard of random memes, mindless videos, and pictures of cats.

  17. Greg Thompson says:

    “For one of my next posts, I want to comment on advertising, particularly how we can’t even tell real articles from advertisements anymore. They camouflage themselves in the real content, posing as critical articles but are actually advertisements written to promote their products.”

    Just wanted to comment that this has been a viable technique since at least the times of the Civil War, perhaps even before. But widespread off and on certainly from the 1920’s onward. Seeing it on the internet is just a shift of medium, not technique.

  18. rae says:

    Okay, after mulling it over, I see what you mean. The social construct of America is not compatible with great intellects. In fact it alienates them. See, the things that we(intellects as a whole) commit ourselves to are viewed as disharmonious to the more plebeian minded. To us, it’s an absurdity that this isn’t the standard to which others are kept to. In the end, you are on a mission. Those who aren’t on board, or at the very least accept it, shouldn’t be involved in it. I constantly have to remind myself that, “This is interaction doesn’t have to be revolutionary”. I can’t really elaborate past that because I haven’t really met anybody with similar feelings, and I haven’t put much thought to it. But, I hope you understand the sentiment. You just have to find the right people to fit in your life, and to those who don’t, they have to return to their slumber, so to speak. You and I are what they call “Old Souls”. I’m 17 years old, most of my friends are teachers, professors, and what others consider “nerds”. I consider them the most powerful people on the planet. Although from time to time, I do feel the need to connect with people outside of my paradigm, it just comes down to finding the arbitrary “sweet-spot” for people. Life is sex.

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