I've done little work recently, as my mind's still stuck in a state of wandering wondering about worries, loneliness and my uncertain path into the future, though I feel I'm taking steps towards getting out of this mental quagmire. I've been playing a game for inspiration. I held a human brain, which was one of my biggest fears and which turned out to be a positive experience. I drew some comedians!!
I've been lonely recently, as I've written about many times before. Most of my thoughts are about this. Social support makes a world of difference with so much in life; it's infinitely easier to do things if you're with someone or if you get in-person encouragement and support from them beforehand, or if you have their company to look forward to later or things like that. Or so I feel, looking back on when I've been most motivated and what led to it.
(Sadly, while online connections have their value, I've found that they just can't compare to the benefits of in-person interactions. Communicating via written words strips away so much of what makes bonding so effective for us as biological organisms. We're programmed to respond chemically to physical touch, to the sound of voices, to the feeling of others' supportive presence nearby... I appreciate support here too, of course, since some is better than none at all, though if I've seemed rude for 'rejecting' offers of long-distance friendship, this is why. Well, partly; mostly it's just awkwardness, like spending every day saying "I WANNA PONYYYY!" and then, when I finally get one, I just panic and hide because I've no idea how to ride it.)
Now that I'm at university rather than stuck at home all day every day, I'm at least spending time with other humans on a regular basis... but the situation's the same as it was months ago. I have two friends (or do I?), and both have partners while I don't. My biggest fear is never finding anyone to live with, to grow old with, to have as a constant presence and confidant through my adult years; this would be the 'social security', the safe base I could build from, if only I had it. Or so I feel.
And yet it's never quite that simple, I know. I got an app recently to record my moods, while wondering how much of my life was spent being miserable. You can update it with little diary-like posts accompanied by a 1-5 star rating to show how you're feeling (I found it after deciding I wanted to make such a thing; sort of annoying that someone else got there first, but it spares me the effort). You can also check the posts/moods of everyone else using the app.
While my mood's surprisingly stable - most of my posts have a star value of 3, with occasional 2s or 4s, though I suppose this represents a sort of empty numbness rather than neutrality as such - most other people's fluctuate wildly, going from 5 ("things couldn't be better!!") to 1 ("I want to die!") several times over the course of the day. Unsurprisingly
, these are mostly teenage girls, but there are others, too, like mothers, adults in their thirties and so on, where this is the case.
Most of the ups and downs correspond to relationships; I see the following pattern again and again and again:
"I'm so in love with my boyfriend, just cuddling, so happy (5 stars)"
"My boyfriend's an arsehole! (1 star)"
"He's so sweet and I miss him so bad (5 stars)"
"Does he even care about me? (1 star)"
"He got me a gift and I can't stop smiling (5 stars)"
"He's such a jerk!! (1 star)"
The fact that the guys least burdened by sensitivity - the 'confident' ones, the 'bad boys' - are most likely to get the girls is a factor for sure, though I imagine almost all relationships fluctuate between love and hate like this.
And yet I can't help but crave one myself. Surely the drama that emerges from truly caring about something, from investing your heart into it, makes life richer than the bland, empty monotony of my own. My only relationship wasn't exactly all roses and rainbows - and I might say I'm 'happier' in many ways now than I was then, or at least 'less stressed' - but I miss it immensely because it gave me something to live for. Something to work on, to worry about.
I say this as someone who's driven by the 'intensity instinct' (the enneagram instinctual variants thing; 'Sx'), and I know that others could take or leave love and still be happy as long as they had either physical and financial security or a satisfying social network.
This 'instinctual variants' thing has been on my mind a lot recently, actually, as being an 'SxSo
/Sp' (Sexual, Social, Self-Preservation) person explains why I'd neglect paths that would lead to financial security (Sp) or fame (So) - that is, making games - while focusing on my hopes of finding an intense emotional connection with just one special person (Sx). It's also why reasons like "it'll make me money" aren't enough to motivate me to work on my games...
However, speaking of which... I got the game 'Bravely Default' when it was new, years ago, and thought "I'll play this soon!". However, I kept putting it off, because even though I knew I'd enjoy it, I was scared of comparing my own work to it, negatively. I rarely play games at all because of this. They threaten my ego; "I couldn't do this, so my life will be a failure". It's absurd, I know, and overcoming that ego has been my ongoing challenge for the last year and a bit.
Now that I've FINALLY got around to playing it, though, it's interesting watching my inner reactions to it and comparing them to those who might play Taming Dreams.
I started it in a sort of defensive mood; I suppose subconsciously I wanted to look for flaws so as to assert my ego as superior ("I can do better than this!"), and that's what I found. It was cliched, hollow, tedious, I couldn't connect to the characters - who were obviously just bland archetypes anyway, with no depth at all - and... well, I can't say that I was enjoying it at all. No different to those who played Taming Dreams with negative expectations and saw them met, I imagine.
However, after a few hours, it and its characters grew on me. While I still felt - and feel, since I'm not very far through it yet - envy about many of its details, I do actually enjoy it, and can play it for hours (and have done, which is another reason I've done little work on my games or university obligations).
Though it's a time sink, I feel it's rekindling my interest in making my own RPG, be it Taming Dreams or some kind of shorter, cheaper revision that I'd make and finish before returning to Taming Dreams. The more I play, the more these feelings intensify, so I suppose this is a good thing. I only wish I'd not taken this long to find another torch to relight my own. Sorry about that!
I also noticed that the language is as complicated and archaic - perhaps even moreso - than in Taming Dreams, yet that's apparently okay? There's also a ton of talking, and that's okay too? Hmm.
Many fears about mundane things still hold me back. I can't use Facebook comfortably at all, for example, yet I feel that's the best way to connect with others in my current environment. I'd love to ask regular questions of my classmates, for example, and feel that - especially in a class of psychology students - that might work quite well in my class's Facebook group, but the thought of looking at the lives of happier, more well-connected people than myself is just so aversive that I avoid it all completely ("this person has a partner and lots of friends, I don't, I'm tormented by fears and despair and feelings of alienation now"). I'm 'thinking about' doing it, but I have been for days with little (though at least not zero) progress.
However, while this fear is a huge one, my biggest fear - or rather, it was a full-blown phobia - was of brains. The mere sight of a cartoon brain terrified me, and I couldn't comprehend the idea of seeing a real one. My nightmares were full of them, and I avoided a lot of films and things just in case they showed brains in some form. It's an odd fear, and not one that I've ever seen in anyone else, and I always wondered about the cause. Maybe it's because life is a story, and it was foreshadowing my future career? Maybe it's because life is being imprisoned, and I felt fear at seeing my cell? I wonder.
As part of this psychology course, I have to learn about the brain (obviously), and as part of that, we had a class where we were shown real human brains from real human people. I was, of course, terrified... But I decided that if I avoided it, it'd be a huge failure I'd regret forever. I didn't avoid it, though. I'm glad I didn't. It was strange, though.
I held a human brain in my hands (well, one and a half, actually), and it was heavier than I expected. It had been in formaldehyde, and as such was a uniform pale yellowish-grey, and quite firm. It reminded me of chicken. Almost bizarrely appetising. I looked and poked and tried to name its parts ("corpus callosum!", "hippocampus!", "amygdala!", "postcentral gyrus!", "central sulcus!", "fornix!", "fourth ventricle!", "thalamus!"... I apparently enjoy this quite a bit and could happily go on). Strange, but fascinating.
I used to fear accidentally finding pictures of brains via Google Image Search or Wikipedia (I remember looking at the 'Cat' article and recoiling with terror since it seemed to show a picture of a feline brain), but when I got back from this, I eagerly looked at textbooks and Wikipedia articles about brain anatomy, replete with explicit photos of intact or dissected brains. I watched documentaries about the same, and looked with great interest at things that would have made me avert my eyes in the past.
It's tremendously freeing, knowing that all that fear dissolved once I found out that it was all for nothing. That it was not remotely as bad as I expected it to be in my mind.
I feel that social support made a huge, huge difference, though. I'd been with my friend (the only one I feel I have at the moment; I've been drifting apart from the other) for lectures that morning, and she stayed with me for the hour leading up to the brain thing and hugged me before it started. If not for that, I probably wouldn't have gone. Oxytocin and such!
However, without that support, and despite that huge, huge step towards overcoming my biggest fears, I'm still sadly rather useless by myself.
I didn't sign up for any of the university's clubs and societies at the start of the academic year, which I regretted since it seems that people made friends in those and I missed out. I'd been looking forward to the second 'recruitment event' thing, where societies had stalls to build interest in them and such. That was a week ago, and I put my name down for about half a dozen (annoyingly I couldn't find more that I liked).
One of them was the art society, which I was most interested in... They have gatherings - workshops - on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2-4pm... It's now Saturday at 3:50pm and I'm writing this. Hmm.
I'd been out at other class things on Wednesday so I was too busy to go to that one, but I fully intended to go to the one today. And I sort of did... I walked all the way to where it was supposed to be, at the right time and everything, but there was nobody there; I was a few minutes early, though. I thought I'd wander around a bit and see if I saw people who might be going to the same place.
I did, but it looked like they were mostly guys... I get great pleasure out of talking to girls because I've gone most of my life without having the opportunity to do so, so now it's literally a dream come true... But I just see other guys as 'the competition', especially if they're the socially confident and good-looking sorts who tend to attract female interest without trying. They remind me, I suppose, of all my failings, and the same fragile ego that leads me to avoid playing games due to feelings of inadequacy leads to avoidance of men - especially in group situations where girls are present - for the same reason. I go quiet because I feel there's no point even trying to 'compete' with someone 'more desirable' than me.
Again, it's absurd, and it's something that I'm making conscious efforts to overcome, though - as with all fears - it's not as simple as just deciding to do so. If it was, therapists wouldn't exist. In this case, however, I lacked social support; I haven't talked to anyone at all since yesterday morning, and so I was going from that mental state into jumping into a group where everyone already knew each other and... Well, I just walked home. I chickened out. What a waste of an opportunity.
A similar thing happened yesterday, too. There was a woman handing out flyers outside a lecture; the Christian Student Union (or whatever) was holding a discussion about why their god is the bestest and why that's not an arrogant claim, but, not surprisingly, most people weren't interested. I however was
, and the woman seemed really happy that I was interested in attending. I was, not to argue about why their religion is wrong, but just because I feel comfortable and competent in that area of discussion and thought it would be a good opportunity to train my mind to be polite and tolerant of people whose beliefs clash with my own (my usual response is avoidance, not belligerence).
However, it was in a pub, and again I walked there at the right time and got to almost the door... before chickening out and walking home. Again, I lacked social support, and the threat of facing this new situation alone (I've never been in a pub before, what if everyone else knew each other, what if I felt completely out of place, etc, etc) was enough to compel me to retreat. I regretted it immensely afterwards, of course.
I hope though that after these failures, I'll be more inclined to 'try harder' if the opportunities arise again... I just hope that they do. I know I'll have another opportunity to go to the art thing next week, and I hope that that woman is handing out flyers again too (she has done twice already). But maybe opportunities don't work like that.
I wonder whether you skimmed through the whole thing looking for the picture shown in the preview. Here it is!!
Since I'd joined the art society, I felt insecure about my own skills, and like I needed to de-rustify them. So I drew some portraits. These are comedians from the telly here in the UK, in this case specifically from a programme called 'Would I Lie To You?', which I'd recommend if you've not seen it (it's easy to find on YouTube). They are, from left to right: Dara Ó Briain, David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Lee Mack (I feel this is the least accurate likeness though), and Rhod Gilbert.
I actually had fun drawing those, and felt like I was truly enjoying myself and feeling accomplished for the first time in... I can't even remember. It's interesting, that, how it's so easy to procrastinate, to put everything off, and doing so just makes you feel guilty and stressed and so on... But actually doing
things feels so good, and once you get started, things tend to flow quite fluently, enjoyably.
Sadly, it's a lesson that seems so hard to retain... No matter how many times I realise this, I just know I'll fall into the old patterns of work-shirking again and again. I have three assignments due in soon, and I've not even started on them despite having weeks to do so. And of course there are my games.
Joining these groups and holding a brain has made me want to overcome my Facebook-related fears. If I do, I might find new connections and shed the loneliness that consumes my mind every day. I might find people who inspire me, make me happy, give me reasons to want to do creative work. Things are looking hopeful; I'm just sorry I've had so much inner stuff to work through that's been getting in the way of making the games that people are waiting for!
(Also, I'm still planning to work on that other blog about my feelings, where a post like this might be more appropriate; I've just been dissatisfied with the illustrations I've tried to do for the first post so far, and need to practise a bit more...)