03-28-09 - Old Man Comfort

When I was young I was really nervous around people or in new situations; I wanted to show that I knew how to handle myself, I never wanted to make a mistake, I wanted to prove that I deserved to be with the A-list. It made me a total loser, really self conscious, condescending, stiff, and just awkward and antsy. I was also a huge a flaker and would frequently bail on social situations or just go very briefly.

I was always jealous of the older men who just seemed comfortable in any situation. They were usually somewhat wealthy, but not rich, relaxed, maybe a bit fat, graying, balding, but just confident and at ease. While I'm still certainly more like the youthful me, I'm starting to get a bit of the Old Man Comfort.

When I was a kid I thought that I would become comfortable over time once I learned how to act in all those situations, how to interact with the bell hops, how to act when you order wine, etc. etc. Now I know that actually learning how to act has nothing to do with it. It's more just about not caring. As you get older you care less and less what people think and you know it's just not a big deal if you fuck up. For me there have been two big factors :

1. I've given up on the hope of the Ivory Tower. I used to imagine that there were amazing people somewhere, smart, beautiful, fun, having great conversation, great parties, starting businesses together, making art, cooking ,traveling. I wanted to be one of them, and I wanted to prove that I deserved it. I always thought most people were shit, but I idolized certain heroes in my fields that I thought were just total rock stars and I wanted to act cool around them and get their approval.

Now I no longer believe in that. Yes, there absolutely are different classes of people, and yes there is a AAA group that is way better than the rest in most ways. But they're shit too in their own way and not worth impressing. Basically everyone is shit and there's no magic circle you can get admittance to so you don't need to try.

2. I'm no longer as interesting to myself alone as I used to be. When I was young, hanging out with other people was borderline excruciating because you'd just be having some horrible boring conversation and never getting into the real issues; even if you did find a smart person to talk to, you'd just spend the whole time in misunderstandings and talking around the same point. On the other hand, if I bailed out on that social situation, I could wander the streets and look at the beautiful plants and compose poems in my head while isolating various of my senses one by one and focusing on them to turn up their intensity. I might go home and work on a programming project for a while, or crack a notebook and work on some physics theorems, or read some textbooks by brilliant people. Every day I spent alone was full of activity and thought and projects and learning and excitement. Pretty much any minute of that spent with someone else was a loss, and it made me feel really antsy and impatient with people and want to rush through conversations and cut them off as quickly as possible.

While that's all still true to some extent, the big thing that's changed is not that I've discovered the value of other human's conversations (no, they're still as useless as ever). The difference is the value of my own alone time has plummetted, bringing them closer to parity. I'm now lazy and tired and bored of myself, I have lots of project ideas but I no longer have the enthusiasm to do them justice.

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