When I was in junior high I always thought I was an outgoing guy. We did a test on personality types and I came out with a strong leaning towards the extroverted wild and crazy side of things. I hung out with the Ã‚"coolÃ‚" kids and generally acted as the resident smart ass and sarcastic asshole of the bunch. I played video games about as much as any kid who grew up with Nintendo and SEGA but I never considered myself a gamer in any way. When High School rolled around I started to dislike the constant work required being popular and hanging out with the right people. I came to believe that many of them were shallow, self-absorbed morons who couldnÃ‚'t see exactly how stupid they were. IÃ‚'d also started meditating quite a bit and getting to know myself as something other than what I thought society wanted me to be. ThatÃ‚'s when I really started growing introverted and turning to games.
Looking back now I can see that achieving any sort of self-awareness was a social death sentence in high-school. The moment you realize how ridiculous your peers are you canÃ‚'t hide your contempt and fake it anymore. My fellow teenagers and their little romance dramas, their petty rebellions in class and the constant desire to fit in no matter what was a sad little existence in my mind. I retreated from it all and maintained a handful of close friends but that was about it. It was when I got a summer job at the age of sixteen that gaming began to replace my friends.
After saving up all summer I bought a black Acer computer (166mhz of pure speed) and a subscription to Computer Gaming World. Suddenly I had a way to entertain myself that didnÃ‚'t require people at all. I could play games, surf the net on my 28.8 modem and really spend some quality time with the vibrant and exciting online porn community. I was a self-sufficient god, one with a pure understanding of humanityÃ‚'s folly as I surfed porn for hours and played X-com until I couldnÃ‚'t stay awake any longer. I found my alternative to Ã‚"playing the gameÃ‚" of social intercourse in the world behind my monitor. ItÃ‚'s so easy to see your mistakes years later isnÃ‚'t it?
After I graduated from high school I immediately moved out of my home town and into the city to live with my older brother. I cut off all contact with what was left of my friends and joined a Rainbow Six clan. Suddenly I wasnÃ‚'t forced into social situations anymore, I could go days and not talk to anybody I didnÃ‚'t feel like talking to. When I was forced into conversation I could be charming, funny and fun to be around but it was never something I felt inclined to do. My social skills might have really dived if my brother and I hadnÃ‚'t moved into a house with three other people once the summer was over. I was forced yet again to interact with other human beings seemingly against my will.
Karla (hoochie) was one of the people living in the house, you can read an article she wrote about how we ended up together here. How I would have found a girlfriend if I wasnÃ‚'t living in the same house with an actual girl I do not know. The Everquest beta had rolled along and I might have been a goner if I didnÃ‚'t constantly have to take turns with my other house mates who wanted to play it. My attitude towards people coupled with living alone may have completely destroyed me with EQ in the mix.
By this time I had quit meditating, it just wasnÃ‚'t working for me any more. ItÃ‚'s funny really, the act of meditation (perhaps even the point) is to achieve oneness and connect with your fellow man. Instead I felt like it separated me from everyone and dealt a death blow to my social skills in high school. Once I stopped what was I left with? Games. Everquest. Until Karla and I got together that was all I had left. I had just finished a six month computer course and I went off to work for a corporate tech center. I worked, played Everquest andÃ‚"… did the dishes? ItÃ‚'s all a blur to me now.
That was four years ago and some things have changed while others have stayed the same. I quit my soul-sucking tech job and got into business with my brother for starters. Having to dig up clients and impress people who donÃ‚'t know you really kicks the social skills back up quite a bit. In this line of work if you canÃ‚'t communicate youÃ‚'re not going to pay the bills. Even better, one of the first jobs I did was taking kids aged 13 Ã‚– 18 out to clean up graffiti since they were expelled from school and on probation for stealing cars or beating people up. IÃ‚'m not a big guy and I wasnÃ‚'t much older than some of the kids we took out so it forced me to connect when nothing else really could. We helped them find jobs, stay out of trouble and offered support when few people would. Talk about trial by fire.
Today IÃ‚'m still self-employed and still playing too many games. IÃ‚'m not a social inept and I can manage in any situation or gathering but I find that I donÃ‚'t choose to all that often. ItÃ‚'s not because I still have the same attitude towards people I had in high school, I just donÃ‚'t enjoy it as much as I feel I should. My mistake in the past was that I thought being true to yourself meant shunning everyone else. Now I can see it was really just escapism at its finest.
I canÃ‚'t help but wonder how different life might have been if I stayed the course and remained in high school what I was in junior high. More friends? More fun?
All anyone can do is move forward and try to find a balance.