New Hobbies

Taking a look back on what I have done for fun and what I call my hobbies, I realize that they all stem from fantasies and fictions. For example, most of my so called hobbies include videogames, reading fantasy or science fiction books and even watching a few of the many Let’s Play YouTube channels. For those who don’t know, a Let’s Play is a video where someone records themselves playing videogames. They may do a voiceover and some even show a video of their own reactions to the gameplay.

All of the hobbies that I seem to have, while entertaining, have no basis in reality. This does not mean that reading fantasy or playing videogames can’t help you in the real world. My current activities have made me curious about my own world and despite what many think, videogames do help with real world skills. I find that hobbies like videogames or reading are very difficult to talk about with people who don’t also enjoy them. Some of the people I have met can’t even understand why I “waste” my time playing games. It seem as though nothing I can say and no comparison I make helps them understand what it is about my hobbies that interests me. Maybe it’s a failure on my part on how to communicate my thoughts and ideas. That and maybe some people cannot see what I get out of immersing myself in a fantasy world.

I have decided to find new hobbies that both interest me and give me interesting thing to speak about when those around me are not interested in my current hobbies. I wish to have something to talk about when I meet new people. Most of the time when I meet a someone and I try to talk about my hobbies and interests, if they don’t share at least a small interest in books or games I see their eyes glaze over and they sort of shut down. What I am saying holds less than no interest to them and sometimes I can see that someone has “marked” me as a person of little interest. I have even met people who try to actively discourage me from my own hobbies.

I am going to try and find something new to do and enjoy. Something that won’t glaze the eyes of people who don’t know what it is and maybe I will have more, and better conversations in the future. This is not to say that I will abandon my books and videogames but maybe having all your hobbies in fantasy worlds is not as healthy as I thought it was. I don’t yet know what I will decide to take up but I hope that I find something that fits the bill.

 

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My Best Friend

Two years ago I met a man who would just not shut up. I don’t know how I can thank him for constantly annoying me with verbal (and literal) pokes and prods to get any kind of reaction from me. I have no idea how he can just walk up to someone and just start talking. He is constantly on the go and always has another angle to work off of. This is the dude who took me on my first real night drinking at a club. He dragged me to a techno concert and found tickets to the latest Weird Al concert in my area. Let me tell you how I met this guy, about some of our adventures and why I am still friends with him despite the fact that he is almost my complete opposite in temperament. Well maybe because of that fact.

Two years ago I lead a soldering team of 2 other people. This team consisted of and anime/sci-fi fan, a guy who is half Dude-Bro half Geek (it exists, I’ve seen it), and myself as the super quiet, sit down and read a book type. Our shop needed more people so they started hiring several people. When we suddenly needed more solderers this guy was transferred to my department. Well, he had more experience soldering that I did so he decided in what I later learned was his normal fashion that he was the “Best Ever” and proceeded to teach us about soldering. Turned out he was pretty good and we all learned a great deal from him. I had no problem taking his lead and he had no problem taking the lead.

Lunches left us all to ourselves. The others talked and I just read my book all the time. This apparently didn’t sit well with this guy so he tried to engage me in conversation. In my typical response I answered his questions, gave my opinions but I never really was part of the conversation. The more he would do this, the more I would start to participate on my own. I didn’t realize what had happened until the day we all decided to watch anime at lunch. I was no longer taking my book out but talking to the others. I didn’t notice until I realized that it was taking me longer and longer to get though a book.

I have now joined groups on Meetup.com and started to regularly attend events on my own. My personal preference is sitting in a coffee shop with a group of people, some new, some regulars, and talking about whatever comes up. I am now more comfortable when talking to other people and can hold a conversation fairly well. I am even now starting to host my own meetups for a group that caters to introverts exclusively. I think I am well on my way to being the kind of person I want to be and that feels good.

I am glad I met this friend of mine. He is definitely one that I want to keep around.

A Small Bit on Jealousy

I read an article last Friday that opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about myself and my feelings. I have been a long time reader of the Dr NerdLove blog and his article on Friday called “How to Deal with Jealousy” dealt with all the things that I had been feeling for quite a while now. Previously, I had thought jealousy to be in the realm of those with relationships. I thought it was the feeling that one gets when their significant other is possibly (or at least seemingly) being pulled away from them. Whether it is in the form of other people or even a career that pull the other person away. In his article though, Dr NerdLove defines jealousy as (and I am very much paraphrasing and interpreting):

The feeling of inadequacy as a result of the perception that others have what you want.

Now, the article doesn’t have an actual definition but as I read through it, I found that this is probably the most accurate definition that I have come across. Wikipedia and many of the online dictionaries, including Urban Dictionary (not a credible source), focus on the loss of something. Google’s Dictionary equates it a feeling of envy for others advantages and I find this one to be the closest to my current definition.

This new definition has struck a chord with my own thoughts on how to improve myself. We all know (I hope) that jealousy is generally a destructive emotion and is incredibly hard to control but I never thought that it would apply to someone who was not in a relationship. This new information surprised me and made me realize that most of the problems that I have been having can be attributed to this feeling of inadequacy. Lately, I have been feeling like everyone around me has their life together and I can barely get a decent laundry schedule going. I have been feeling that all these people I see on the street and in the movies or on TV have something that I don’t. They have some unidentified quality that I can’t see and because of this their lives are so much better, so much more full than mine. Then I started reading the Dr Nerdlove blog and I realized that most of the problems that I have been having are the same problems that everyone else has. I now understand that many of my current problems stem from (As Dr NerdLove like to put it) comparing other peoples highlight reel to my raw footage.

You see, I have been looking at another persons awesome day and just assuming that their entire life must be like that. We all know that our lives are not like this so why do we assume other peoples lives are like this. This is really the thing that hangs me up. I am jealous of the way that I perceive other peoples lives to be, even though I don’t really have an idea what they are like. From now on, I am going to try to not look at another persons awesome qualities and instead focus on the things that make me awesome.

If you have not read anything of Dr NerdLove and are looking for dating and general life advice gear towards the geeky/nerdy side, this is a good place to start.

Sheltered by Apathy Pt2

So here I am, sitting at my desk reading my last post to figure out how to follow up, when I realize that I didn’t even properly explain the title. Turns out I just plain forgot to give the synopsis of the whole “Sheltered by Apathy” thing. Hm… I guess I should talk about that.

It all started, well I don’t really have a single moment to pin it on. Not even a time frame. I can tell you that looking back on my life, I was always a very introverted person. When some of my friends had parties, there where over 10 kids. When I had a party, there where 4… Max. I look back and through my life there has really been only one person at a time that I would (if asked) call a friend. This wasn’t a bad thing in retrospect, but at the time I did not know what an introvert was. I just thought what many others thought. I was shy, I was not very good at conversations (this one was and still is true), I was stuck up (really?!). There are many others but the point is that none of them really ‘fit’ me. I have recently been reading a ton of articles on introversion and introverted people and they can be easily found and read anyone who wants to. The basic premise of all these articles is the same: the introverted need time alone to recharge; they have very small but also very close groups of friends and family; they prefer thinking to talking. I could go on but there are plenty of articles that have already covered this.

Not understanding why I wanted to spend time alone, I would also not understand why others would want me to spend time around people. It’s not that I didn’t like the people, I just didn’t like the the fact that I felt I had nothing to contribute. Family dinners had me sitting at one end of the table not speaking and just eating my food. I chose the end of the table very deliberately. At the end, I would not be surrounded by people. Afterwords we would all go to the living room and everyone else would talk and I would sit there, just listening to my own mind. I would plan for video gaming (I really love RPGs and I was in to Min/Maxing for a while). I would act out fantasies in my head, mostly related to the books or games I was enjoying at that time. In all honesty, this still happens today, although it’s more out of vastly differing interests that this still occurs.

Right up until about two years ago I did not even realize that there was a different way to be. I thought everyone liked to read and be alone. I didn’t try to improve my interpersonal skills because I believed that I was just a normal dude. It was only when I met my current best friend that I realized that this was not the case. That I might be able to talk to people without going blank, or trying to run away (that has happened). I might be able to make new friends on my own. The effect of misunderstanding my own nature for such a long time is really just that I have to learn it all now. I has been a long journey in the last two years and I can just see how far I really have to go from where I am now. That is really the point of this blog. I want to document my own improvement. Give myself a place to analyze my actions and plan for the future.

I also just wanted to start something of a hobby that did not include video games.

Sheltered by Apathy Pt1

As soon as I graduated from my second technical course I was ready to go or so I thought. I thought that all I had to do was put a few resumes out there and the jobs would be rolling in. This, as you might imagine, was not the case. I decided to take the summer and rest from the crazy semester I had. I had the money to do this as I still lived with my parents, though they did charge me rent. In early August I began my search for a real job. I went to all the usual websites and canvased around a bit, I didn’t really put too much effort in because I thought that I was the “Best Ever” and everyone should be able to see it. You know the feeling, when you just sit back and watch the praise roll in. Turns out that I was just another dude with too little experience to my name. I did have a bit of job experience, I worked for a 7-Eleven from the end of high school to the end of my third year at the technical school. I had the usual paper route too but no one mentions that on a “real” resume right?

This mock job hunt I had turned into the longest year of my life. Suddenly I had nobody to tell me what to do. No Homework to complete. The entire purpose of my life was getting through school and getting through collage. When it was all over, I had no direction. It was like renting a new video game and discovering that there where no instructions in the box (before the internet came around anyway). I had to figure it out and the way I just skated through school, I hadn’t learned the most important lessons. I didn’t know how to talk to people, how to ask for something, how to learn on my own.

This was the loneliest year of my life. I barely spoke to anyone, not even my family. I had less the 5 interviews in the entire time I was looking for a job. It didn’t help that it was 2009 and everybody was still recovering from the crash in 2008. For about 6 months I retreated to my room to play video games and re-read my massive collection of sci-fi and fantasy books. I found some friends online playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. We stuck together through the different versions until I realized what an annoyingly same game CoD had become (that is a different story). It was in December of 2009, over one and a half years since I graduated, that I actually found a job. My boss was amazed that no one else had hired me. It did help that he was one of the coolest and most laid back bosses of all time. In the interview he went through the main interviewy things but when I told him my main past time was video gaming, he jumped on that. we talked about video games for at least an hour. The two of us where very similar. So I go the job working the mens department at a shoe store.

Through this time of unemployment, I lost contact with every single person I knew from high school and collage. Not because I cut ties, I just never called. I was the invisible person at events and hangouts. I was quiet to the point of not speaking for days on end. I was unable to carry a conversation and so I didn’t call anyone to just talk. I didn’t see a reason to try harder. I thought that being alone made me happy so I did not try to be in the company of others. This continued to until I met someone who would show me how truly wrong I was.

I stayed at the shoe store for all of 3 months, when all of the sudden, my father said that the company that he works for is hiring new people. He got me an interview in May and I was hired right then. I would be on the manufacturing floor building control units for Well Servicing and Well Fracturing rigs. I thought this would be a hell of a lot more fun than serving customers at a shoe store, so I quit my job and went to work wiring, soldering and generally manufacturing. I made a few friends with my new co-workers and we set off. It was the most rewarding job I had had. There was structure, everything had it’s place and there was always a best way to do things. I started out drilling holes in metal sheets called back-panels. I then moved to actually wiring units up and finally I was head of the soldering department as I was the only one in the shop who had any experience at it. My meticulous nature and a critical thinking skills allowed me to increase production and create a smooth flowing work environment.

At this point I was still very closed off from the rest of the world. I still lived with my parents though I could have afforded my own place. I just did the best job I could an then I went home, played video games, read books, watched TV or movies. Outside of work I didn’t really have any friends to speak of. Then a series of new hires gave me a team of 4 new people to watch over. One of them, for some still unknown reason, really tried to break me out of the shell I had built. While most of the other people I worked with through the years have had similar interests as me, only this one took on the role of forcing me to go out. He, unlike many of the other friend I had, decided that I needed (and I mean NEEDED) to get the hell out of my house and start doing things.

I thought that I could cover all of this in a single post but I am going to have to make it a 2 parter. Guess I had more to this story than I thought.

Well I just started on here so I thought I would participate in this even though I missed Day 1. So… here goes!

I step out of my door and take stock of my surroundings. There is almost literally nothing here. ‘Almost literally?’ I think to myself. I don’t think the concept really exists, but it describes this place so vividly. I jump down the small ladder and take another look around. There is dust and rock everywhere. None of it is moving as there really isn’t much air up here to create a wind. Everything seems to be that same color. The rocks, dust and all the hills I see in the distance. Only my home and myself stand out. Stark white and silver against a sea of red, well we are a bit more red now. Like sand from a beach this dust gets everywhere and never really comes off. Though I know that my suit protects me, I can still feel the intense cold of this place as if I where wearing nothing. The solitary nature of this place sometimes gets to me but when I remember where I am, it all seems so small. My work seems so important. I call this place home now but my real home is so very far away. I can sometimes see it in the distance.

Intro to the Introverted and Inexperienced

Ever since I was young I was a very quiet person, I liked to be on my own, I did not speak unless spoken to, or I had something important to say. I think that because of the way that I always looked distracted I was diagnosed with ADD around grade 5 (age 10). I know now, that the ‘ADD’ was my introverted nature shutting me down in the extremely stimulating classroom environment. I spent my time in class trying to be as alone as possible. I wouldn’t put my hand up to answer or ask questions, I wouldn’t talk to anyone who did not talk to me, and I would choose to sit as far from everyone else as I could. As a result, I had very few friends and I would spend my free time reading books instead of playing with other kids. Despite what it looked like, I was always listening and almost always had the answers to question put to the class.

It was early in Elementary School (Grades K – 6) that I started my love of video games. My parents bought a used, and at the time outdated, NES system and I quickly be came the local god of video games. I beat the first Super Mario game in a my first sitting and continued to excel at almost any other game that I played. These games had hard and fast rules that where unbending and, while not always clear at first, they could be reasoned out. I became an expert at puzzles and word games. Anything that involved learning or just plain problem solving, I immediately jumped on. Once I had learned to read on my own, I devoured all sorts of fiction books, from Goosebumps to the Animorphs and anything that involved fantasy or sci-fi.

When I went from grade 6 to grade 7 (the transition from Elementary school to Junior High in my province) I was placed in a special school designed to help kids with learning disabilities function better in normal classrooms. This did two things, it separated me from the few real life friends that I had and also the subjects at this school were not as advanced as a normal grade 7 class would be. I would be a little behind when I moved back into the normal classes. I honestly don’t think I gained much from that school except a very strong attraction to Ice Cream Parlors. There was one down the street from the school and we went down there every second week as a whole class.

During my time attending this special school, there would be more group projects than in regular classes and subjects like Math and Science (my all time favorites) were secondary to any others. I started to get bored in school without Math or Science problems because these were really the only subjects that I was interested in. As I am a naturally introverted person, the group projects and a lack of interesting subjects drove me to be even more reclusive than normal. I can’t even remember a single person from that school.

When I came back to the normal school system, I repeated my pattern of reclusive behavior. I would respond if spoken to but I would rarely initiate conversation. I had a few friends that taught me to play Magic the Gathering, to which I was addicted until after post-secondary school. This pattern continued through to the end of High School because I was lucky enough to have the group of friends all go to the same school as I.

I went to a technical school for post-secondary where I took a control systems technologies course. Now this was my kind of class. Sure we had some group projects but each person had a clear and defined role and responsibility. The work was always challenging and almost always in the Math and Science fields. I learned to like computer for more than just gaming in this course. While I did not really keep contact with my friends from high school, I did make new friends at this course. By the end, there where only 6 people in the entire class and we where all good friends. It was these friends that encouraged me to get an ID card so I could go to the bars with them. I never took the drivers tests/courses because… well honestly, I didn’t really have anywhere I wanted to go. All my needs were being met at home, I had the basics plus my gaming systems, a growing library of books and the internet. Let’s not forget the internet.

After completing that course I went on to take another one that revolved around electronic systems. I was never really into the programming of the first course but this second course allowed me to learn more and more about the hardware behind the code and bring everything together in a more holistic fashion. Again I did not keep contact with my old classmates but I did make new friends.

You may be able to see a pattern here. I was, and still am to a point, a very passive person. I chose to let things happen and not to make them happen. I like to work alone or as alone as possible. I enjoy a challenge and I like to learn new skills and new ways to apply my knowledge. I am still an avid gamer, reader and watcher of TV.

Next up I will talk about what happened in my post-school days. It is a significantly shorter story but may provide the back-light to my current state.