The Strangeness of Being a Stranger

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The life of an introvert is an experience as common as it is terribly misunderstood. We're only part of what people think we are. The rest of the story is much, much, stranger.

It might seem odd to be talking about this here but, after some time of careful thought, I decided that these are things that, if shared with others, might have some educational or otherwise interesting value. The truth is, I like people. Placed there in the form of a confession, it’s a very bizarre statement, admittedly. You might be thinking,               “And?” or “So you like people. What does that matter? Why even mention it?”

              However, I feel this is something that must be placed here at the outset due to the nature of the way human beings tend to form impressions of others. It’s something that I’d like to be kept in mind while reading the following.

            To further elaborate, I really do like people... even though I spend very little time interacting with them. This is nothing unusual either. It’s been this way since I was very young. Like most introverts, my life has usually been very strange and lonely quite simply because to most people, I do come off as very strange (and probably quite lonely).

              Being pretty much the only white kid in a nearly, all-black neighborhood and the only white kid in a series of nearly all-black schools during the 90’s, I might just as well have been some kind of hostile, alien species. That’s essentially how I was treated – as an invader.

In this terribly bizarre, reversed, situation, I did not necessarily come to empathize with those kicking me repeatedly in the face and ribs while their friends stood watching nearby and cheered. Most of the time, I’d just lay there, with my face bleeding, wondering why, until I was no longer permitted to lie there. I’d wash my face, go home, and quietly disappear into my room. I did this for a number of reasons I won’t go into in this public place. But I will say this much: every time I returned to that room and spent the rest of that day there until it was time to sleep, I felt some part of myself quietly fade away. As the years passed, there was less and less of me. And so, eventually, I had nothing to offer anyone else either.

              It’s a very strange, disembodied feeling, to disappear while remaining corporeal. Others tell you they can still see you but really, they don’t – at least not the way you don’t “see” yourself, either. In that state of half-existence, you are just as much a stranger in your own skin as you are to those around you. Particularly so when it is painful alienation that is the main cause of this process of slow-creeping estrangement.

              Unmoored from what most think of as normalcy, you do lose some perspective, albeit not because you don’t want it but because there’s no one around to offer it. In my case, as I drifted through life in that state of invisibility, what few connections I did manage to make were largely incidental and rarely long-lasting. As one might imagine, such an existence eventually turns you into one who writes – even if it’s for no other reason than to remain in touch with the voice inside you before that too, fades away. On that note, when the only voice you have left – the one that speaks from within – goes silent, that’s when a lot of people tend to commit suicide. I didn’t and I’m not going to (just to diffuse any alarm bells that might be going off). This isn’t a suicide note but an observation of some things I don’t really get to speak about very often.

               I think it’s interesting because most of the people I know who have been where I’ve been tend not to speak openly of that strange state of always feeling at least, somewhat alienated from others. Of course, I understand only too well why. It’s because most people have already assumed that we are alone because we want to be, because we think we’re better or because there’s something inherently wrong with us (all things that are as untrue as they are, ironically, alienating).

                The truth is far more banal than most think though admittedly, it can also be downright odd. It’s as strange to feel disconnected from most people on the most fundamental level as it is to be one in the company of such a being. Life really IS strange when you’re a stranger. For most people, it’s difficult and frightening to think about how most would react upon seeing the “real” person that lurks within them. But when everything you are is already very difficult to see, the concept of “realness” is somewhat redundant.

                 We introverts cannot be what we aren’t because most of us have already spent our entire lives hiding. It’s not because we hate you but very simply, because we fear you. We’re terrified to ask you to like us or even to do us a simple favor. We’ve been told that you exist in a world where we are not welcome. Not necessarily by you but by those in our past or those who were responsible for fostering the barest sense of self-worth in us. Those things have made us afraid. And there’s a word for that kind of fear. By now, you probably know what it is.

 

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