My social life has always been unique. Before I started becoming self-conscious, 90%+ of my social engagement revolved around listening and paying close attention.
Here are a few things I didn't know yet:
- "Quiet people are boring."
- "Shy people lack courage."
- "Girls like funny guys."
As I learned these things, I started endeavoring to become more likable, more respectable.
- Boring people get left behind.
- Cowards don't deserve attention.
- Humorless guys end up alone.
If I deserved no attention, how would I ever find love?
To remedy my disease, I started speaking up. The results were devastating. The tire tracks in my brain didn't disappear. I heard what I thought people wanted from me, I tried to give them what they asked, but I always screwed it up anyways.
"Hey guys, wanna know something interesting?"
I would dive headfirst into the dark ocean of social conversation, share some random, profoundly abstract theory I'd been contemplating for months, and feel like I had belly-flopped.
Or I would discourse material from one of my science encyclopedias, "Hey, did you know that the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on the planet?"
You might read the things above and think, "Forrest, that's not so bad," but let me crystallize a bit.
Picture me inserting these random, irrelevant-to-the-conversation factoids in the midst of a group of cute girls who were midway through discussing an upcoming school dance.
Imagine me throwing comments into conversations with a not-so-photogenic smile on my face, inwardly trying to tell myself, "Forrest, you are so impressive, you know so much!" but in reality, my mind is saying, "Oh my god, did I just say that? They don't care about that!"
Of course I was oblivious to the shame at first, but eventually, I learned.
Only months after puberty hit, I had matured into understanding the reality: that I was a nerd, that I was mentally unattractive, and that I needed to either hide in a shell or start working on a new persona. Otherwise, I was never going to have any friends.
Unconsciously, I desired people who accepted me as I was. I wanted people to be drawn to my strangeness, to find me curiously alluring.
I wanted a woman who would get hot when I quoted something I'd memorized, mentally calculated mathematics, or shared how the taste of the food integrates with a larger picture of the universe, love, and supernatural mystery.
Writing from and for self-acceptance.
So what does an INTP, Enneagram Five 5 do, in the millennial age? How do we find our soulmates, the ones who "get us"? How do we rediscover the creative integrity of saying what we honestly think, and rekindle the opportunity for authentic connection or fulfilling friendship?
For me, it began with self-acceptance. But as with anything human, that is a lifelong process. My process? Writing. It's what I've chosen for the present season.
Write, write, write.
Share yourself. Open up. Let yourself be free again.
Bounce your ideas off of others (not for their opinion, just to do it). Explore the forgotten realm of your inner kid. Release the fun, quiet child that who is begging to come out. He's still in there, he's still alive, though you've nearly starved him to death.
Think and feel deeply, the way you used to.
Let loose your silence. Unshackle your stillness. Break every chain of presentable performance, conforming conversation, and mockworthy mannerisms.
Be bold by being you, not by being bold.
Be intolerably irrelevant. Allow your unbearable awkwardness to pepper the mundane monotonies of conventional, domestic, and ordinary.
Denying your self is its own punishment; loving yourself is its own reward. It's not for other's sake; it's for yours.
I am witnessing something magical happening, as I begin to restore the harmony of my inner and outer worlds. When I love my self, when I value my self, when I connect with my person and silence the opinions of others, I enjoy showing up even when no one else does.
Not my wife, not even my best friends. I enjoy showing up, period.
The magical world of self-safety.
I'm safe with me. I'm "OK" with Forrest. I love me. It's what I was looking for all along, wasn't it?
Yeah but how is that going work out in the long run, Forrest?
Truthfully, I don't know. I'm not sure. I'm just right here. I'm still right smack-dab in the middle of this process. I'm a couple pages in to Chapter One. Keep reading, if you'd like.
The book holds a lot of promise, and I evangelize my ideas without knowing if they will work out. Because that's how I am, that's what I do. And I like it!
More importantly: my journey is my destination. Today counts forever.
I'm exposing my vulnerable reality without an expectation of someone saying, "Wow that's sexy Forrest, will you please double numbers out loud again? Remember, no calculators allowed."
("Ok! 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768, 65536, 131072, 262144, ahhhhh, I'm stuck! But that was so much fun! And hot damn, I am strikingly intelligent.")
Quick shout out to my wife, Julianne, who literally has played out the game mentioned above a handful of times with me. You are pure starlight, Love.
A few more exhortations for us INTP, Five Enneagrams, to close:
Stop smiling so much when you don't feel like it. Laugh the way you love to laugh. Don't tell people they are awesome when you don't think it. Eliminate control, follow freedom.
Tell yourself, "Happiness does not exist apart from honesty."