Received an email today. Partial quote:
I… was struck by the similarity in our situations. I am myself a literal genius, I’ve enjoyed uninhibited academic success my entire life, yet I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a real friend. Though I’m in my early twenties now, I can remember contemplating suicide since I was 10 years old. I had a pretty fucked up family life when I was a kid, to the point where I have very loose (if any) family ties now, but I really try to not use that as an excuse. I’m not sure why I’m emailing you, maybe I’m just reaching out to someone who I think could understand, maybe misery loves company, or maybe I’m just a lonely pathetic loser… Either way man, you’re not alone
In many ways very similar, and in many ways very different. And he’s right and he’s wrong. I’m not alone. He’s not alone. And yet….
And yet… the email. Voices across the void, touching the untouchable.
I myself had a very happy childhood. I read a quote the other day — something to the effect of “a happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for the world.” Not sure if that’s true, but when tragedy struck I sure as hell wasn’t ready for it, and it struck in such a way that I couldn’t possibly turn to my family. The nature of the incident, and the nature of the culture in which we live, conspired to shut me off from any possible contact — to envelop me in amber. I see the world around me, but it’s a distant thing. I can never really touch it. sometimes i look at my own hands doing something and it’s like… I’m controlling them, but they’re not me. How can that possibly be Fred? Didn’t he die years ago?
A few years back, at a Christmas party, somebody took a snapshot of me that unintentionally, yet absolutely perfectly, captured my life in the past decade or so. The picture has two distinct halves, the demarcation being the start of a wall. On the right side is my brother, drink in one hand and cigar in the other, laughing with a small group of people around him. They’re in the thick of conversation, and enjoying themselves and each other’s company. Behind them we see farther into the room, and there is the party and more people, and decorations, and… life.
Straight down the middle of the photo is a line — the beginning of the unadorned, plain white wall that is the backdrop for the left half of the image. That half of the image contains a single thing: me leaning back against a table. My arms are crossed, and I am turning my head and looking across the room at my brother. I’m present, but I’m not any part of what’s going on around me.
Shit. Stop right there. I should delte this whole damned thing and put up that photo. Nothing more to say.
To my correspondent:
Hang in there. I can’t promise it get easier. These days I find comfort in my own kindness to others. Sometimes it’s enough. (And sometimes it feels like a suckers’ game.)
I’m not sure why I’m emailing you, maybe I’m just reaching out to someone who I think could understand, maybe misery loves company, or maybe I’m just a lonely pathetic loser….
Seems self-hatred is a notable commonality between us. “Maybe I’m just a… pathetic loser.” “Maybe I’m just an asshole.”
Long before The Incident, I had sort of an internal running joke that I suffered from a peculiar form of low self-esteem: I like me well enough, I just don’t believe anybody else does. Maybe it’s the things that happen to us, and maybe we’re just predisposed. Maybe some part of us feels a small bit of contempt for “normal” people, and assumes they must feel the same. Maybe we wish we were “normal” people…. (Ignorance is bliss? No… THAT’S the sucker’s game.)