Humanity and Me

This world is not my world.

It probably sounds like a really stupid statement to make - and it is. I'm not going to pretend that it isn't. Every pretentious, jumped-up teenager who can't figure out a way to deal with their emotional problems says that, and if anything I'm at an age where I should be moving on from that and taking my place amongst the legions of the normal.

That doesn't stop me from feeling that way.

Ever since I was old enough to interact with society, I've had problems doing so. I'm an introvert; interacting with all but a few people drains me of energy. I'm shy; I have problems approaching others. I'm different, and not in the good way - not in the way of that one eccentric person with rainbow hair and a monocle who makes people have epiphanies just by talking to them.

I'm different in the way of that one weird kid at school whom everyone picked on. I'm not really some special-wecial snowflake, just a bit of a freak.

And apart from anything else, it hurts.

These days, I don't take much pride in not being like any of the others: it's much too isolating, and much too confusing. To me, social interactions are highly unintuitive and fraught with peril - what if I say something wrong? What if people reject me? How come everyone else gets this, and I don't?

Everyone else feels the same way, I know. The only difference is I have such difficulty hiding it that it makes me anxious.

People also seem to be masters of psychology: they can read others very well. Not only do I have difficulty reading others' emotions, but I have difficulty understanding what people want me to do unless they tell me outright.

They expected me to understand, and I didn't, and everyone else did.

It makes me feel worse when I start thinking about physics, which is weird - after all, I love physics. It's my favourite subject and the thing that I want to do for the rest of my life.

But physics doesn't deal with living things - at least, not directly: it deals with applied mathematics, with stars unimaginable distances from us, with particles that behave like waves and with ideas that sound absurd and counterintuitive to pretty much everyone, even if they can think in maths as I (and many others, I'm not special) can.

Biology, psychology and neurology, on the other hand, do deal with living things: they deal with the workings of the mind, the body, the consciousness, the cells, the interactions within and between species - most of what is actually relevant to us as human beings.

I'm also very, very bad at them. I don't find them nearly as intuitive as physics or mathematics.

Knowing how bad I am at dealing with other living things, that worries me: what if I was drawn to the study of how objects work because I understand them more than I do people? What if I'm so bad at dealing with humanity I have no option but to retreat into a world of waves and particles? I don't want to imply that all physicists are like this, as it certainly won't help our image - but I certainly have to wonder whether I'm like that.

I like to think of the world in terms of processes: it's how I can understand the chaos and complexity of turbulence when other people wonder how waving your arm in the air can lead to the Navier-Stokes existence and smoothness problem, which to this day remains unsolved. (The answer to why it's an unsolved problem, if anyone's interested, is that for most situations the equations result in partial differential equations that are too hard to solve.) It also leads to me being very detached from the world, to me viewing myself as a self-aware machine.

The thing is, machines don't have emotions. I do.

I'm not going to rant to you about how emotions are worthless and stupid, because irrational as they may be,  as a consequence of my health problems I've gone for relatively long periods of time feeling absolutely no emotion at all - not even sadness, which is generally my default state. All hail chronic depression!

Right...Going back to talking about feeling emotionless, it's not as great as it sounds. It feels very weird, almost fearful. You feel empty without emotion - and for some reason you still feel like crap. Being emotionless actually made me prefer being miserable, because when you're miserable you actually feel something some of the time.

Even so, misery's not an ideal emotion - mostly because it feels terrible. And for me, it's sometimes made worse by my thinking of myself as a machine, because machines don't feel things.

Essentially, I have problems interacting with humanity so I think of myself as an android and retreat into a world of cold mathematics, yet I still get to feel horrible about it.

Brilliant, isn't it?