punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Approval against the pack

There's a guy I used to work with named Keith R.

Keith was a nice person, but he had issues. Keith was a rather strong voice where others didn't always want to hear. It was usually about harmless stuff, like Star Trek, Babylon 5, and how much he loved Macintosh computers, often at a loud volume a few decibels above polite. Keith did good project work, but he was very awkward, and never really fit in. Now, personally, I kind of liked him. I saw his "flaws" more as "quirks" and they didn't bother me. No one is perfect, and whereas some people would gleefully talk badly about him behind his back, I didn't participate in such discussions because I thought they were unfair, catty, and I don't care for gossip very much as it is. But some people just had issues with Keith's very existence. A subliminal, "Keith ... you are not wanted" was chanted in people's subconscious, and I began to grow angry, because no one had a good reason to outright HATE Keith, but they did. It was spooky, like something from "The Village of the Damned." And Keith, somewhere deep inside, KNEW this rejection was going on. And the more it happened, the more wild and unpredictable he got. One day, during a smoking break, we went outside and he nearly cried that he didn't know why people hated him. Then he tried to say, "Screw them!" That didn't work for more than a few seconds, and then he started going off on how his older brother (who also worked with us, and whom Keith lived with) was treating him, and he felt like he didn't have a friend in the world. I couldn't say, "I have no idea why people hate you, maybe it's the Star Trek, who knows??" so I said, "Well, I like you. You're great with Macs, and that's rare in this office." That didn't comfort Keith, because he was intelligent, and knew I was holding something back. Keith's behavior began to spiral out of control, because he felt cut off and insecure in his environment. Later, he was laid off. I hope he's okay, wherever he is.

I have seen this before. I was a victim of it growing up (along with countless other school kids in the universe), and I have been at the receiving end from time to time since then, but it's been lot less common for me among adults. But I still see it in fandom. And online. And at work, which is the worst of all, IMHO. I have seen some awkward moments when a person enter a room, and everyone goes quiet, even though we weren't talking about the person who just entered. It's like a collective, "Oh, s/he's here now..." This pisses me off, because I want to say, "What are we, a clique? Come on, we're all weird and misfit in SOME way, don't hate this guy because he's socially awkward! He's got a heart of gold, and with some coaching, he could be less annoying." But they don't care. It's easier to hate, especially in groups.

Who knows how it starts. Maybe one guy with an agenda against you turns others against you. Maybe something you said in a meeting was taken wrong. Maybe you were in favor for a while, people got jealous, and thus became eager to "put you in your place." That last one I have seen in fandom a LOT. People love to make you the top dog almost as much as they'll love to tear you down. It's like you're perfect until you're caught picking your nose and then you're a "shattered illusion which must be exposed!" People say, "Well, no one's perfect," but people usually don't actually take this to heart. I have always felt that some people hated because they felt it defined them; like what tribe they were from: us or [shudder] ...them!

There are some of you out there, and most of you already know it. Whether it's at work, or some IRC channel, a web board, an e-mail list, or even among your own relatives. You know ... something's wrong. And in your subconscious throes to gain approval, you end up looking more desperate, and driving them even further away. And no one wants to help. You feel cut off. And alone.

Screw them. They suck. They are cowards. And there is nothing you can do but find better friends, because you can't change them and they aren't really worth the trouble. As long as you are kind, try and help others, and know in your heart you are a good person, you are on the right path. Leave them. Don't even tell them, because they won't care and will probably be glad when you are gone. If you make a scene, they will further humiliate you. I have NEVER seen someone make a dramatic exit that made impressed anyone, EVEN if you are totally, 100% right! (exception: movies). I know. I have been there, after the angry employee left and said, "You are all sheep, I tell you, SHEEP!" No one went, "Wow, he's right, we ARE sheep! Oh my God!" They just made some half-witted comments and snickers, and at least a whistle and "What's with THAT guy?" It will be hard to do; it will be hard to quietly exit. You want to hurt them back. You may not even be sure that people really WERE against you, but if you feel that way, there's a reason. Even if it's all in your head, it won't end good anyway, you'll second guess every motive, and life's too short to play mind games anyway.

Someone once told me, "Nothing in life prevents you from getting up and leaving for good but your own mind." That's why I don't understand murder. I mean, what a losing deal. Even if your beloved sleeps with your best friend, and takes all your money, leaving you penniless and poor, don't fall for the self-pitying lie, "I have nothing to live for," and then go murdering people. The only "justifiable cause" I have ever seen for murder is if you are in a fight where one has to die for the other to live, like a gunfight or struggling to disarm someone who attacked your family with a knife. So when yo have been cheated, and lost it all... just get up from the table, thank everyone for a nice time, and walk the hell away. Walk until you feel like stopping. Then start over. Life always gives you another chance.

Humans are social animals. We need approval. And that's never been guaranteed. But take it from me, there are people out there for you. You can only change yourself, you can't change others. And if you can't convince them you are worth their time, don't waste time of either side. Keep walking.

Keep walking, because if anything, the scenery is pretty cool, and will keep you company on your journey.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000181.html
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