Monday, 25 January 2016

Monday's Are For Moaning - The new job project: or the harsh realities of being a wallflower

I don't know what's happened to me this week but I don't really have anything to moan about. I know you normally can't stop me ranting but I think I'm at one with the world for a change. I've just had a lovely day with a friend of mine so am feeling pretty happy. Until I check my bank balance, of course, but that's just the standard end of the month feeling. I'm even over halfway through a book I only started 3 days ago. 2016 really could be my year. The Rosie Project is a great and lovely read. It's not exactly mind-blowing but the inevitable love story is so fucking adorable you can't help but get involved. Still, I can't help but feel a little bit weird about the portrayal of the narrator, Don Tillman. Don is a genetics professor at a prestigious university and is, though it's unknown to him, on the autism spectrum. Admittedly, I don't know a great deal about austism personally but, as my mother's a teacher, I have a vague knowledge about it. It feels to me as though the representation of Don's condition.
I realise that many autistic people have no difficulty functioning on a daily basis so I don't have a problem with the way Don's life plays out. My problem is that it's part of growing trend that romanticises social outsiders as quirky. Thanks to YA fiction, people like Zoe Deschanel and programmes like Sherlock, Dr Who and The Big Bang Theory socially awkward people are considered to be refreshing and desirable romantic partners. I'm not saying that they aren't but there can be no denial that social anxiety is romanticised in it's representations. All it takes is one person to drag them out of their comfort zone and everything is sorted. People want to be that person: they want to have the power to be able to show a socially awkward human being how to live a 'normal' life. Just look at the sheer number of Tumblr users who want to be the person that shows Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes how to love another. He's not a grumpy, egotistical sociopath who doesn't give a shit about other people. He's just not met the right person yet.

As someone who does suffer from a certain amount of social anxiety I can't help but feel let down by the way it is portrayed in popular culture. In the fictional world you have awful YA romances, like Eleanor and Park, telling teenagers that it's a condition someone is bound to find adorable when, in fact, making a connection with the opposite sex is one of the most difficult fucking things in the world. Rainbow Rowell loves allowing the socially awkward girl at the heart of her narrative to find love even though she supposedly hates interacting with other people. Fangirl sounded like a replay of my time at university but with added fanfiction. Although, Cath meets a boy on her first day and he falls in love with her shy, awkward demeanour despite the fact she's a complete bitch to him. In the real world, guys don't approach the quiet girl in the corner of a party.

I'm not trying to suggest that I'm not able to function in the real world and have, thanks to my job, had to face up to my awkwardness. I know there are plenty of people out there who have debilitating socially anxiety that really forces them to cut all ties with other people. I have plenty of friends who I love and spend as much time with as possible. However, I'm always surprised when people want to be my friend. I genuinely can't understand why they would. I like the people I know to the extent that I get a little obsessed with them but when it comes to basic social interaction I'm always clueless. Having a simple conversation with someone I really like is still one of the most terrifying things I experience. As if at any minute they'll find out just how ridiculous or worthless I am.

As such, I love my friends but I still find it hard being around them for too long. This sounds super bitchy but I like being alone. I've always preferred to be alone and would rather stay in reading or playing video games than attending parties. It's not laziness on my part because I also feel guilty about not living my life to the full. It's simply because I don't do well in those situations. Even with people I've known for years. Even with members of my own family. I should be able to spend time with my sisters but I'm still so fucking awkward around them it just makes me uncomfortable. I'd rather avoid contact with them than sit in silence worrying about what to say.

I struggle when meeting new people and have no idea how to make small talk. I'm incredibly neurotic and find myself obsessing over little details til I drive myself crazy. This week I had a job interview for a position that I really want. All the way there I had to push myself into not backing out. I hate having to put myself in that situation but I'm desperate to find a suitable new job. Needless to say I've been obsessing about everything I said or didn't say: everything I did or didn't do. Little things like not being able to look at people in the eye means that my gaze tends to wander. It focuses on other things and, in this case, I was caught looking at my watch a few times. I obviously wasn't looking at the time but it would definitely have seemed as though I was just counting down the seconds til I could leave.

In situations when I have to speak in public I have to push myself to do it. I'm more confident that I once was, certainly, but I still find it difficult when the stakes are so high. When I'm asked random questions about my future I forget all the notes and preparation I've done. As such, I repeat myself and ramble until I just fall silent in the middle of a sentence. I hate the fact that I do it and I have enough knowledge about human behaviour to know why I do it, That doesn't mean that I can stop it. I'm always being told to just "man up" and "get over it". That's how the condition is being portrayed: as something that can be overcome with a simple talking to. The reality is a horrible and difficult struggle that is anything but romantic.

The more I think about the interview the more it upsets me and I've slowly lost all hope of getting the job. The reality is, I'm too much of a coward to push myself into pursuing a proper career. Looking at New Girl, a show that thrives on it's socially awkward female lead, you don't see the self-interaction I spend hating myself for fearing social interaction. That self-hatred breeds more feelings of inadequacy which makes it even harder to pursue social interactions. The time I don't spend fearing social interactions the less likely I am to put myself into that position. I'd like to see Rainbow Rowell give me a happy ending.

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