PAULthinksmusings by a feminist
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These are words about living.

Looking Back at LIFE
They’re words about how I keep going, why I keep going, and where I want to go. It’s important you know those things from the start, because otherwise you might think this is a sad essay and that’s not my goal.

Not that anything horrible has happened to me. I’m not sick, nor injured, nor homeless, nor jobless. I seem to have all my faculties and, aside from some that have diminished due to the passage of time, all my abilities. Plus a great dog! I’ve a very fortunate life and I already fear I’m whining here, considering all that I have. Really, I’ve only lost one thing and it’s not even a measurable thing at that. The only thing I’m missing is hope.

I’ve been alone most of my life. My earliest memory is of being about eight years old and alone in the dark outdoors of a snowy suburban Christmas Eve. I had parents and a sister, but none of them were around and, for all I know, they had no idea where I was. The details of that story are for another time, but even then I felt loneliness. Yet, I had hope that someday I’d grow up and people would like me and someone special would really like me and then I wouldn’t be alone.

Through grade school and secondary school, I kept thinking that when I grew up I’d finally stop being alone. I started off dumb and a bully, I grew a bit cleverer and into a class clown, and finally I became the inevitable nerd I had to be. And I was always alone. I had some friends here and there. I think I made some lasting ones in high-school. But I longed for sex, love, and companionship. I never got it, but I kept hope. A little less, but I held on.

In college, I found a first kiss, but from the same woman who gave me my first humiliating rejection. And that hope I had–well, it kept slipping through my grasp. But we must be born with tons of the stuff, because it wasn’t gone yet.

After university, I found the rest of my firsts, but more rejections. And work. And more rejections. And then dancing! And so, so, so many more rejections. And then… I found love. And I was happy!

But that loving relationship wasn’t forever and it ended. And then I found another! And after that ended, another. And then one more. And then no more.

Each time I’d found love, I think I became a better person. I had new experiences, I grew more mature and capable, and I learned about all sort of things. I learned about how to be a better boyfriend. And a better date, too. But each time I lost a relationship, I lost some hope along with it.

Not actually me, but close.

And I got old. Too old.

Which brings us to last year. I covered myself in the last of the hope I had remaining (like it was armor), and I tried harder than ever to connect with women. I tried all winter, spring, and summer. By the end of summer, in frustration and desperation, I tried hitting on women in a variety of ways. Not every woman, but women I got to know a bit first, women I found interesting and enjoyable company, in addition to being pretty. I tried flirting and romance, I tried casual approaches, I tried direct sexual invitation, and I failed a lot. And I hurt at least one person along the way.

Eventually, I took stock and realized I didn’t have any hope left. I don’t deserve any sympathy, because there’s nothing noble about my inability to find someone to date. I’m a jackass who’s only attracted to gorgeous, intelligent, feminist, geeky women. Poor me <- sarcasm. I’ve even tried pursuing women just because I knew they were wonderful people, though I felt little attraction to them, and that just hurt everyone’s feelings and made me hate myself.

So, sometime last fall, I gave up. I decided my time for love, sex, and happiness was over. I’ve loved and lost and I’ve been luckier than most. But at that point, I realized that pursuing the women I find attractive now just annoys them (or worse) and that none of those women will ever be attracted to me. I decided never to pursue a woman again. (I still flirt sometimes, and I foolishly admitted a crush just recently that was not reciprocated, but I’m really trying to keep my desires to myself and not hurt anyone else with them.)

And suddenly, I had no idea why I should go on. Now, I’m not going to end my life–I think that’s a Bad Thing and hurts people around the one who does it. But I stopped watching what I ate, I stopped cleaning my home, I stopped socializing, I stopped doing things. Because I realized that just about everything I used to do in my adult life was motivated by the goal of getting together with a woman.

Buffy touched the fire first.

I became useless. Unproductive. Everything I did was just going through the motions. To paraphrase Joss Whedon, I touched the fire and it would just freeze me. What the hell is the point of life, I wondered, if I’m not trying to get together with a woman in some way?

Then December came and I feared that I would let down my friends at Christmas. So I tried extra hard to make the holiday bright for the people who had been good to me. I even showed Christmas movies at a bar! And as I tried so hard to help other people feel happy, I felt… Well, not happy. I stayed miserable and lonely, but I felt some meaning return to my life. If I couldn’t find happiness, at least I could help others feel it!

The year changed, and I kept on trying to help others. And it’s good! It’s not the same as being happy myself; it’s as similar as a photograph is to its subject. Sometimes it hurts more than doing nothing, actually. Every time I can make a positive impact on someone’s life, I get to feel simultaneously accomplished and tortured, being so close to happiness without having my own. And if I’m helping a woman I find attractive? It’s like stabbing myself in the face. But, you know, in an uplifting way!

Also, I’m no endless font of energy. I’m one of those introverts who recharges from being alone, and helping other people usually means I have to be around other people. It is exhausting. I have to run away and recover pretty often to keep going.

But I do keep going. I choose to, every day, and it’s an absurdly tiny accomplishment, but it’s mine. I overcome the laughable adversity of having a great life wherein the only downside is loneliness, by trying to help people around me to be a little bit happier. I’ve often wished I could play Santa Claus all year long and this is kind of like that. I want to be that.

Today, if it’s a a bad day, I’ll hide at home and recharge. If it’s a good day, I’ll try to help people. I keep an eye out for opportunities that won’t hurt me too much, and I’m slowly increasing my tolerance for interacting with other people so I can do more. At the end of the day, I’ll go to bed. And tomorrow, I’ll wake up and do it again.

On purpose.

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About Paul Roth

A vegetarian, agnostic, lindy-hopping, dog-loving tv-watcher who likes to read his own words.
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2 Responses to On Purpose

  1. Cari says:

    I am both happy and sad for you, as I read your post. I am sad that you have not yet found the companionship you have so clearly wanted; you might not have the hope right now, but I will keep hoping for you.

    At the same time, I am happy that you have found another area in your life for personal fulfillment, no matter how exhausting it can be (and as a closet introvert, I really understand). I hope that you one through the other side finding more happiness (and less sadness) than you ever could have expected.

    I consider you a friend, and you help ease the loneliness that I have felt in the past, too – not because I was actually alone, but because I don’t always feel connected. If you ever need someone to lean on – well, I’m far away, but I’m happy to listen.

    Ps – I was personally impressed by your direct and bold approach at ILHC; I think such bravery is commendable, and while I did not take you up on your offer (at the very least, I am on a manbatical, and will continue to be on one until I can learn to have an adult relationship), I will always hold it as a standard for a good man.

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