I quit my dead-end life of alcoholic despair to do whatever it is I’m doing now. My life was spiraling downward. Each miserable experience was followed by another one. I would get used to some new low – squatting in an empty apartment, overstaying my welcome on couches, living in a shelter. Living in the shelter was as bad as it got except for the few times when my drinking caused me to be stuck outside all night. It’s scary to think of the situations that we can accept, get used to, and even come to expect. I was headed for an early grave and I couldn’t even have told you why.
So, I gave up. For the first time in my life, I made the choice to live instead of die. Fast forward five years and I’m in a Ph.D. physics program at UVM. My first semester is just about over, finals are next week. I have nothing to worry about, but I will. I act cool now and say things like, “I don’t need to study for exams” – that’s bullshit. Even I have to study. Still, even if I do really poorly on finals my grades are such that I can pass easily. Somehow I don’t feel smart or act with the same confidence, however misguided, as my peers. Can I even call the other grad students my peers? They are all doing stuff, and I am just trying not to sink, trying not to seem like an idiot.
I have to give a quick six-minute presentation tomorrow morning in front of my Computational Physics class. I know the material, it’s my project that I’ve spent weeks on, but I have no idea how to prepare. This is one of those self-fulfilling prophecy situations. I’m scared that I’ll do poorly so I avoid rehearsing which in turn leads to me doing poorly. See, it came true! That’s how I psych myself out – every time. Like yesterday when I lost my earphones case on the bus. I had opportunities to go back on the bus and look for it but I just froze and wasn’t able to act on it. Now I have to spend another $100 to get new ones! What the hell was I so scared of? “Excuse me, Mr. Bus Driver, can I check where I was sitting to see if my headphone case is there?” That was all I had to say, but I couldn’t do it.
I have been experiencing deja vu this week. I forget about it as soon as it passes, the same way that a dream leaves no trace in memory. Is that peculiar to me? For a long time, I have wondered about my lack of precise memories from my life. In books and movies and talking with people, I get the impression that most people have a whole rich set of memories like a mental photo album they can access. I suppose I should just add this to the list of things that are wrong with me. That’s on top of the online tests I took the other day that clearly indicated that I’m “on the spectrum” for autism. I have always avoided having this conversation with myself, but it’s hard to deny that I’m just not right. The big thing is that I have no connection to other people. Feelings and emotions I get from music and tv, not from people.
This was a spontaneous post and that’s all I have for now. There is so much swirling around inside my head but it rarely makes sense. I have had a lot of time for introspection and self-study over the last six months and it is like I live in a bubble and try to avoid coming into contact with any other bubbles. With Christmas bearing down on me, I am already mentally preparing for dealing with people. To be fair to me, I have a list and I am buying gifts for my siblings and my niece and nephew. I will even send gifts to two “friends” from Massachusetts. There’s a part of me that knows that’s what a good person does so I want to be perceived of as a good person. Even if I’m not convinced myself.