Life acquisition failure

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Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:03 pm

I have a lot in common with a couple of recent letter writers from NerdLove prime - specifically Lost and Lonely from "What can you do if you're forever alone", and Blue (almost) Alien from "How do I get a life". I don't really know what I want out of this (and I'm bad at expressing myself, even understanding myself), but I want to say something, so I guess I'll just brain-dump.

A little bit of background : I came to the site ages ago, basically out of sexual frustration - I felt physical desire, but had absolutely no idea how to ask someone out, or what to say on a date. My main problems being that I'm not good at connecting to people, and that my life is frankly unimpressive. At some point I took on the idea of using dating as a compass/measuring stick for self improvement - if I can connect with people and have an interesting life to the point where I can have an enjoyable date, that's the goal. I'm mid-thirties now, like Lost and Lonely, and still no further forward. When I try to think of things I could do to make myself more interesting, I cast my mind back looking for things I can build on and come up with nothing. In the past, I rock-climbed a fair bit and enjoyed it a lot, especially when I climbed with a friend who's since moved away, but I was never good enough at it to make it part of my identity, and I've since lost momentum and gone back to square one. Similarly with running. As far as I can tell, my identity is failure. Most of my interaction with people outside work is currently playing board games and rpgs with a small friend circle - I had some vague pipedreams about running games, then writing adventures, then springboarding to other creative pursuits, but so far my experience running games has been a lot of effort for fairly disappointing results. When I try to do something completely new, it often feels forced and artificial - for example, I took dance classes for a few months (mainly hoping to meet girls), and every class was an exercise in frustration - if I wasn't forgetting steps, I was missing the beat, or failing to flow, or otherwise failing at the basics of something most people do for fun.

So...yeah, that's me. Does anyone else have similar experiences.

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Hielario on Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:17 am

Yeah, I feel similarly. Trying to have hobbies has never worked well for me. I was the only person at the tennis classes and then I had to leave them beacuse of money troubles. Every place near me that did dance classes closed mysteriously two years ago. And there's no karate classes on summers. My nearest MtG place seems to have only noisy teenagers, it turns out the cards I bought a couple years ago are no longer valid for the Standard format so I can't go to the casual friday events at the other store (what the fuck, WotC?), I don't know how to find other players, and I'm too green for the tournaments.

Speaking of which, how does one find RPG players? I want to try that, but I do not know how to find people (i 've found a couple of ads, but one had too many people signed already and the other one is by people who are both too older and too hardcore about it).
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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Enail on Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:36 pm

I've had that experience with dance, I just don't have the ability to pick up that way of moving fast enough to keep up with even a total beginner class, so it turns out frustrating and makes me feel bad. I did find https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contra_dance was simple and beginner-friendly enough for me to enjoy with just a newbie welcome lesson before the dance itself, so if you're keen on dancing, that might be one to try. I mostly just decided that dance wasn't the thing for me.

From what you say, MisterDweeb, it sounds like an obvious place to expand your circle and activities might be to play board games and rpgs with strangers, but without the pressure of running them yourself.

Hielario, this FAQ has a number of suggestions on how to find other players.
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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:16 pm

Hielario, for me it was a board game/war game group that met in a community hall that I found from an advert in my local game store and happened to have a newbie-friendly rpg table, and I also had a bit of previous experience from playing forum/chat rpgs on sorcerer's place: https://sorcerers.net/community/forums/role-play-corner.20/

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:39 am

Sorry for the delay in replying enail, I struggle to compose posts about myself, even on this low level. I do go to board game meetups, but don't generally see an opportunity to talk on a level above "aha, I see what you did there. That was a cunning move".

The initial post came from a place of having followed the prime site and being very aware that I don't pass the Grimes test (which is more interesting now that I know there's a succesful artist called Grimes dating the most impressive man currently living Smile), and don't see a clear way to do so.

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Enail on Sat Jul 21, 2018 12:35 pm

Do people in general not chat in between games or at the end or anything? If there really isn't any socializing happening beyond directly talking about the games, possibly a step more social a form of game would be better, like LARPing?
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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:55 pm

Either there isn't a lot of chat between games, or I don't notice it because I tend to focus a lot on the game. I did used to go to some programming meetups when people would generally go to a pub afterwards, and I'd generally hang about awkwardly thinking about how everyone else was much cleverer than me, finish my drink, then scarper.

I've got some friends who do Larp, and I might look into it. I'm a bit tentative, though - LARP seems like a lot of commitment, what with having to be away for a whole weekend and needing a costume - plus I did a little Larp as a student (vampire, so no costumes) and for me that was mainly an exercise in standing around awkwardly not knowing how to engage.

The original post came from a place of frustration - I'm always a bit behind on the things that I need to get up to Grimes' level (Grimes the monster, not Grimes the musician), like keeping myself in shape, keeping my house clean, doing well at my job and cooking from scratch and when I start to think along self improvement lines and turn to the prime site, the advice reads to me like I need to bring myself up on everything and commit a lot of money and thought to music and fashion and have a great focus to my life I could talk for hours about and spend lots of time in coffeeshops during the day and bars at night and ideally be self-employed and do all this twenty years ago when I'm young and brimming with energy and have an excuse to go into things as a beginner, and I feel somewhat overwhelmed. Sometimes I think I should spend five or ten years doing nothing that I enjoy and only doing things that will impress people, but then I'm aware of other people who accomplish more than me and do more enjoyable things along the lines of things I contemplated giving up (like seeing movies I want to see but haven't). I don't have particularly difficult circumstances - my circumstances are objectively soft, I have a 9-5 job with a short commute - it's just most other people are far better at being a human being than I am, and I feel the need to express my frustration over that.

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Enail on Sat Jul 21, 2018 10:56 pm

Don't confuse "every possible thing that might improve a person's appeal to others/the number of suitable potential dates they encounter/etc.," which is the scope of an advice column aiming to make multiple weekly articles for a wide range of people with different goals, needs, starting points, strengths etc. over a long period of time, with what you personally could or should do to help you move closer to your specific goals, let alone with what will be best for you to do at this specific point in time.

No one's ever going to be everything they wish they could be, or advertisements and self-help culture tell them they should be, and you've also got to actually live in the life you've actually got right now, not just try to change it. If it's getting overwhelming and discouraging, maybe it'd be good to pick a couple of things that you'd most like to be moving towards, and a few manageable specifics you could do in service of that, and then consciously decide to otherwise focus on looking after the life you've got and enjoying it? 

What you're saying about the hanging about awkwardly feeling intimidated and not knowing how to engage sounds like a big point where you're having trouble with "life acquisition" is figuring out how to actually start chatting with a person near you? Which is something I have trouble with too, standing around awkwardly is probably one of my greatest skills. Wink  For me, my ability to actually start conversations and connect with people depends a lot on the right situation - having an event or activity with the right balance of "chatty atmosphere" to "something to do or focus on other than just talking to strangers" - and people who are enough 'my type' that it comes more naturally to have things to say to them. Which means a lot of doing stuff that turns out not to work that well for me, and thus a lot of standing around awkwardly, to find the ones that do work better.  And also persistence in more of the stick-to-it sense, sometimes going to the same place and seeing the same people for long enough makes it easier to find people I can connect with and to actually get talking with them than it was the first few times I showed up.
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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:56 am

You're right that standing around awkwardly is a big part of my life. I run out of things to say very easily, and also struggle to maintain conversational flow - I often run things through in my head several times trying to work out if they'd be a good contribution to a conversation, by which time the conversation's moved on without me. I often feel like I'm less comfortable around people I've known for years than most people are with folks they've just met. Sometimes I think I need to have more going on in my life I can talk about or less that I am ashamed of (example - colleague: I retiled my bathroom last weekend, it was a lot of work and now it's absolutely beautiful Me: (Do I tell them about the shelf I've had for months and not put up because every time I run a stud-finder over the wall I get a different result?))

I see advice here and in other places that being a good conversationalist is a skill that can be developed independently of anything else. I've made some attempts to practice it (once I set myself a goal to have at least one five-minute conversation with colleagues without awkward pauses a day - it did not go well), and they generally feel forced, artificial and generally weird - especially given my advanced age.

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Enail on Sun Jul 22, 2018 12:34 pm

MisterDweeb wrote: Sometimes I think I need to have more going on in my life I can talk about or less that I am ashamed of (example - colleague: I retiled my bathroom last weekend, it was a lot of work and now it's absolutely beautiful Me: (Do I tell them about the shelf I've had for months and not put up because every time I run a stud-finder over the wall I get a different result?))

Well, yes, you can. If it were me, I'd probably say something lighthearted about how much trouble I have with home handy-stuff or how procrastinatory I am about it. But you've got to be careful about self-deprecating comments in small-talky conversation, because they can come out as being gloomy or overly hard on yourself or fishing for reassurance, especially if you tend to be down on yourself internally or the thing in question is something you feel bad about. But you don't have to be saying nothing but how awesome you and your life are, either. An option if you're not sure you can pull off self-deprecating without being a downer is to ask a question - "Wow, that's a lot to do in a weekend! Hey, you sound handy, do you know about stud-finders? [explain the problem you're having]"


I see advice here and in other places that being a good conversationalist is a skill that can be developed independently of anything else. I've made some attempts to practice it (once I set myself a goal to have at least one five-minute conversation with colleagues without awkward pauses a day - it did not go well), and they generally feel forced, artificial and generally weird - especially given my advanced age.

You're on the right track with practice, but I think "no awkward pauses" isn't a great goal, because it's putting the emphasis on the part that's not directly under your control, and it seems sort of like setting yourself a rule to not think about foxes, it makes your mind go straight to the thing you want to avoid, making it harder to achieve.  I'd go with things more like "have a short conversation" (where success is you engage with someone rather than that it isn't awkward), "recognize when it's a good time to exit the conversation, and do so in a friendly way" "ask a follow-up question," things like that.

A kind of weird practice thing that has helped me a lot with smalltalk was haircuts. When you're getting your hair cut, it's socially acceptable to chat with the hairdresser, but it's not mandatory, and since they're doing something else, it's not too awkward if there are pauses or the conversation trails off. And since you're probably not trying to make friends with your hairdresser or see them every day, it's not a high-stakes interaction; if you're polite and you tip appropriately, they're going to feel it was a good interaction. (Caveat, the "rules" might be different at barber-shop style places, so this might only work if you go to a mixed-gender hair cut place).

I do want to say, conversational skill isn't a single thing that everyone is always either bad at or good at in all situations. With people who are a little more my kind of people, or in situations when the conversation's going to be short or is free to stop and start while doing other things, I can chat pretty easily most of the time. But with people that I'm not a good fit with, or large groups of total strangers just standing around talking, I've probably improved a bit, but I'm still pretty awkward and struggle to keep a conversation going and not run out of things to say. So being bad at conversation in one situation doesn't mean you have no hope of connecting with different people in different situations. Practice, but also let yourself have the room to be awkward, that doesn't mean you won't be able to have good conversations too.
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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by MisterDweeb on Sat Aug 18, 2018 8:32 pm

I went for a run recently after failing to make time to run for a week or so, and I was astonished at how much more difficult it seemed than the last time. The experience really underlined how much easier it is to loose abilities than gain them and caused me to feel like much of my life has been wasted because I failed to keep things up and develop them to the point of being Things One Can Talk About At Parties.

(Corollary - not everything gets lost completely - I'm currently trying to learn French and Italian for a holiday I'm failing to organise, and I'm finding French, which I last spoke five years ago, easier than Italian, which I last spoke never)

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Re: Life acquisition failure

Post by Hielario on Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:25 am

Oh yeah that happens. Every time a skip gym for a week, everything becomes twice as heavy.
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