Title: The Musings of Cockatoo
From: North Park
Blogging since: January 2010
Post Title: Hell is Other People
Post Date: March 16, 2012
I have no job. I have no friends. I don’t talk to my siblings. My relationship with my parents consists of a weekly 20-minute phone call. I have an Ivy League education, but, at best, it’s useless because I actually learned very little while I was in college, having spent the whole time in an insomnia-induced stupor. At worst, it makes it so that I inevitably disenchant whenever I open my mouth and don’t sound like a genius.
This is all terrible, horrible, and no good. But the worst part, the truly unmentionable part that I’m gonna go ahead and mention anyway because it’s about time someone not officially crazy admitted to it, is that, actually, it’s not so bad. As a matter of fact, this is actually my ideal life, which is probably why I have it. I’m relatively intelligent and socially adept. It’s not for lack of ability that I have no professional or social life. It’s for lack of desire — lack of desire to in any way interact with other people.
For me, there are very few mundane activities more torturous than having to talk to another person. I have ridden my bike through the rain to avoid a one-on-one conversation during a car-ride home with a classmate. I have gone hungry to avoid chit-chat at the check-out of my corner store. I have lived on less than $13K a year for a decade to avoid the social demands of working.
Yes, I recognize how absurd this all is. Most people would choose a little socializing over exposure to the elements, hunger, and poverty any day. But I agree with Sartre. He said, “Hell is other people.” I have actually felt suicidal at the thought of having to deal with people for the rest of my life. As an atheist, death would be an escape from the only hell that exists for me.
But I can’t kill myself; then there would be no one to take proper care of my dear cat, Mickey Mouse, and the only thing I cherish more than solitude is my cat. Ironically, he is a very social cat who requires a great deal of attention.
Living a completely socially isolated, and, consequently, impoverished life (not only financially, but also intellectually and emotionally) is really only terrible from the outside; from the vantage point of the ordinary person, who does desire social contact and whom I sometimes forget I’m not. Because the truth is, I don’t desire social contact and I never have. All my life, all I’ve really wanted is to be alone. In my entire 30 years, there have been only two people whose company I consistently preferred to solitude.
Whenever I have acted socially, as if I might actually enjoy the company of others, it has been because I felt an immense, irresistible pressure to seem normal, and that’s what normal people do — they hang out together and have fun doing it. But being with others has rarely been fun for me. What it has been is either nerve-wracking or mind-numbingly boring. Usually, a combination of the two. The exceptions have usually been instances where I was in a social situation but was essentially alone because no demands were placed on me to actually interact with anyone.
So what does someone with this people-allergy do? Somebody once said, “You won’t make it if you can’t make it with people.” So how do you survive in a world where survival means doing the thing that you hate doing possibly more than anything else?
I’m guessing the first step is to stop feeling like such a freak about it. It’s not like human beings are really that likeable anyway — we kill each other, insult each other, betray, abandon, and deceive each other. And “the other” is more often than not a friend, someone we claim to care about, not some hated enemy. The way I see it, I just have a lower-than-average tolerance for humans’ despicability. That’s nothing to be ashamed about.
So, “It’s okay to hate other people.” Rinse. Repeat. “It’s okay to hate other people.” Self-acceptance is key to solving many of life’s problems. Or at least key to feeling comfortable with not solving them.