Sometimes, I’ll see a really sassy-looking plant and think “I can relate.” I’ve always had this vague feeling that I’m not quite a real person, that everyone around me lives and moves and makes decisions a little more naturally than I do. It feels like for every time I have to sit down and really consider what a real person would do, I see hundreds of people just doing it. It took me until college to really get the whole “friends actually spend time together” thing down. Before that stunning epiphany, I mostly just to friends if we were getting It feels like, for most of my life, I’ve just been the resident sociopath robot thing that has to figure out what people do to simulate humanity and pass the social Turing test.
I wonder how many people are like me. I wonder if there’s some secret way we could recognize each other out in the world. How do you secretly indicate to someone that you are someone who had to figure out why kids liked having sleepovers instead of just sort of knowing. Is there some kind of elaborate wave, maybe involving some advanced finger work, I can do to show someone I see in the wine aisle that I also took years to learn the ephemeral benefits of platonic hugging.
I used to worry I was a sociopath, or maybe just a sort of poorly built person. I used to think that. Because I had trouble finding a niche in social environments, I was some kind of cold monster. In response to that, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy books and started feeling like being an ice-cold monster child was kind of rad.
After a while, the novelty wore off though. Maybe it was the anticlimactic failures of all the weird “dating” I did in high school. Seeing the revelation in every new person’s eyes that, yes, this strange and vacant person is all there is, hurt. I think they thought they’d crack me open and get to my soft human center. They did not.
It took a long, long time before I started to feel like any kind of normal, before I felt like I could actually have a human role. Escaping my hometown helped for a lot of reasons, but mostly it gave me the distance I needed to start feeling like I could try out different, scary parts of my personality. Nobody tells you this on tv, but I was comfortable as a quiet, emotionally numb child. That silence was safe, and once everyone knew that’s how I was, there wasn’t anything left to reveal to them. I didn’t have anything to gossip about other than being a little weird but mostly boring.
I am shockingly different now than I used to be. The people I used to spend my silence around might have trouble connecting that clearly terrified person to who I am now. It’s a nice feeling when you know how much you’ve grown, but sometimes I still feel like that little robot. No matter how much I find new comfort in being social and being a real person, I think I’ll always be someone that wanders around grocery stores muttering “what do real people eat?”