Not a Real Person

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.

Hello, yes I am Human. I have soft, functioning organs, a voice generated by meat strings, and Beyonce is bae

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.

Yearbook photos from that time are a little confusing

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?”

9 Replies to “Not a Real Person”

  1. ‘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.’ – Yep. Yep to all of it in fact. I had some serious consideration as to whether I was an actual alien or not. Slipped in to monitor these hard to work out, unpleasant beings on their blue-green planet and somehow my software or mission had been erased by lightening or something. I still think I might be.

    All the sci fi was and is great though! Hahahahaha.

    – Esme C. doing the secret handshake and dance involving spoons and tea towels.

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  2. Thanks for sharing. This is a great story of humanness. This was gold: “That silence was safe, and once everyone knew that’s how I was, there wasn’t anything left to reveal to them.” I know that all too well.

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  3. No soft human center, lol. I still see the look of genuine confusion on people’s faces when I explain that I prefer solitude. I like people, and I have fun around them, but darn it, do I love my own company. And nature videos are hard to beat. You aren’t alone in feeling borderline psychopath. At what point did you realize you wanted to go into a profession that involves constant human interaction? Now that’s growth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to have company in our mutual quiet places. Also yes, what could be better than soothing narrators and beautiful places in the comfort of a dark room where whine and beds live.

      Ha! I think I picked teaching because I realized it’s a type of social relationship that comes with clear constraints on what can happen. I have a set time and place when I have to see my students, and that’s something I can control and prepare for.

      It also helps that I get to talk about my favorite books and ways to write with an audience that isn’t allowed to run away.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, hello, we have clearly been booted up from the same…circuit board? Or whatever. I don’t know, I’m not even really that good of a robot. I make the appropriate clicks and whirs but the computations keep coming out wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. I think I’m some sort of clockwork trial version of a robot line that never really took off and only had a few models that were bought by people infatuated with useless things. I just kind of tumble around with groaning coming from the gears

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