Offbeat 29 April 2016
I read somewhere that meerkats have lousy short term memories. If a member of the band strays too far or stays away too long, the band will attack it when it returns, not recognising it as one of their own.
This leads me to believe that meerkats are very human, and possibly that they overdo it in bars.
I suspect that in some ways I might be a meerkat. As for overdoing it in bars, my poor sight makes facial recognition difficult, so I don’t need to drink too much to forget people. My personal strategy for remembering people is to put my glasses on. What I have noticed is that the more I see people, the more I am likely to recognise them, even without my glasses. The cues are body shapes and height. This is still iffy though. I might not recognise someone who is seated at the bar.
Fortunately I am an introvert, and don’t cultivate many significant friendships, so it isn’t much of a social handicap, and those who know me, rapidly come to learn that they have to walk up to me and say hello from close range to get my attention.
In all of this, I am aware of the changes I have undergone.
Introversion is becoming something that is acceptable now, thanks to social media. Social media is a perfect place to socialise if you are an introvert. When the presence of others becomes too draining, it is possible to turn off the computer or phone, without having to make difficult excuses for vanishing.
Thanks to the wide platform, people like me are spreading the message that introversion is acceptable, a natural psychological state-of-being for a large part of humanity. Thanks to people ho took those steps, I am more comfortable with myself.
In the past, I struggled with the state of being an introvert. In order to talk I had to drink to overcome my reserve. And even so, alcohol was an easy retreat. The state of exhaustion induced by interacting with people, was easy to mask or medicate with another drink.
The change that I have undergone is coming to terms with my reserve, and the changes that are coming with it. The biggest of these changes is understanding that I am not weird because I don’t enjoy socialising, and that I am not going to turn into a serial killer because I am a loner. I also understand now that one-on-one is far easier and more productive than trying to insert myself into the flow of a group.
My life has been a series of changes. At many of the stages I have been entirely different beings. I was a frustrated but exploring kid. At school, I was mostly an outsider, the last one picked for the team. At university I was the angry young man, driven by the need for social and political change. I became the advertising person after that, the party animal, driven by ambition. Now I am another person, less intent on belonging, and more capable of being at ease with myself, independent of what others think of me.
The thing that also strikes me is that I have no real desire to encounter past incarnations of myself. For instance, I would not want to meet the person I was in ad agencies. I would be revolted by my brash ambition. I don’t think I would like the child either, but I might appreciate the angry young man that I was.
I understand that I will continue to change and grow, at least I hope I do. Entropy is death. I am not sure that an older incarnation of myself will like my present incarnation of myself, but I can deal with that when the time comes.
The idea that people should be consistent and uninterrupted is a fallacy. Learning adds, but people change and become unrecognisable after intervals. Change is only ever viewed in intervals.
A while back, social media was dominated by celebrities writing letters to their younger selves, pointing to things that they had learned along the way. If I had that opportunity, I wouldn’t want to give myself too much advice, other that try to buy lots of real estate.
Learning and change are a process, and trying to look back too hard doesn’t make much sense.