One thing that had happened to me as I’ve gotten older is that I really have stopped giving a shit what people think…for the most part.
It’s what I think about myself that matters and that assessment is often challenged through social interaction.
Yesterday I experienced some unexpected social interaction with my neighbors.
After going shopping I pulled into my driveway and noticed next door several of my neighbors working on a broken lawnmower. I waved hello, but they all came over to talk to me, having not seen me since before the hurricane, and I guess my lack of preparedness, the unexpected attention and a possible unconscious desire to occasionally converse with other humans threw me off center.
The conversation lasted a good 20 minutes as more people joined in and others left. I suspect that I talked too much about myself, which may have righteously annoyed one or two people, but honestly, I don’t really give a shit about that. What bothers me is that when one of my neighbors mentioned that his son was in the reserves, without thinking, without sensitivity, I asked aren’t you afraid he may get called up to active duty and have to fight in the next war?
What was the point of my asking that question? It could serve no other purpose than mindlessly attempting to perpetuate a conversation when I had nothing relevant to say – resulting in promoting unnecessary and undeserved anxiety on his part. Ironically while this conversation took place about 7 PM I didn’t remember I’d said that until I was brushing my teeth at 3:30 in the morning.
While I doubt that my question alienated many of my neighbors, it did make me realize that I am, at times, an insensitive asshole. This is not the first such incident – very far from it; in fact, I tend to lose my center and speak through my ass whenever I’m shown attention.
Were I younger and still in need of validation through social interaction, as is normal among younger people, I would worry that other people might regard me as a bit of an asshole. I can honestly say that other people’s opinion of me now, even my next-door neighbors’, has virtually no impact on my life. They’re nice people, but their opinion of me is completely irrelevant to my life because I prefer solitude. And I prefer solitude not only because I find little value in the company of others, but because the result of losing my center around people, bragging and speaking without thinking, contradicts the image of the person I aspire to be.
Interaction for me does not produce direct social anxiety but rather post social anxiety, regret, and a direct assault on my self-image.