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 a war?
What was the point of my asking that question? It could serve no other purpose than showing off my anti-war sentiment – and to promote 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 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.