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Weightlessness, December 14th, 1997 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

the soapbox @ benturner.com
archived soapbox: December 14th, 1997
"Weightlessness" [permalink]
    keywords: friendships, life, growing up, relationships, introversion
    soapbox #: 115
    written: December 14th, 1997
    words: 1994

"Weightlessness", an Essay

For quite awhile now, the desired state of my life has been that of weightlessness. Not physical weight, for the most part, but mental and spiritual weight. Am I on the right road or aren't I?

I see having friends as somewhat of a burden. It may be cold of me to say, but friends require a lot of time if treated properly, and you have to sacrifice a lot, at least in my mind, to keep friendships going. I've always been more burdened than helped by friendships -- for one, I have to keep up with them, no matter how impossible it is to find them. I also have to make sure I spend enough time with them. Sure, the company is great, but I really don't need company right now. I have all the company I want. For too long, I've actually had more company than I've wanted. But I've pruned away the dead branches, leaving me with what I want and need. No more do a good number of friends add more weight to my aching back.

I also see most social events as a burden. Never went to parties or social functions unless they were family-related. Football games were never on this man's daily planner. I just didn't see the point in it, for myself. Sure it's fun and all, but I always had something else I needed to be doing. I guess it's better when you're with someone, and we've already established that besides Anna, I'm not sure I really want to be with anyone. <grin>

I'm not a social animal (and I start too many paragraphs with "I"). I don't like people. I loathe them, in fact. But what's unique about me is that I can fit into a crowd of people. I don't stick out. In a way, I find that empowering, that chameleon's ability to fit in near exactly to any background. But I'm also questioning whether it's a unique ability at all, or merely evidence that I'm not quite so unique as I arrogantly used to think I was.

Maybe I fit into a crowd of people because we're the same, not because I know how to act differently when I'm around others. I know when I'm in public, I personally feel like an outsider, being made uncomfortable by the nauseating habits people possess and not really having anyone to talk to, but it hardly shows. I blend in.

And for the longest time, I thought I didn't. I thought people would notice me because I wasn't easy to notice. Who's the quiet one? What's he thinking about? But I don't think anyone really considers it. Maybe I'm not so different than everyone else.

I certainly know my childhood is far from unique. I got all the chances in life as a kid and I basically followed the linear path of classes up to my high school graduation. I made some individual and unique path choices in high school, yes (like taking classes out of order with my year's students), but overall, I was just like the others. Maybe, just maybe, it isn't so unique to fall in love for the first time at 19. I didn't have a troubled childhood either. One of the most unique things about my childhood is that I did a lot of traveling with my parents then. But if you were to put me up against someone who had a slightly more interesting and challenging path to current day, it would appear as though I were extremely dull. As debaters love to exploit, I'm on the surface just an ignorantly dependent college kid.

Maybe my writing isn't so unique, either. It probably sounds identical to what thousands of other essays have troubled themselves with. Maybe my taste in music is pejoratively mainstream and unrefined. Hell, I've even been written to by a lot of Ben Turners around the world, some of whom have interesting similarities in birthdays and whatnot to me. Perhaps I don't hold the most stimulating and intellectual conversations through e-mail and in person. Perhaps I'm not very unique at all.

But, you know, at least I've identified that and admitted it. Early, early in my life. That's a huge jump on other people. I have plenty of time to adjust to my new outlooks on life and set my path accordingly. I am young enough to turn completely around on the stop of a dime. I think part of anything remotely close to uniqueness for me is recognizing what's good and bad about myself, on my own. I'm no longer so proud that I won't listen to advice or help. I'll admit when I'm wrong. Feels better, anyway.

What makes a person unique? Well, it's all about making a name for oneself. It's about developing a reputation. Reputations are extremely important, because with reputations become connections with more and more high and mighty people, plus they make things come to you just a tad bit more for you to go out and snatch them.

The reputation is an abstract concept and it has no weight, in the sense that things are not a constant struggle if reputation carries you. It can be light as a feather and can pass through wall, pieces of paper carrying important messages, and phone lines.

And you can imagine how hard it is to develop a reputation when you're just another lab rat student finding your way through the maze of classes at a university. One doesn't have the connections with people who can help out, or the money to finance more and more ambitious projects. Reputations require exposure, and exposure partially requires something relating to money.

I don't have the resources yet to become rich and comfortably so. Not yet anyway. I am weighed down by my inexperience and schooling in the respect of making money and becoming well-known. Granted, schooling has its own advantages, but I'm sure I've rehashed that more times than any of us want to know.

In steps the Internet. The Internet is completely different. It's not about how much money you put into it, or where you put the money. It's about how much time you put into it, and where you spend the time. Time is a valuable commodity on the Internet. The more you spend with it, the more experienced and wizened you get. The more respected and knowledgeable you become. I can't really think of any other medium that is so easy to get into the hands of all different walks of life, and have an immediate audience with which to work with.

In terms of physical resources, the Internet requires very little in order for you to get something back from it. The software is for the most part free, as are the web sites and the information contained on them. You can learn how to do just about bloody anything you want to on the Internet and mainly it just requires that you spend the time looking for the information and then remembering and applying it.

Since I started using the Internet, I've learned fundamentals to advanced techniques in all sorts of areas, particularly networking, design, and group project management. I know more about computers at the age of nineteen than most people will ever dream of knowing. You can sure as Hell bet I'm going to get a great job out of this. The reputation I spoke of before will come to me eventually. But the Internet is what I'm using until I get there.

I have a keen familiarity with the 'Net which allows me to know almost precisely where to go to find the information I need. It's not a mess of scattered pages to me -- it's a semi-organized library of brainfood. Having this experience with the Internet allows me to help out others with rare hints, tips, and services. It lets me more easily employ my creative energies to produce what my ambitious mind imagines. In the life of a growing man who needs not to be hindered by anything, but encouraged to follow his interests, this freedom is uplifting.

I am not heavily into cracking or any other behavior which involves intruding on others' privacy, but I do know my way around. And just as connections are important in the real world, so are they online. You have to know the right people to get the really privied information. You have to have plenty of options, plenty of servers you have access to and knowledge of how to use them.

I have that. My presence extends itself on the Internet in many different directions at once, hitting a UNIX shell here, pinging an e-mailer' address over there, floating around invisibly and weightlessly as fast as electrons can go. I've quite a few different servers I use for this and that, and I may even have been wandering around your own ISP's network at some time or another, whether it's looking for a hard-to-find text file or trading packets on the 27500 port of a Quakeworld server.

You better believe I'm dangerous now. Just wait until I get older.

I'm known to a Hell of a lot more people at my age than I would be if I didn't use the Internet. I'm known by some in many different communities, whichever communities interested me. A reputation which would only be a dream for a college student is a reality for someone like me.

And I retain my aversion to friendships and strong acquaintances on the 'Net, too. What most people know about me is only what I've done to contribute to what they feel is important. It's my deeds speaking, not necessarily my feelings and moods. The reputation, again, is as light as a feather and passes swiftly and powerfully. I dig that.

So that's unique to me because I took an early opportunity to begin spreading my name about before most people even think about doing it themselves in the real world. I've benefitted greatly from getting onto the Internet some three odd years ago, and I feel it will help push my future successes to even greater heights.

And as for love...well, that's one of the few other unique things in my life. I know in my heart that what I have with Anna is special. It doesn't come along often that two teenagers from countries separated by a large ocean still meet and can communicate with each other despite cultural differences. It doesn't come along often that we have the resources to be able to meet each other in person. It doesn't come along often that two people can start their love so understanding of each other. I realize that firsts don't often turn out too well, but for Anna and me, it worked out perfectly.

I'm dropping my baggage, making my personality leaner and meaner, and restricting the number of people let into my life. I'm gathering information and gaining access to many different things in many separate mediums, every single day.

In the process, my physical body is becoming lighter and more compressed, more defined and more unique. My reputation rolls through ears and written words like a swiftly-moving fog. I have many different homes and I'm not too weighed down to have to stay in one place.

What I want is to be known for my reputation, to the world, and to be known as a caring, loving, and special person, to only those I have carefully selected to join me in my journey.

Anna, may I take your hand as we continue?


 
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