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2/6/00 Am I as cool as I think?

I'll answer the question above now: No, I'm not as cool as I think, or even as cool as I'd like to be. To refer to som previous articles I've written, I'm rather friendless now, and I'm trying to come up with some definition of identity for myself. However, this is all by choice; I need a new start, and I'm trying to make that start.

In a lot of cases, however, I think my standards are out of whack. I still gravitate towards the subculture, even though I object to a lot of it. On the other hand, the standard definitions of the "straight and narrow" don't apply to me either; I take what I need from both extremes and come up with something closer to the middle. Enter my apartment on an average day, there are Barbie dolls on the floor, houseplants everywhere, a replica human skull mounted on a pike, there are original works of classical art on the walls, and the new Crystal Method CD is playing on my brand-new 5-disk CD changer. Consumer, wannabe, artist, craftsman, parent; all are characteristics of me, even when they are stark contrasts when set close to each other.

Even within the definitions, my actions are both pro and con. As a consumer, I shop at Wal-Mart habitually, my grocery store is decided upon because it's the closest, I wander the mall but rarely buy anything, and I spend the rest of my mad-money at thrift shops. Regarding technology, some people think I'm a god, I've come up with one of the oddest attractions on the internet today, I am deeply in-tune with my computers, but my knowledge pales in contrast with that of the REAL computer-people, with degrees and experience. As for intelligence, I know enough obscure questions in Trivial Pursuit to impress the average person, but there are plenty of questions I get wrong. Fashion-wise, I have some impressive clothes, some ugly clothes, and some unremarkable clothes. My people skills are equally middle-of-the-road -- some days I say remarkably stupid things, other days I'm witty. I don't mind talking to people, I don't avoid conversation, but neither do I overly enjoy it.

On the whole, I guess from one point of view, I'm average, from another I'm impressive, from another I'm creative, and from another I'm insignificant. I'm beginning to think I'm overeducated by television. In the world of TV, and movies and theatre, characters are well defined, motives are simple to understand, and there is a regularity and predictability of people once their characters are understood.

Being a part of the real world, I wish the cooler aspects of myself would be the well-defined character that the "TV Derek" would be. Cool dresser, excellent father, artistic, musical, creative, logical, and all the other things that I do like about myself. There really isn't a whole lot I hate about me; it's just that there's enough that I feel is 'beneath me' that I'd like to dump.

Next week, I get to deliver three 1-hour speeches to three audiences. I have been going over the things I'm going to say for the past week, and I feel I've spent too much time on it. Most of me wants this to go perfectly, to be impressive and awe-inspiring, but the logical, central part of me says, "It's a goddamned sales speech about the benefits of an integrated disability product. It's not going to inspire awe!" Unfortunately, the rest of me ignores that voice, and continues to work and re-work things until everything appears grey and dull. Everything will go fine, nobody will be awed, and I'm going to be annoyed at little mistakes which nobody will ever remember. And that's the story of a lot of my life; logically, I couldn't expect for anything better, but emotionally, I expect the best from myself in all cases.

And, again, this is probably a completely normal thing. However, how do I find the people with similar characteristics? It would be easy if I could just develop a Scantron test, with "yes" dots and "no" dots to fill in for everything that I like and dislike. Pass it out to everyone in the area, and feed them all into a computer. Once the computer does it's work, I'd have a database of all the people which most closely matched my answers to the test. Take the top ten people off the list, and they'll be my friends, right?

Meeting the people is really where I should start. It's not enough to just be around people at the store; there needs to be a source of interaction in order to get to know them. I don't know where to start, though. There's a technobowl this week, but I'd hate to crash the party, and really the rave scene isn't me (I don't dance, and I object to drugs), Slopoke is playing on Thursday (I'm not a hippie, and I object to drugs), but these (and even barhopping) still need an 'in' to really get to interact. There has to be someone within the group to invite an outsider like me into the fold, but if I had that, I wouldn't be whining about it here.

With all this, I'm beginning to see why single older people have trouble with identity and friendships. You end up getting stuck with coworkers, who you already spend your days with, and really only have the workplace in common with each other. I apparently am taking the difficult road -- not only am I looking for new people to identify with, I'm looking for different people to identify with. And, I'm expecting to help define myself by the people I spend my time with, which, in turn, I find the people based on how I define myself. It is tough; I'm not sure how I'm going to do it.

It'll all happen, in time. Shift magazine has an article about the single's scene in Silicon Valley. The displaced nerds who have gone out there to seek fame and fortune haven't figured out how to find a significant other. Also, being geeky like me, they don't neccesarily have the people skills to do well at it, either. In a way, I identify for both sides of the story. Not only am I a displaced geek, but I'm also the person looking for displaced geeks to call my own. Damn; this article is as disjointed as the previous ones I've written about myself. It'll get better, I'm sure, once I begin to figure out what exactly it is I'm looking for, what I'm thinking, and what I am trying to say.

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