One of my greatest fears is that I will become someone my current self would not recognise. I have not lived long so far, and I fear that time will lead my future self to see the principles and priorities by which I currently live as silly and meaningless. I think back to the time when someone on an imageboard read my blog and called me a 'grandiose little fag', and I wonder whether my future self will likewise scoff at my ideas and perspectives.
What if aging causes me to abandon my deepest aspirations? Many older people I encounter seem devoid of ambition, resigned to their meagre past accomplishments and seeking solace in (or perhaps worse, sincerely believing) platitudes about "a young man's game" and "happiness" and "what really matters". "I was just like you once," they often say. One of my lecturers once told me about how he'd accepted that unlike some of his friends, he wouldn't make a successful video game. Now he focuses on other aspects of life. He was trying to reassure me, but what he said saddened me instead.
I dread the day (which I hope doesn't come) that I re-read this post and chuckle — how naïve, how quaint. The kid had foresight, at least.
[2023-08-27] Is It Over?
In approximately 5 years, my brain will stop developing. Past this point, supposedly, it will be extremely difficult for me to acquire new skills. I would like to think that 5 years is a long time, but it seems that the older I get, the faster a year passes.
It seems like a cruel joke that modern man reaches his physical and mental peak less than 1/3 of the way through his lifespan. Three decades of energetic discovery, six more of dull, bloated mediocrity and creeping decay. Middle age and old age both last longer than my entire life.
[2023-07-27] Hardly Trying
In my inertia, my greatest source of copium is the idea that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. Who knows what I could achieve — proving a seminal theorem, perhaps, or writing an innovative programming language, or composing a classic album — if I actually tried?
If I started trying, I would discover the limits of my abilities, and I fear that those limits are much closer than I would like to believe. It is easier to fantasise about nebulous untapped potential than face the possibility that I am not that clever or creative, and thus doomed to the same mediocrity and insignificance that I would find myself in if I never tried. I exist in limbo between fear of wasting away and fear of failure.
[2023-06-17] Wanting vs. Wanting to Be
Most people, it seems, try to adopt characteristics that they believe will make them attractive to others. I, however, try to adopt characteristics of people I myself find attractive.
For me, attraction to someone and the desire to be like them are intertwined. The attraction I experience has two main components: admiration, i.e. traits of the other person that I aspire to possess, and commonality, i.e. traits that they share with me. The people I find most attractive are the ones whom, due to a combination of several shared traits and admirable traits, I can see as a better version of myself. Sometimes I find myself wanting to merge with someone I am attracted to, thus becoming my ideal.
When I am attracted to someone I may try to emulate their aesthetics, mannerisms or skills. Reflecting on this can cause identity confusion (which I can assuage by remembering that whenever I have tried to imitate someone, my actions have always been in line with prior self-improvement goals). Since most of the people I have been attracted to are the opposite sex, it has also (among other factors) contributed to gender confusion.
As far as I can tell, most people do not experience attraction in this way, and seem to be drawn to an 'other' or a 'complement' rather than an alter ego. My experience of attraction seems common among autistic people, which supports my long-held suspicion that I am on the spectrum.
[2023-06-13] Previous Versions
For reasons unclear to me, my family has never stayed in the same place for more than 3 years. I have moved house 8 times that I can remember. I have lived in at least 5 towns in 2 countries, and attended 5 schools, plus homeschooling.
When I look back on my childhood, it seems partitioned into phases defined by where I was living and/or what school I was attending. When trying to recall when an event in my life occurred, I use these phases as a guide, and struggle to narrow the time frame further than a particular phase. If I was attending school (not homeschooling) in that phase, I can narrow it as far as a school year, but usually not much further.
In each phase exists a past version of myself. None of them feel entirely real; they might have been a dream that my current version, whom I think came into being in 2019-2020, woke up from. They are all unquestionably the same person, but seem to have inhabited different universes.
This perspective is probably due to the dearth of ties my 'current version' has to the previous ones. I have always been reclusive, and this was compounded by what I can best describe as isolationism enforced by my parents. I would arrive somewhere, keep to myself for the duration of my stay, and then be whisked away, keeping no contacts and probably leaving no lasting impressions.
My last school, which I attended from 2019 to 2021, was the first place where I met people with whom I am still in contact. I made my first close friend there, and we ended up going to the same university. On rare occasions, I communicate with a few other old classmates. Had I not maintained contact with these people, I would probably have changed version again between leaving that school and arriving at university.
[2023-05-05] Structured Life
When I was younger, I thought about joining the army, largely because regimented lifestyles appeal to me. Living in a predictable environment and having every day consistently partitioned into periods of work, chores and rest is a comforting prospect. My mind would be freed from logistical issues and other banalities, allowing me to focus more effectively on tasks that are truly important and enjoyable to me. I would be living efficiently.
A rigid routine would also reduce my feelings of aimlessness. I have been going to university for nearly 2 years, and I still struggle with the lack of routine relative to school. When I was in school, at any given time I knew where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. At university, scheduled events such as lectures are too infrequent, and I feel as though I simultaneously have too much and too little time. This has contributed to the degradation of my sense of direction and purpose.
It's been suggested to me that I create a daily timetable. I've been hesitant to do so, mainly out of fear that I'll apportion my time in a sub-optimal way and/or my perfectionist tendencies will make the task too difficult. Ideally, my timetable would be detailed, possibly so far as to dictate what I should wear and eat every day, but this is probably infeasible.
[2023-04-07] Fear of Being Forgotten
The vast majority of people who have existed have been forgotten. History contains no trace of them.
I don't want to join the mass of forgotten humanity, who may as well have never existed. I want to be one of the few whose existence transcends death and time. As said by Ernest Hemingway, 'Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name. In some ways men can be immortal.'¹ True immortality may not be possible for me, but being remembered would be a good substitute.
Ideally I would like to be remembered for a significant contribution — some scientific, mathematical or philosophical achievement. I want my existence to have demonstrable meaning, purpose and necessity for civilisation. I like the idea of being mentioned in history books, having my own Wikipedia page, having biographies written about me (though I dislike the prospect of them containing inaccuracies), and having people admire and continue my work centuries in the future.
Alternatively, millennia from now, I or one of my belongings could be dug up and studied by archaeologists (or, a cyber-relic of me such as my website could be found and examined), and thus awareness of my existence would be restored. Obviously I can't rely on this occurring as it is down to chance. I could attempt to orchestrate it by requesting that my body, or something else belonging to me, be donated to science or otherwise preserved.
¹This is one of my favourite quotes.
[2023-04-06] Fear of Forgetting
Frustratingly, one of my habits is incompatible with my minimalist leanings — my tendency to save objects left over from my past. These can be physical, such as papers and ornaments, or digital, such as code and MP3 files.
I dislike the phrase 'sentimental value'. I don't think that platitude accurately describes why I feel attached to those objects. Some of them, such as old projects, I kept because I found them neat (and if my ever-increasing skill causes me to start finding them lame, I'll probably get rid of them). The majority, I kept because I don't want to forget the specific experiences I associate with them.
If I were to lose any of those, it's likely that I wouldn't realise it. I also wouldn't realise that as a result, a hole would have opened in my memory. Since I'd have nothing to remind me of what had once been there, the hole would remain, and I still wouldn't realise. This has doubtless already happened with countless memories of mine. The concept of forgetting is profoundly unsettling.¹
I am at risk of forgetting much of my life, because so far my existence has been fairly isolated. For most of my experiences, there are zero, or only one or two, people who can confirm their occurrence and corroborate my memories. Much of my past feels like a dream, existing in my head alone. I've always thought of myself as an asocial person because I enjoy solitary activities and find socialising tiring; however it seems as though being more social may assuage this particular kind of existential angst, in a more sustainable way than collecting reminders. I find that interacting with one other person of a suitable disposition can be enjoyable, so having one close friend at any given time could be a good solution.
¹I first thought about this when I was 14. The school I was attending then had an archive holding documents, uniforms, photographs, artifacts from students, etc, dating back to the school's foundation in the 1850s. I wondered how it was decided which things were worth keeping. Thinking about all the potential artifacts that could have offered unique insight into the school's history, but were ultimately discarded due to being thought unimportant or simply left behind due to the archivists not knowing about them, unsettled me greatly.
[2023-02-22] Life Stories
When Andrew Wiles was 10 years old, he encountered Fermat's Last Theorem for the first time. He became fascinated with the theorem and decided that he would one day prove it. Approximately three decades later, Wiles fulfilled his childhood dream.
Wiles is someone whom I consider as having an unusually straightforward life story: he conceived an ambitious goal very early in his life, then went on to achieve it. I envy such people; while their lives follow elegant trajectories, mine so far is choppy and meandering. Rather than making progress towards one significant goal, I feel like I'm constantly blundering, stalling and backtracking as I try to pursue several trivial ones.
Perhaps life paths like Wiles' only appear direct in retrospect. Between learning about Fermat's Last Theorem and proving it, he probably experienced periods of aimlessness and periods of focusing on minor plans. At 10, on realising that he lacked the knowledge to prove the theorem, he abandoned his aspirations, and would only revisit them at 33 due to finding out about developments in mathematics that made the proof more feasible.
I'd like to think that some day I'll find a subject for my life's work; maybe this will involve unearthing an old dream when an opportunity to fulfil it arises. And then, once I've achieved my chosen ultimate goal, all the banal chaos I've struggled through will fade away, leaving behind my very own elegant trajectory.
I have a lot of respect for people who commit to a specific aesthetic; clothes and accessories that fit the aesthetic can be costly, hard to find and/or high maintenance, and putting together outfits and decor can be time-consuming. I admire their dedication to making themselves and their surroundings visually interesting while most people are content with bland uncoordinated clothes from chain stores.
I would like to adopt an aesthetic, not just to be stylish but also because I like consistency. However I find the apparent expense and effort required intimidating. Additionally, since I'm short it's already tricky for me to find ordinary clothes in my size. Committing to an aesthetic would make clothes shopping even harder. I've tried making my own clothes, with decent results, but that brings other challenges, such as the fact that most sewing patterns and supplies are marketed towards middle-aged women and hence don't make for things I'd want to wear. Using my own handmade patterns would be even more labour-intensive.
I would also have difficulty choosing a single aesthetic from several contrasting ones. Currently, the aesthetics I like include military uniforms, business wear, dieselpunk, corporate goth, and cyberpunk. Ideally I would combine elements of a number of these to create my aesthetic, but that would be challenging given the mixture of colour palettes, anachronistic and futuristic styles, levels of formality and levels of ornateness.
I once read a 4chan post that said, roughly, 'adult life consists of existential dread and chores'. Currently, that seems accurate.
Sometimes I consider how much time I spend doing mundane, repetitive tasks: cleaning my surroundings, cleaning myself, eating, going to the bathroom, dressing, undressing, buying supplies, commuting, tidying, sleeping. The amount of time I spend doing chores probably dwarfs the amount of time I spend doing things I consider meaningful — work and hobbies. So much of life is overhead. Sleep is probably the most striking demonstration of this: in order to perform other tasks adequately, I have to spend approximately 8 of every 24 hours asleep. That's one-third of my life that I spend unconscious.
I often wish that eating and sleeping were optional. Sometimes eating is enjoyable; at other times, preparing food and loading it into myself is a laborious process. But I have no choice but to eat, lest the hunger becomes too painful to ignore. Likewise, no matter how reluctant I am to abandon an activity for the time sink that is sleep, I can't forestall my increasing tiredness and inevitable shutdown.
I can increase my efficiency at performing chores, but I can never escape them completely. Once I've finished a work/hobby-related task, my progress is set and I'll never have to do the same task again; however, my progress on any chore will be undone over time and eventually I'll have to redo everything. Take cleaning, for example: dirt continues to settle even as I'm cleaning a surface. Cleaning is a war of attrition between me and the dirt, and I will inevitably lose. Someday I will die and my belongings, left behind with no one to clean them, will be consumed by dust and grime, while my body disintegrates into more dust.
I am grateful for technology, because it helps reduce the time I spend doing menial tasks. I sometimes wonder why more progress hasn't been made on cleaning tech. Perhaps the owners of tech companies simply don't care. The wealthy already have sophisticated machines to clean for them — ordinary people.
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to achieve 'greatness'. However, I have never been able to develop this idea from a vague aspiration into a concrete plan. I want to dedicate my life to a noble cause and thus make a memorable contribution to society, but I remain unsure as to what this cause may be.
I don't think I'm really passionate about anything. I'm not as committed to my interests as I could be. I receive constant reminders of this — people I meet with resumes full of impressive personal projects, renowned thinkers I read about who have made groundbreaking discoveries and conquered unsolved problems. I seem to lack their focus, dedication and zeal.
That irrepressible drive to solve and discover is what I want the most. I long to be truly invested in and fascinated by a field. I want to be so focused on building an invention or proving a theorem that I forget everything else. I want to wake up each morning pondering some exciting question or startling revelation. I want to experience the thrill of making marvelous leaps of logic that lead me closer and closer to a beautiful solution.
I fear that I'm doomed to mediocrity, and I'll spend my life in a banal uneventful career, unremarkable, dispensable and directionless. I don't want to die having achieved nothing. I don't want my life's work to be routine and forgettable. If this is my only chance at existence, I don't want to waste it like that.
Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. Does the fact that I need to try mean it's already over for me?
Occasionally I experience an uncomfortable hyper-awareness of being conscious. I feel detached from my emotions and circumstances, like an observer or narrator. I wonder why I am viewing the world in first person, and why my consciousness resides within this particular person, as opposed to any other. Why can I only perceive reality from here?
The earliest I remember this happening was when I was around 12 (but that may not have been the first instance). I remember saying over and over in my head, 'I am the me.' I wondered, has some supreme consciousness chosen this person as 'the me' from which to perceive reality? Why this one?
Sometimes it feels as though my consciousness contains reality. What if reality is an elaborate concoction of my mind — the mind? What if everyone I meet, that is, everyone the mind perceives, is a figment of its imagination, an NPC in the world it has crafted? Other people seem to have their own first-person views, and seem to be independent entities, but how can one prove that they're not just robots acting and reacting in their simulated environment? What is it like to be someone else? Do other people get thoughts like these, or are their minds always attached and participating?
What happens when I die? Does the mind choose another person to inhabit? I don't want to be not myself. Does consciousness just become nothingness? Am I in an infinite loop where I go back to the beginning of this particular life every time I die? That would be the best situation.
Thoughts like this disturb me. They always pass within about 20 minutes, and I can go back to feeling normal and present. I fear that if I think too hard in such directions, I might 'crash the simulation'. I suppose that's a way of going insane.
[2022-10-19] Unlimited Retries
I like computer games because they give me infinite second chances. If I mess up and/or die, I can always retry the level or restart the game.
I'm a bit of a completionist, and I also like speedrunning. I wouldn't be able to achieve my goals in games without unlimited retries; it's near-impossible to play through a game optimally on the first try.
Life offers no retries, and this frustrates me. I can't test every strategy until I find the best one. I can't explore every area. I can't redo the levels where I made mistakes. I can't go back to claim missed items and achievements. I wish I could have endless reattempts until I managed to get an optimal run, but as it is, used time is lost time and I have no choice but to keep blundering on. If I quit or die, I won't be sent back to the menu.
Coined in the 17th century, the word 'nostalgia' is derived from the Greek words nostos (homecoming) and algos (sorrow). For centuries, nostalgia was considered a medical condition, a type of melancholy. In modern times, it is seen as a casually experienced, mainly positive emotion.
I think my experience of nostalgia, or what I describe as nostalgia, is closer to the old definition. I often find myself having vivid recollections of specific points in time as recent as last month, and deeply missing them. I keep getting pushed forward into unfamiliarity, and everything seems to get noisier, sharper and less colourful. I feel as though I can't keep up.
My childhood wasn't too great so I'm not nostalgic for it. The times I feel deep longing for start in around 2019, when I was 15-16. Sometimes I feel that that was when my life peaked, for a little while. By then I had gained reasonable awareness and comprehension of my surroundings, and I felt that I had significant control over my life and was making sufficient progress. Life was going at a good pace back then. If I had a time machine (which I often wish for), I would go back to 2019, regain my time and try my best not to lose it again.
The events I vividly remember in my periods of nostalgia tend not to be events others would consider important. Most of them are quiet, dimly lit evenings, nights and early mornings I spent alone, listening to music, programming, watching videos, hanging around empty buildings, or simply gazing out the window. I wish that time didn't rush by so fast, and I could linger in those moments of solitary contemplative peace.
I was never fond of my name. As a child, I thought it was boring, and would make lists of names I preferred because they were more unique and sounded better to me (in retrospect, the names I picked were extravagant rather than cool). At school, I could expect to find multiple people with the same name in my year group. I have a biblical name, but am an atheist. I also wish my name was more gender-neutral.
I feel disconnected from my name. Whenever someone calls me by my name, it sounds odd, and it takes me a moment to register that they're referring to me. 3 years ago I started using a nickname I thought I identified with more (but which sounded similar to my actual name; I thought this would be convenient) and I could never form a connection to it either. I go by various aliases on the internet (most of which reference mathematical concepts) and I like when they are used to refer to me online, but I wouldn't want them used irl as they would sound silly.
In some situations, I'm referred to by a number (e.g. student ID number at my university, candidate number for state exams). Numbering people is viewed by most as dehumanising, but I don't feel that way. In fact, I like being a number. A number is completely neutral. No assumptions can be made about me based on my number. It cannot misrepresent me.
I am critical of the (virtually universal) practice of people's names being chosen for them by parents etc. What if people could choose their own names? For instance, when someone is born they could be given a nickname that is used until they reach a certain age, at which time they pick their official/legal name.
Popular opinion claims that puberty is an awkward, strange and stressful experience. I must be an anomaly because I don't relate to this narrative in the slightest. When I went through puberty I was mostly apathetic about it.
The changes were very gradual, and started much later than my parents expected. My parents told me what would happen long before it did. They also told me to be excited about it; initially I was, but as months turned into years and nothing seemed to be happening, I stopped caring. When I finally noticed differences, all I thought was 'well, I guess it's happening now'. Most of the changes took so long that I had no difficulty getting used to them. At worst, they were mildly inconvenient.
At the time I was a complete shut-in and barely interacted with kids my age. I suppose if I had been more sociable I would have compared myself to them — were they developing faster? Slower? Earlier? Later? — and I would have had a more stressful experience. I knew that all kids went through puberty, of course, but I wasn't curious about my peers' experiences at all. My extreme reservedness also prevented me from getting into most of the embarrassing situations that are considered quintessential teenage experiences.
I didn't experience the 'raging hormones' that people talk about. I didn't have mood swings or uncontrollable urges. In retrospect, I did start feeling emotions (especially anger) more strongly, but, again, this happened gradually over a few years. As for sex, I simply didn't care about it until I'd almost finished school. For a while I thought I was asexual.