Saturday, June 7, 2014

We All Need Help

I've been doing a lot of reading, lately.

My New Year's Resolution, if you can call it that, was to read a book a week all year, in an attempt to get through my growing collection.

So far, in 22 1/2 weeks, I've read one single book in its entirety. To my credit, I've started about 7 others, and I've learned quite a bit from them. I just never seem to finish.

I suppose that's like my blog posts. I have two good ones in the pipeline right now, but it's hard to find the time to focus and finish them up. Hopefully they'll be coming along this month.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot lately, just not books.

I have about 97 internet tabs open on my phone's browser right now, and at least 10 more on the computer as I type this. Periodically, I bookmark all the open tabs I haven't gotten around to reading and put them in a folder called "Stuff I Was Going To Read," just to clear the clutter, and then they are supplanted by a fresh set of tabs and I never go back and read any of them. I imagine that, some day far in the future, I will pull up the news items from the Crimean Invasion, the civil war in Syria, and the 2014 Winter Olympics, and promptly close them all because the world will already be different then.

When I say that my phone has 97 tabs open, that's not an exaggeration. That's an exact count.

Why does this happen to me? Well, one reason is that I'm curious and there's opportunity to indulge curiosity everywhere on the internet. Most of my stuff comes from my Facebook news feed, where an enormous variety of articles are shared by my 1200-odd contacts, plus regular updates from and other sites I subscribe to.

I'm pretty good at spotting the sensationalist headlines that they use to draw clicks to viral sharing sites, so it's not because of clickbait. I'm actually interested to understand a lot about how the world works, in whatever sphere.

But there's a second reason, or perhaps a primary reason that drives my curiosity: I need help. Like just the normal kind that everybody needs. Most of us don't ask for help as much as we should, I think.

I need help with stuff. With life and all that kinda junk, you know? Just normal things.

You can find recipes and step-by-step instructions for all sorts of things online. You can find tips about life and relationships and how to navigate your early 20s and job searches. There are also funny pictures of cats and jokes and movie reviews and creative projects undertaken by normal, everyday talented people, but those don't occupy the majority of my time on the internet. The majority of my time is spent reading about new discoveries in psychology, or current political issues, or practical advice for this or that, or religion, or lately, feminism and male privilege and patriarchy (more on this later or never). Then there's also the hodgepodge presented on, which is edutainment about science, pop culture, history, and ignorance, which were all my favorite subjects in high school.

Not all of the things I read on the internet are helpful for my daily life. Very few of them are, actually, but I rationalize to myself that it's important because knowledge is the highest form of understanding (I always forget about experience).

"Knowing stuff could come in handy someday if I end up in any sort of situation." I tell myself. The irony of this thought is that I'll probably never end up in any sort of situation at all if I continue operating under the impression that I could someday finish reading the whole of the useful information on the internet.

There are also books all over the floor of my room right now, because I don't have the shelf space to store them here. When I was in the dorms, my books occupied all the shelf space in my room, and my roommates borrowed a couple of them for classes sometimes. In theory, I'm going to read them all someday; that's why I acquired them. There's some self-help and human behavior stuff, and there's philosophy and history and fiction and rhetoric. All of these things are things I must understand in order to properly engage with the world.

In a recent conversation with my dad, he said that some people have more of a desire to understand the world and how to live in it, while others are simply content to live without thinking about it so hard. Clearly, I belong to the former group, but I've been wondering lately if that is my natural inclination or if it's actually rooted in insecurity.

As you may be able to tell from my last post, I struggle with insecurity in my relationships at times. I also believe that having good relationships provides security - whether that is false security or not, I'm not sure yet, but I've definitely found myself seeking it out. In the brief reading I've done on Attachment Theory, it's become pretty clear to me that I have an Anxious-Insecure attachment style - meaning that I worry that I'm not good enough for other people to desire to stay in relationship with me long-term. So my anxiety in relation to my relationships stems from a desire to protect myself - to be secure by being supported by others. (On the other hand, some people may avoid significant relationships in order to protect themselves from the potential pain that could result from them.)

In a similar way, I think, I try to learn things in order to protect myself from (potentially) making mistakes, from failing (in hypothetical situations), which is one of my (and many American men's) greatest fears. This is reinforced by the idea that, if you fail, people dislike you, dismiss you, and leave you.

That's how relationships and internet usage go together, I guess. I'm a flesh-and-blood human like everyone else, but I've never really had a safe place to go to be weak and vulnerable and protected when I make mistakes - but I do have a place where I can learn what all the mistakes are over time, in order to avoid them and become acceptable to society.

Honestly, I would like to be able to learn from my mistakes in the context of secure relationships with other people, but it doesn't seem like that's happening that well. This is probably a reflection of the breakdown of society and all that.

So anyway, I think maybe it would be a good thing to just be more vocal and aware of the support that we need from one another at times. Don't be afraid to ask for help.