In my own mind at least, I suffer from a peculiar kind of rootlessness. Most in the US grow up with friend groups they know from childhood through adulthood. These bonds are long term, and provide a sense of community. I don’t have any.

Growing up was a very isolated time for me. The only long lasting relationships in my life were with three family members. Needless to say, these relationships were dysfunctional at best, but reaching into levels of abuse that made physical abuse sound like a relief.

In running from that frying pan I leaped headlong into the fire of a very unhealthy marriage. The few tenuous connections I’d had before were severed without remorse. Very quickly my sole connection in life was with my (now ex-)husband. While I consider my children as relationships to last my lifetime, they are also a net psychological drain, due to their age, rather than an uplifting, supporting friendship.

I’ve made countless missteps along my journey after leaving my ex, most of them due to a complete lack of social knowledge. Most of what I know about how to interact with people is from books and TV, not from actual friendships.

Further, my goal in interaction is never to make friends, but to avoid embarrassing myself. From a young age my parents drilled into me that I was their ambassador. My job, in all of my interactions, was to make sure they looked good. With little practice, lots of pressure, and the general dysfunction in my life I developed a deep social anxiety focused around fears of accidentally pissing people off.

When I finally left my failed relationship behind and started college I was raising two children. My social anxiety encouraged me to be a homebody, and the difficulty in acquiring time away from children while managing school and bills simply entrenched my solitary tendencies. Even the friendships I did make are gossamer threads, especially once I moved away.

I’m good at carrying on an interesting conversation, but real emotional connection is difficult for me. I’ve been raised my entire life to hide who I am in order to impress people, therefore being around people is draining because I don’t feel I can be myself. Even the people I do trust with who I am don’t know everything because I’ve spent so long burying the majority of my personality that even I don’t know what all is waiting for me to discover.

I was 23 when I started gaming, something I’d wanted to do since I was a teenager. I was 24 when I discovered I like bacon. I was 28 when I fell in love, and finally all those epic romances I’d read about (not romance novels…) suddenly seemed real. Before then I’d considered them impossible, no one could ever accept me in that way… no one ever had.

Do we (the “self”) exist outside observation? If no one knows us, are we in eternal rebirth based on the new individuals in our lives?

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