Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thormania: An Adventure Lived Vicariously through Yik Yak

An interesting trend has occurred with me in my time in college.  Ever since my very first semester at South Alabama in January 2013, each semester that followed was better than the preceding one.  By the time we reached the end of Spring 2014, I thought to myself that it would be impossible to improve thereon.  How wrong I was!  I am now in Fall 2015 and life is absolutely beautiful.  It's not for me to go on about achievements or any of the like, but I will tell you about a little cellphone app that has put my personal growth (especially with respect to relating to women) on an accelerated pace.  If you are at South Alabama, Yik-Yak may bring a smile, a frown or a cringe to your face.  Hopefully my post today can turn the frowns upside down and encourage the few who take time to read this.

I always knew about Yik-Yak what it was about (basically a service where you read anonymous tweets or "yaks" by people in your area) and I knew that I had been mentioned by some yakkers before.  The extent whereto the conversation in the collective conscious of South's student populace raged about me was something I was placidly unaware of.  Every now and then a friend or teammate would tell me about me being mentioned.  It was at the beginning of this month that much of these mentions were happening, but back then I didn't have the app.  Sometimes I wonder how my behavior and thoughts would have been different had I downloaded the app earlier because the Thor furor was actually borderline unsafe.  For those that do not know, a number of people on South's campus consider me to be Thor.  I should note that I am not the only one to be called by this name, but I seem to be the most enduring Thor on campus.  Why Thor?  Long, dirty blonde hair I suppose.  A lot of people have long dirty blonde hair, yes?  Indeed, but people seem to remember me more than the others.  Maybe it's because of my shoelessness, maybe it's because of my short shorts, maybe it's because of my mad biking skills. 

Regardless, the Thormania of early September was borderline unsafe because people were actually yakking about my every move.  I am not kidding.  When I entered or left a building someone would yak about it.  Obviously I did not know this at the time, but found out weeks later.  There were actually numerous yakkers who stood up for me and told these people that were yakking my every move to stop doing that because I needed privacy.  Had people not told me about this, I would have been completely oblivious about it.  I saw no change in behaviour of people towards me during those weeks.  Just the odd stare here and there, but that was normal for me.  Maybe now and then someone would stop and proclaim to others that I am Thor and even a brave few asked me whether I was Thor.  That was it though.  The point of this paragraph was to highlight that even though something might be at the very forefront of the collective consciousness of an entire people, there is a chance that those affected by it may never know about it.  Why is that? I wish I had a definitive answer, but fear would definitely be up there.

Fear brings me to the next big idea in this post.  As I said earlier, a brave few ever contacted me during this period.  All those that did I ended up having fruitful exchanges with.  There was one though that stood head and shoulders above the others.  It started with something innocuous as asking whether I had a Kik by an anonymous profile on a social media.  She will henceforth be titled Thoradorer to protect her identity as well.  I did not have a Kik at the time and before I knew I was asked something I could give, but it would be hard for me to do so.  My blog is all about transparency, but this one I will keep mum.  Before long my relationship with Thoradorer took all kinds of turns.  She asked tough questions and I was back in the psychologist's office of June 2013.  The struggles I took to the psychologist in 2013 has not been entirely resolved.  I came to the conclusion that socially I have grown tremendously because I am much more able to communicate with others, relate to others and build and maintain friendships.  I am really proud of having come this far, but Thoradorer was not happy and wanted to see more progress.  We realized that I still struggle with self-worth and self-esteem issues (I actually blogged about this back in 2014).  These same issues arguably contribute at least somewhat to my underperforming in discus.  However, I have always been aware of these two issues and I could openly admit to them.  I have made some progress on them since 2013, but not enough.  Thoradorer then pushed onwards and hit hard on probably my greatest struggle so far in this life - romance and women.  I have never had a girlfriend and I have never gone on a date before (well, at least I haven't been on a one-on-one excursion with one female that both parties described as a date).  Thoradorer's digging commenced.

I will not go into details about the conversation, but will highlight some themes that came from them.  I have developed so many defense mechanisms, rationalizations and intellectualizations about my woman-less life.  Some defense mechanisms include me moralizing that I don't want to approach women based on looks alone (which, on average, most men do).  This happens because some of my feminism teachings has told me that women don't want to be catcalled or solely looked upon for their beauty.  I overcompensate and try to not even look at women sometimes, when in the end, I do everyone a disservice by not making eye contact.  So, I am really sorry for all the people I never looked at (I am not a cold person, just shy) and especially to the one girl who made her hair pretty for me and I never noticed it (I am so sorry, had I know I would at the very least have given you the respect you deserve).  Since this realization I have made a concerted effort to make more contact (both duration and frequency with strangers).  I also try to smile and I must say this has been a powerful boost to my self-esteem.  It's absolutely brightens my day when I smile at a girl and she smiles back.  It's one of those things that make every other struggle in this life seem like nothing at all. 
Another fear/defense mechanism is that I fear failure and rejection.  The idea that someone would not want to talk to me or not give me a chance is tough for me because I have never approached any woman with evil intentions (not that I can remember).  However, it shouldn't be an attack on my character if someone says no to me.  There are a plethora of reasons why someone would say no and most of the time it comes down to time and place. 
A final one that I will share in this post (before it becomes way too long) is that I have always been a bit closed for romance.  It's funny, I blog about how I desire it and many nights I feel very lonely but I seem to resist it at the same time.  How could someone that desires something so much also fear it so much?  However, I know that I can never fully enjoy this life, fully grow if I don't season my maleness with external femaleness.  I strongly believe in the Greek maxim, "Nothing in excess." which to me means balance.  I cannot become the best athlete if I cannot look a woman in the eye without being overcome with anxiety, I cannot become a great husband if I do not get to understand the hearts, the minds, the wiles, the games, the triumphs and tragedies of women and I certainly cannot become a great father if I cannot be brave enough to stand up for women. 

How does Yik-Yak play into all of this personal development?  Well, other than helping me discover all my struggles and finally giving me the confidence to admit openly that I struggle with romance, Thoradorer told me download Yik-Yak.  It was a great decision.  It did exactly as she said it would.  I used to put women on a pedestal, in other words I idealized them too much (too much idealization leads to too much fear and eventually disappointment).  The app helped me to humanize all members of the fairer sex that surround me.  I learn that they have same anxieties that I do.  The same anxiety that builds up in me if I feel the desire to approach or talk to a girl, that same anxiety is within them when I am around.  I like to think about the analogy of the spider and I.  When I see the spider, I am scared as hell of it, but when the spider sees me, it's probably at least equally as scared!  If we both could just admit our fears then this life would be so much less of a hassle.  Because I am aware of this fear, any girl that has the courage to talk to me I always tell her that she is courageous.  I tell it because I understand the fear, I tell it because I know I am too scared to do it and I tell it that what she did is especially brave in a culture that tells women to wait for love.  Love and romance is out there for all of us, but it is only to be gained by those brave enough to reach out and take it.  That's why we often find ourselves questioning couples so often.  How in the world did he manage to get her because she is so high above him?  He simply was the bravest.  Even if you are the best looking guy, with all the money, all the abdominal muscles in the right places and with all the right moves, if you know what I mean, you will never date to your potential unless you have the courage to take the leap of faith - to break the barriers of non-communication between you and your target and be prepared to fail.  That, my dear readers, is what I need to learn to do before my time in college runs out.  I have the opportunity of a lifetime.  Many men would kill to be in a position of campus fame as myself (and would also much better make use of this privilege than I am currently doing). 

If you are reading this and wanted to talk to me, hey, my social medias are always open and I make time for everyone - ugly or beautiful, short or tall, fat or thin, black or white.  My belief is still that human relationships are the most important thing in this life.  I will always make time for others, but know that I am just as scared as you are about taking the leap of faith.  I mean, I am writing an entire essay about how scared I am about talking to girls and God knows whether it may change anything or whether it may just make me get comfortable because I got a fear of my chest.  The key though to personal growth is to never become truly content.  There is always more to chase, more to aspire to, but don't take this too far though.  Eventually, for things and people outside, of ourselves we all have to settle for something at some point.  Don't settle too soon, but don't wait too long either - both are just as bad. 

My thanks go out to my fellow students and especially Thoradorer for challenging and changing me through the cut-throat world which is Yik-Yak.  I see the very worst of humanity thereon, but also the very best of humanity and that, my dear readers, gives me courage, joy and, above all, hope.  Thormania may have petered out, but maybe now Thor will move from our screens and right into our actual lives.  That, that is beautiful thing.

All of life is interaction