Making human interaction a joy, yay! Suffering is the meaning of life.


I used to come to this website, many years ago. I messaged back and forth with people and became confident with making conversation again. Good enough to chat to 1-2 strangers at a time, in real life!

From this change, I knew I could manipulate my situation. I managed to get a job as a petrol station attendant - I'd done it previously. Bosses are rarely there in petrol stations. Normally alone or with one other employee (that you'd get to know well). Dealing with one customer at a time. Lonely locals coming in when it's quiet in hope of a chat. Women coming in alone (I know that sounds wrong, but I didn't have the confidence to be chatty with females when there were other people there). The petrol station job could have been perfect for a loner to act like a robot, but gave me huge amounts of confidence. I became too confident and then incredibly anxious about what I might have said and forgotton about.

There aren't many pigeon steps in life. Chatting to strangers on SPW seemed small but was massive. The opportunity for a mortgage was coming and really I needed to earn more. I was 36 and living with my parents. I went on a website for people leaving school and found a portable appliance testing (PAT) course.

Safety testing on business premises. Even a huge office rarely takes more than a day. A small shop, maybe half an hour. Then they have their certificate and I won't see them for another year. A different place and different people every single day is so much more bearable than trying to fit into a workplace social structure.

Sometimes I have to talk to a few people in a quiet workplace whilst other people are working. I stand confidently, try not to talk too loudly (like I can when I'm really anxious and fighting it), and yeah, it can haunt me for weeks or months afterwards. By haunt I mean, missing my favourite tv program, even though it's on and I'm staring at the screen. I'm just not taking any of it in, because of worries about a situaton that's been and gone, can't be changed and I didn't do anything weird then anyway.

But it's all worth it. The majority of days I talk to a few customers, get chatty if I want and time it right, so I never have to talk to a group or people I might feel awkward round for no reason. This small amount of chat, with strangers I won't see again for another year, is enough to keep me sane. Without this human interaction, the cabin fever would be setting in and my ability to be chatty would soon go.

I was very worried I'd become lonely moving out of my parents'. I've had the mortgage nearly 5 years. It's big enough for me and two lodgers. It's a two bedroom maisonette. One's in the lounge and one's in the second bedroom. So there's no living room awkwardness to contend with, but I get the right amount of interaction/politeness whilst in the kitchen. They've both got double beds, large wardrobes, six foot sofas and TVs in their rooms. It's normal not to have a living room in this part of town. It's in the rough part of town, near the centre and university. Which means cheap purchase price, high room price and fast turnover of people (13 so far).

Do you see the strategy that's gone into this? Trying my hardest to make my life uncomfortable just enough for me not to get starved of human interaction. I've been with this company five years. The customers recognise me, some like me, some dislike me, some make me feel slightly awkward. The people in head office that I hardly talk to hate me now. I've started to dislike them. I just have to hang on till January. My bank would never renew my fixed rate mortgage with a part time job, but once they've renewed it they won't care. Then I'll be part time at another company with different customers that I'll only see once a year!

And having lodgers, that could be so much worse. We have a saying - "An Englishman's home is his castle". Which in this situation means - If you rent a flat, you have rights. If you rent a room in someone else's main residence, you don't have any.

That's what I'd have said if I could afford counselling. And the counsellor would have punctuated it with lots of "And, how do you feel about that" and "What does that mean to you."
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