Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Test

I tested the right things in the beginning, but I didn't look for the results I really needed. I don't test stuff like this with friends, but he was different because he was a potential boyfriend and I needed to learn the truth about what I was already worried about - that he was happy-go-lucky and I'm not and we just weren't compatible. The way he dodged the issue of my 100 Facebook notes on Colby got me nervous, so I wanted to test the waters further. I wouldn't do this with someone I already trusted.

First I asked him whether I should call my novel "Submersion Learning" or "The Picnic Game." Everyone I had asked at the time agreed that "The Picnic Game" was the better title. I agree too. So I didn't expect any different from him. But it's the reasoning that bothered me a little. Everyone else told me that "The Picnic Game" just sounded more like a fun novel to read, whereas "Submersion Learning" sounds more like a textbook title. He told me that he liked "The Picnic Game" because it sounded more upbeat. Nothing wrong with that answer - after all, it's not like he knew anything about the book. But then I told him that it wasn't really an upbeat story - I explained that it involved a cult and manipulation and someone literally almost getting killed because of social pressure to do something dangerous.  Even though I was leaning towards "The Picnic Game," I told him what I liked about my other title, why I thought it fit the story. And he basically kept telling me that the reason he liked "The Picnic Game" better was because it sounded more happy and light and fluffy, even though I kept insisting that the story wasn't like that.

[Content: Suicidal thoughts in a fictional story]
Then I asked him for advice on my second novel (not the one I'm working on now - I shifted the order). My second novel at the time was going to be based on my Colby story. The story begins with the first part of a suicide note. Each new chapter begins with another paragraph of the note, and the issues described in the note are then played out in the chapter. The reader assumes that the character is going to kill themself at the end. But when we reach the end of the book, the final paragraph of the note, the person explains that they decided to live because what they had to say was too important to leave in someone else's hands. At that point, you really feel like the person is talking directly to you, the reader, like the entire book is their suicide note and they chose to live just so that they could put it in your hands, because that's how important the message is. I asked my boyfriend the same question that I had asked two of my writer friends - I asked him if it sounded like a cop-out to have the main character talk so much about killing themself and then not doing it. See, I wanted the ending to really pack a punch, to show just how important everything was that happened to her. But I was scared it wouldn't come off that way. There aren't a ton of college angst stories like there are with middle school and high school. Those are the times that are "supposed" to be bad, that lots of people agree are bad. No one writes dark angst stories like that about college. What I was afraid of was that my ending wouldn't pack that punch about how important her experience was, but rather, it would just come off as an anti-suicide message, indicating that it was good that she stuck it out and learned from the experience. That was the absolute last message I wanted the story to have. So from that point of view, I wondered if it would have been more effective to have her kill herself at the end, if that would be the best (or only) way to make people take her story seriously. When I asked my boyfriend about the issue of it being a cop-out, he basically said that he didn't see it being wrong that she chooses to live because most people would want to see her live. He was very tired because we were seeing a movie late at night, so I cut him a lot of slack for that. I actually thought it was sweet that he was trying hard to come up with an answer for me when he was so exhausted. But, while I don't remember his exact words, he was basically saying that the ending was fine because people would rather that she live and no one would want her to kill herself. There were (and still are) only a few people I can really talk to about the issue of it being a cop-out who really understand and accept what I'm trying to do here. I know my boyfriend isn't a writer, and I'm not expecting him to give me the kind of response I'd get from a friend who is, but I felt like I had confirmed that he was just like everyone else. He wasn't the kind of person I could talk to about this - he was the type who would just rather have the character live at the end because it makes him more comfortable even if it doesn't get the message across (not that there's anything wrong with this preference, just that it wasn't really answering my question about the cop-out). But I didn't see this. I just saw that he didn't completely freak out over the fact that I mentioned a suicide note.

The Normalization of Invalidation

Content Warning: Fictional story about an internet sexual predator deceiving a high-school girl.

A couple years ago, I read a book called Wanna Go Private? about a high school student, Abby, who made friends with someone on the internet. This person seemed very nice and validated all of her feelings about everything, but it turned out he was lying the whole time and was only trying to have sex with her.

It was the start of Abby's freshman year of high school. She's really scared, but her best friend Faith keeps telling her everything is going to be awesome and brushing off her concerns. Faith pressures Abby to stuff she doesn't want to do, such as trying out for the school play. Abby gets stage fright and faints in front of everyone, and tells Faith not to tell anyone because she's so embarrassed. Faith does tell her parents out of concern for Abby's well-being (one of her parents is a doctor), and Abby feels really betrayed. Then Abby meets this guy online, Luke, who validates her feelings completely and agrees that Faith shouldn't be pushing her into stuff she doesn't want to do. He accepts how bad she feels about all of the changes in high school and doesn't pressure her to have a better attitude, the way that Faith does. Soon Abby starts to feel like Luke is the only one she has, the only one who gets it. At the end of the story, she notes that Luke always took her side on everything, whereas "real" friend like Faith would tell her that she was being negative, tell it like it is, even if she didn't want to hear it.

What really, really bothers me about this story is that it normalizes peer pressure and invalidation among friends - it tries to indicate that it really was okay that Faith invalidated Abby's negative feelings about high school, pressured her to be positive about things she wasn't happy about, and pressured her to get involved in school activities that she didn't want to do. It tries to indicate that nothing was really that bad in the initial situation, and this Luke guy tricked her into thinking that things were worse than they were and that he was the only one she could talk to.

That was not true. Things WERE bad from the start. Abby was in a really bad situation where people weren't listening to her and respecting her feelings, and Luke came along and acted like the friend she needed. As an outside reader, it's obvious that he's just pretending. It's clear that he's trying to lure her away from her friends and family. But my problem with the end of the story is that you get the impression that this guy was too good to be true, like the warning signs were there and no friend could ever be the way he was. And that is a huge problem because the friend Luke pretended to be is EXACTLY the kind of friend I want to have. It's NOT okay if my friend pressures me to be in the play when I don't want to be. It's not okay if my friend pressures me to be more positive when I'm saying that I'm not okay with something. And I WANT friends who agree with me on that. Now, Luke goes too far in saying that Faith is a bad friend - I would never tell someone to drop a friend completely over what Faith did. But there are times when I have needed to drop friends completely because they were hurting me, and I got no support at all. I had no one who told me, "If they're making you feel bad, drop them." And now that I have friends who support me fully in choices like this, I do cling to them very hard and feel like they are the ones who understand. Because they are. Luke encouraged Abby to drop her friends for manipulative reasons, so that she would become isolated with only him, which is obviously wrong, but there's this undertone indicating that it's always wrong to encourage someone to drop their friends, which is not true.

The story was good about putting the blame on the predator and making it clear that this wasn't Abby's fault, but when it did talk about how this happened, there was definitely a tone that when something is too good to be true, it usually is. My problem with that is that Luke was NOT too good to be true! He wasn't some billionaire who was offering her a free cruise around the world. He listened  and accepted how she felt at face value and never told her to be more positive or brushed her feelings aside. Abby's therapist talks about the technique predators use of simply repeating her own statements back to her. That isn't just some predator technique - that is a real-life listening skill! That is an actual way to make someone feel heard and validated and the fact that no one else in Abby's life would do this for her was a fucking problem.

The bottom line here: I don't want people treating me like Faith treated Abby. I don't want to be told to be more positive or be guilt-tripped into functioning or accepting things that aren't okay. I don't want to be told that something is not as big as it is for me. I don't want to be given a dose of reality. I am looking for unconditional, pressure-free, emotional validation, and I am NOT willing to live in a world where that is too good to be true.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why Communication Didn't Work

Some people will never accept what I say at face value. Some people will just never, ever accept that when I say something is of a certain importance, or that something is really bad, it actually IS that important or that bad. Clear communication can't fix that.

I wrote The Unencrypted Truth for myself, because I wanted to share my story with the world. But a part of me also wrote it for my ex-boyfriend. Well, not really "for" him. It was more like, I wrote it so that he would really understand what happened. Earlier on in our relationship, he was giving me grief for why I was unwilling to visit a friend who was still at Colby. He couldn't accept the fact that I was never willing to set foot there again and thought that visiting my friend should take priority over any bad feelings I had about the school. I gradually told him more and more details about Colby in the years we were dating, and he kept trying to comfort me by telling me that it was over. He kept being annoyed at how I always assumed that people wouldn't take me seriously about things before even asking them. When I sprained my ankle during grad school winter break - the absolute worst timing ever - I was mainly upset because no one around me understood just how upset I was. But the truth is, I hadn't told them. I didn't mention to anyone that I sprained my ankle because I predicted that they would react this way. It drove my boyfriend crazy.

When I was in college writing classes, I wrote things in a very cryptic way because I was attacking the people in my class, and my professors kept telling me that I needed to learn to communicate more clearly. When I was a freshman in college and said exactly what was wrong in plain English, no one took me seriously. People kept telling me that stuff was okay or good when I told them that it was unacceptable. People looked at me like they were waiting for me to say something more, like what I just told them couldn't possibly be enough for me to be acting the way I was acting. It was never enough. So I had learned that open honest communication got me nowhere in this world and that I had to communicate in a different way to be effective. That's when I got cryptic.

Writing classes at Colby were damaging. Communication is communication - it doesn't matter whether it's a fiction story, poem, blog post, or Facebook status. It is all communication, and I had internalized this idea that it was my own fault that people were treating me badly because I wasn't able to communicate clearly with them. This was a skill that I needed to learn. I had lost sight of the fact that my clear communication had been ineffective in my earlier years which was why I had become cryptic.

I wrote The Uncrypted Truth hoping that my boyfriend would finally truly understand where I was coming from. He would understand why I could never go back to that place. He'd understand why I had such a hard time trusting people to take me seriously. I told myself that I was a writer, that I have ability to make people feel things, and that I should be able to write this raw, emotional piece in a way that made other people feel angry and hurt over what happened to me. I could make them hate a place that they'd never been. I was a writer and I had that ability. If the essay didn't affect people that way, then I didn't do it right.

It was very effective with my friends. One of my closest friends had the reaction I described and honestly hates Colby as much as I do because of what happened to me there, even though she's never been there herself. With my boyfriend...the essay did make him cry in a couple of places. He wrapped his arms tight around me and said "No one hurts Nikki!" and it felt really good. But...I don't know. There was something that still felt missing from his reaction.

I always felt like my boyfriend and I were physically compatible. We both liked hugs and lots of physical contact, and we had similar sexual interests. Physical contact is very important to me, and I never wanted to stop getting hugs every day. But I always knew that we weren't mentally compatible. We didn't think the same way about anything, and he just didn't think about things as deeply as I do. I shared lots of deep stuff with him and he never had anything to say back when I asked him. We never had the emotionally deep connection that I have with my closest friends. We couldn't talk for hours. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with someone, I wouldn't have picked him. Okay, honestly, I would pick someone who was really smart and had the skills to survive on the island, but to answer the question it's really asking - who would I choose to spend a long period of time together where we're trapped and have no outside contact and no entertainment other than each other? I have two very close friends I would pick. I wouldn't pick my boyfriend. I would have in the early infatuation stage, but not in our final year. We didn't have the ability to just talk for five hours straight and be entertained and engaged by each other's company alone. I have that with a few friends and with my mom, and it is a really special deep connection. He and I never had that. The only deep connection we had was physical. We could never talk for hours. 

So back to the essay, my boyfriend didn't react to it in a mental way - he didn't seem to have a deeper understanding of why I couldn't trust people to take me seriously. I mean, he said he understood, but it didn't feel real to me. When my close friend read the essay, I could tell that she had a very deep understanding of what I had been through. Not only does she hate Colby, but she really understands how hard it is to trust people to take you seriously after you've been through something like that. She gets it because she went through something similar. When my boyfriend dumped me, she was very concerned about checking in and making sure I was okay and that I wasn't going to hurt myself. She took it completely seriously when I talked about the feelings I had at Colby and understands that those things can happen again. My boyfriend never did that. He never cared about me on this level. All the times he talked about whether or not he still wanted to be with me were when really bad things were happening to me, like when my grandma was in the hospital. He assured me that it wasn't caused by that, but I could see clearly that he just didn't like me as much when I was upset. I told him from the start that I wasn't happy-go-lucky like him. On our first date, I told him to go and read my 100 Facebook notes about Colby to understand what I'm really like. I kept warning him that we were incompatible in this way and that I didn't understand why he would like me. He just didn't seem like the kind of person who would want someone like me in his life. But he kept insisting it would be okay until our final year when I was too deeply attached to let go of him, which I knew would happen, which was why I had mentioned all these issues from the start before we got so attached. 

We came full circle. He couldn't accept that my job and commute situation was unacceptable to me. When we were looking at apartments, I told him that I was having my birthday party at one place or the other - the old apartment or the new one, but I was not willing to have it during our transition time, so once it got past a certain date, I was not willing to make the move until after the party. He told me he could run over and grab the keys the morning of the party, but I told him no, I wasn't willing to deal with anything like that the day of the party. I wanted to be completely focused on the party. He told me he'd handle it, and I told him NO. I said that if he had something he needed to take care of the morning of my birthday party, that was fine, but this involved me even if he was handling it and I was not willing to have this happen the day of my party or close to it. 

I WAS RIGHT when I said that I couldn't trust people to take me seriously. My boyfriend WAS one of the people who never took me seriously and proved it to me in our final days. He finally admitted that he didn't see what was wrong no matter how clearly I communicated with him, and that he was never going to. And that was the end.

I am not going through this again. This thing of having everyone like me because I'm not sharing everything and then have them change their minds when I do share stuff - I'm not doing it again. I'm gonna share everything from the start so I never let anyone in in the first place who's gonna ditch me later on. 

I used to think that clear communication could fix everything, but it doesn't. I never want to feel this way in a relationship ever again. I LIKE to talk and write about my feelings. I wrote my 34,000-word essay for myself, because I wanted to. But I should NEVER feel like I have to. It should never take 34,000 words to get someone to accept that something is as bad as I say it is. I need to surround myself with people who get it. My close friends who were outraged when Colby reading my essay? They are validating people. Some of them already knew my story, and the ones who didn't, the only reason they hadn't experienced this rage before was because they didn't know what had happened. These are the kind of people I need to be with.

As a writer, I want to communicate to everyone. I want to affect how other people think about things. My friend wrote a story about someone who sexually assaulted her friend without realizing it, and without wanting to hurt her friend. This girl wasn't very aware of other people's wants and needs and tended to push what she wanted on other people, while her friend was taught to always do what she was expected to do and not make waves and stand up for herself. Earlier in the story, the friend who later gets assaulted was sitting on the edge of the pool, clearly not wanting to swim, and her friend pulls her in. After reading this story, I really though about all the non-consentual things we do that's we've been taught are okay. I've always pulled people into the pool without asking, and I've been pulled in without asking, and I grew up thinking that this was okay. One time my cousins and I were fooling around in the pool and one of my cousins pushed someone into the deep end of the pool and didn't realize that she couldn't swim. She was okay, but very shaken. Everyone referred to this incident as just an accident. It was an accident in the sense that the cousin who pushed her didn't know that she couldn't swim, but no one ever said to us, "You really shouldn't push someone into the pool without asking." My friend's story really helped me to notice all these ways that we're taught that it's okay to violate consent. This is the impact that I want to have on people. I want people to think, "Wow, I didn't realize I was doing this thing that's hurting people. I should stop doing it." I haven't had that reaction yet because the only people who read my stuff already agree with it, and the people who don't see the problem don't want to hear about it.

I do want to communicate effectively to the masses, but I can't be doing that with the people closest to me. I can't keep people around thinking that if they don't get it, it's my fault for not communicating well enough. There is a huge difference between explaining your needs to someone who is validating and consent-conscious but just doesn't know your specific needs yet, and trying to get someone to take your needs seriously when they're used to brushing other people's needs off. I need to be able to say that I have really horrible associations with, say, green wallpaper and that I'll feel depressed for weeks on end if I have to be in a room with it, and have other person not demand a 34,000-word explanation, but just say, "Okay, I won't try to pressure you to go someplace that has green wallpaper." And writing that 34,000-word explanation might make some people rethink how they're brushing off other people's emotional needs, which is my goal, but anyone I let in and have a relationship with needs to be someone who already has an instinct to take people seriously. In our final argument, I said to him, "I feel like I've said all of this so crystal clearly. What I am doing wrong?  What can I possibly say that will make people see the burning building and not the wilted flower? Because I feel like I am describing a burning building so clearly and some people just always still see the wilted flower!!!" I asked him to write a Facebook status for me that explained things in a way that he thought people would understand. He did it, but there was no insight, no emotion, nothing I hadn't already said. I told him to hug me tightly so that nothing could hurt me, and he squeezed me tight, but it wasn't real. I could feel that it wasn't real. He was just doing what I told him to do. He finally admitted to me that he doesn't see the burning building even when I do describe it that way. I told him from the start what I needed, that emotional validation was literally the most important thing to me, and he said he could give me that, but it was never true. He never did see anything for what it was. It's my experience, and if I say that this is how bad it is, then this is how bad it is. But he never accepted that. He finally admitted that he never really accepted it, and we were done. Forever. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Meh

I am moving to Facebook and staying there. For good. I don't want to write books or poetry or blog posts or anything that takes work. No more. I am done. Facebook is where I am staying, and I just plan to keep writing my feelings on Facebook for the rest of my life.

I have no concept of intrinsic motivation anymore. It's all synthetic approval. Synthetic approval like, "Good, you're doing something productive with your life and getting your act together and not complaining on Facebook." Not like, "We're all so interested in your writing that we wish you'd do more of it!" The only reason anyone is pushing me to do anything is so that I'll get off Facebook and be strong and independent and have inner strength. I'm not interested in any of that. I am going to curl up in a little ball and have lots of validation and warm fuzzy cuddles. I am not willing to live without those things, and if I keep getting pressured to live without them and be self-sufficient well then everyone who's saying that can fuck off. Seriously. I am JUST looking for warm fuzzy cuddles and validation and I've said that a zillion times now! If you go to a store to get a screwdriver and they just keep handing you candy, well sure, a lot of people like candy, but it's really not going to be effective at unscrewing things!

I have more people who can see my Facebook status than anything else. My blog stats are horrendous, and they were horrendous even back when I wrote really good, organized, well-thought-out posts that I put lots of time and effort into. Back when I used to edit thoroughly and comb through every sentence to make sure the posts sounded smooth. My hits haven't changed a bit since I since I stopped editing, so why start up again? What's the fucking point???

Oh, you wanna talk about better outlets than Facebook? I WROTE A FUCKING BOOK!!!! Yeah, like, a whole novel. 226 pages. You know who I sent it to? Everyone I knew at the time. You who read it? My parents, my ex-bf, and two friends. None of them had the reaction of, "Wow, it's so scary how easily people can get coerced into doing things. I want to be more conscious of this in real life." (Not to say that these individual people needed to learn that, just that this is what my message was, this is what the story was about, and I impacted no one at all). My friend wrote a story that involved coercion and it impacted me a lot. I actually re-thought about things that I had grown up thinking were okay, and realizing that they weren't okay. I have never gotten a reaction like that. I've never had someone tell me that they learned that something was wrong that they didn't realize was wrong from reading something I'd written. Whenever I tried to bring important issues to people's attention in my fiction, I was told to get my emotions in check and write about calmer things. Or else I'd have people act like they cared what I had to say, only to pressure me to channel my energy into their cause which never had anything to do with what I was complaining about.

I am done with writing stuff that's good. I am done withholding anything on Facebook. If people ditch me because of it then we were never friends from the start. I'm not going through this ever again. I'm not ever gonna be ditched again because people found out what I'm really like because I'm gonna make sure they know that from the start. I'm not looking to be self sufficient and self validating I'm just looking for cuddles and there's no one to cuddle with right now and it fucking sucks I just keep getting walked out on right in the middle and there's no closure no nothing it just ends so abruptly and I am so fucking done with this. I need consistency and commitment. I'm looking for that toxic level of obsession that overly attached girlfriend has. I'm just looking for someone to hold on really, really tight and never let go. Everyone keeps letting go so fast.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I Regret Things I've Done, NOT Things I Didn't Do

People always like to say that you'll look back on your your life and regret what you didn't do more than anything that you did do. That is bullshit. I mean, I'm sure it's true for a lot of people, but it is complete bullshit to claim that this is true for everyone. I regret things I've done, I regret risks I've taken, and I regret opportunities I've seized. I regret all of these things way more than any opportunities that I've missed. I am tired of having my experiences erased when people say, "You'll regret what you've done, not what you didn't do."

The biggest things I regret in my life are "great opportunities" that I've taken. My biggest regret of all is going to Colby College. Getting out of a town like mine and going far away to a big-name prestigious college is exactly the kind of risk that people encourage you to take, the kind of opportunity that people say you'll only regret passing up. I regret Colby every day of my life. I would not have regretted staying home in my comfort zone and going to a local college. I like my comfort zone and this would have made me happy, and since my main goal in life is to feel good - NOT to grow or become a stronger person - this would have been the right choice for me.

I know I wouldn't have regretted staying home because I don't generally regret missed opportunities. That's just not something I experience very much. Before college, most of my regrets came in the form of, "I wish I hadn't spent so much time/effort on A so that I could have had time for B." Ultimately, it's A that I regret. Normally if I want to do something, I try to do it. If I was unable to do an activity, whatever prevented me from doing that activity is what I truly regret, because in the absence of that obstacle, I would have done it. For instance: I regret spending lots of time on my schoolwork and having less time for fun activities. That's my real regret here - that I spent the time on school, NOT so much that I didn't do an activity I wanted to do. Why? Because I don't like to be really busy or have a lot of things going on, so adding a new activity to my schedule without taking something else out was not an option. If any of my other choice activities were less important to me than this new one, I would have made time for the new activity. But since that wasn't the case, it goes back to school standing in my way, and that is what I truly regret. (Also note here that most of the time, B was something I was already doing and wanted to do more of.) I don't have many regrets for things that I never tried in the first place. Sometimes I've been too scared to try something, and sometimes I wish that I had tried some of those things, but these are generally minor, insignificant regrets to me. Every time that I really, truly regretted not doing something, it wasn't because I was scared to try. It was because something else was standing in my way, and I ultimately regret spending all that time on A, because if I hadn't been spending that time, then I would have done more of B by default.

About a month ago, I went to an event that ended up being boring. While a part of me wished I had stayed home and had fun by myself, I was ultimately glad that I went, because if I hadn't gone, I would have been wondering if it would have been a nice time and if I had missed out. This is an example of what I think most people are referring to when they say that you'll regret what you don't do more than what you do. I do have this experience. It just doesn't compare to things that I actually regret. Like I said above, the things I chose not to do because I was nervous or shy are NOT the things I have deep regrets about. If I had skipped this event, I would have wondered whether I should have gone, but it wouldn't have been much of a big deal to me, and that feeling would have faded fast and not been something that effected me much, in the moment or in the long-run.

The reason that I'm glad I went to this event instead of wondering whether I should have gone is simple: nothing bad happened at the event. It was boring. Boring is neutral, not bad. The only "bad" thing is the opportunity cost of what I could have been doing instead, and that's about the same weight as the feeling of "Maybe I should have gone," in the aftermath (well in this case it is, because there was a strong potential for something really good to come of this event). But if something bad had happened at the event - if people weren't nice, if I had walked away feeling really bad, then I would have regretted going. That badness would outweigh any feelings of "Maybe I should have gone" no matter how high the potential was for it being a good time.

This is what happened at Colby. Bad things happened at events. I have events that I still, to this day, 8 years later, regret attending. I left Colby feeling like a piece of my soul had been ripped out. And that is NOT about the opportunity cost of what else I could have doing with those four years. That's about what happened. That is 100 percent WHAT HAPPENED. And there is absolutely no missed-opportunity regret I have that compares to this. So please, please stop erasing my experiences with this myth about regretting what you don't do and missing the shots you don't take. There are some "shots" out there that I would give anything to have missed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Praised for Showing Up

I like praise as much as the next person. In fact, I LOVE praise and attention and feeling special. But there are certain times that I would prefer not to be praised. Times when I've done something that I don't think deserves praise, and the praise comes out as pressure to do it more.

Think of a parent praising their child for dressing themself for the first time. There are two reasons that parents do this. The first is that it truly is an accomplishment the first time you get dressed by yourself, something that kids can feel proud about. But the second reason parents give praise is that they want to teach their kids that getting dressed every morning is a good thing to do. They want that praise to be motivation for their children to dress themself again tomorrow, and the day after that, until it becomes so routine that they do it with no hassle.

When I was in college and went to a few discussion groups, people would often praise us for coming. I didn't like that because attending a talk is not an accomplishment. Well, I shouldn't say that. It can definitely be an accomplishment. You could have depression and dragging yourself to do something like go to a talk is a huge accomplishment. You could have social anxiety that makes events like this very stressful, and it's a major accomplishment to go. But I don't think my classmates were thinking along these lines. I wouldn't have minded if someone had said it in a personal way, like if a friend said, "It means a lot to me that you're here." But the way they praised us for showing up felt very similar to when parents praise a child for dressing themself - they were pushing us to do more. I really felt like they had claimed me as someone who attends talks and now I'd be expected to go to more.

I never liked getting praised for my good grades because I always felt like I had to get good grades. If someone praised me for performing well in the play, I knew that they wouldn't look down on me if I wasn't in the play. But I did feel like people would look down on me if I didn't get good grades or try hard in school, which is why I resented it when I got so much praise for good grades. It's like the getting dressed thing - if after the parents praise their kids for getting dressed the first time, and the kid says, "That was fun, but I really don't like putting clothes on - I don't ever plan to do it again," the parents aren't going to be happy. They aren't going to continue to praise the accomplishment. They're going to start lecturing the kid that they are expected to get dressed every day. That's how I felt when people praised me for going to their events. If I climbed Mt. Everest, that would be a great accomplishment for me, even if I never climbed another mountain again. But attending an event was not an accomplishment for me, and really, the ONLY reason to praise me was to convince me to come back again. The second I said, "I'm really not into discussions, this was just one-time thing," all that praise is gone. Being liked by other people was gone. And I'm not interested in relationships like that. So don't praise me as an underhanded way of convincing me to do something. Praise me because you actually think I've done something cool, regardless of whether I ever do it again.