1003: Isolation Chamber

Last night I spent a thoroughly pleasant evening in the company of the few “real-life” friends I see on a regular basis. We played Descent, I made some poor tactical decisions and lost yet another quest (seriously, I am the most incompetent evil overlord of all time) and we had fun.

As always, though the experience was, for me, tinged with a certain hint of bittersweetness. Said friends, you see, all live back in the Southampton/Winchester area, which is where I used to live before the rather inconvenient and upsetting collapse of almost my entire existence over two years ago. I, however, am not located there; instead, I am nearly two hours’ drive away in Chippenham, Wiltshire. It’s not a difficult drive, to be sure, but it isn’t something I can particularly do on a sudden whim. Well, I can, but I do need to have plenty of time on my hands before I do it, and there are other considerations as well.

It’s frustrating, though. Regular readers will know that I am not an especially “social” person a lot of the time, but I do appreciate and enjoy the time I get to spend with these friends. We’ve built a strong Social Link as a group together in recent years, and most of us have had to take on some difficult challenges in that time. Although in a lot of cases, said group of friends didn’t necessarily help and support directlythe fact that they were simply there was often enough. I know I certainly felt that way, though naturally I can’t speak for the others.

It’s hard to feel that way when you’re two hours away, though; when you have to make full on capital-P Plans to see them rather than just sending a text and asking if people are up for something. I miss being able to do that, and not just with the particular group of friends I saw last night, either; there are ex-colleagues still in the area whom I used to love being able to just call up (well, text up) and hang out with.

I feel more than a tad isolated, in short.

And in more ways than one, if I’m honest. Leaving aside the geographical issue that gets in the way of seeing “real life” friends for a moment, there’s also the whole issue of having like-minded friends who are into similar things that you are. I have a number of interests that I am perfectly willing to describe as “niche”, and at times it can be difficult and frustrating to be a fan of these things when there’s no-one nearby to share the experience and enjoyment of them with. It’s not as if I have absolutely no-one, obviously — Andie is good at taking an interest in the things I like (for the most part, anyway!) and aforementioned friends share at least some of my interests.

The “simple” solution seems obvious — take an interest in more “mainstream” things so you can more easily share the enjoyment of things that everyone enjoys. But it’s not that simple. I have tried on a number of occasions to engage with things I know various friends and acquaintances are interested in — everything from football to The X-Factor — and every time I have come away feeling like I’m forcing myself to try and enjoy something I dislike immensely, and it just doesn’t seem worth it. Apparently your tastes are hard-wired into your head somewhere, and it is very difficult to change them. I am predisposed to like the things I like (board games, video games, anime, soundtracks, music, writing, The Internet, My Little Pony) and similarly to dislike the things I despise (too many to list).

Knowing that doesn’t help with those feelings of isolation, though. Knowing that the things I enjoy are only appreciated by certain specific subcultures can be a difficult pill to swallow at times, but it’s the situation that my own tastes have gotten me into. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret or feel embarrassed about anything that I enjoy; it’d just be nice to be able to enthuse about it with people who are a bit closer sometimes.

But at least I can enthuse about it with people thanks to the trappings of modern society. I can chat with my friend in Canada about anime; I can discuss strategies for failing to beat the hideously difficult secret boss in Persona 3 with another friend in the States. I can rant and rave in private about the things that are getting my goat to someone in yet another disparate geographical location; I can share my pride in something I have achieved with yet someone else entirely.

Things could be worse, in short — but it doesn’t stop those occasional feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’ve been having more than a few of them recently, and it’s getting me down a bit, so apologies if the tone of these posts may be a bit on the melancholy side at times.

Oh well. I’ll deal. I always do.

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Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

3 thoughts on “1003: Isolation Chamber”

  1. Who suggested you like more mainstream things? That’s a terrible solution! You just have to seek out new people that like the same things you do. And I know, it can be difficult to go out and talk to people, but it’s really worth it. And if you make one, it’s very likely that they’ll introduce you to other friends they have that like similar things as well. and before you know it, you have another group of closer friends. Then, you bring them together and something amazing happens…

    1. Ah, don’t misunderstand, I have no intention of forcing myself to like things that I think/know are absolute shit. It is difficult, though, particularly when you’re geographically isolated as I am — hopefully that situation will be rectified at least to a small degree in the near future, however.

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