Ok, what was that all about?

Here it is, a couple of days later, and now I can’t even remember why I was so upset over the mailing list thing. Thinking about it this morning, I honestly couldn’t figure out why I was so upset. Even re-reading the messages, I can’t figure it out. And yet on Wednesday, I was nearly in tears of anger and pain over this.

Weird. I guess it was just overstressed by other things, and all it took was a small annoyance to turn into a big hurtful thing.

My apologies to everybody, and my sincere thanks to all the people who sent words of encouragement and support on my blog or via email. It was very touching.

I said when I was taking some time off that I was going to do some soul searching. I did. Here are my conclusions:

  • I overreacted.
  • I *am* getting tired of the “doing a Paul” thing.
  • I wish people wouldn’t assume I don’t get the joke just because I do more of the same sort of joke. Consider it an homage or an attempt to amplify it, instead.
  • I really, really, really don’t like being out of touch with my email friends.

What have I done?

In the cold clear light of morning, even in my bleary sleep deprived state, I see things a little differently than I did yesterday. And what I see is that my previous two posts on the subject have touched off a discussion and a bunch of recrimination and self-recrimination on the lists. I didn’t intend for this to happen. I’d hoped for some quiet time to reflect on how much of this was me being over sensitive to things, and how much of it was real insensitivity on the part of the other participants. Once I had a handle on that, I could decide how to pursue it when I came back to the list – and yes, I mean when rather than if. Storming off in a huff is a childish reaction, and I hope it’s not really my style.

Sure, I’m human, I’ve got an ego – I’d hoped that one or two people would miss me, or would see my blog and maybe offer some kind words. But instead it appears that well meaning people have started discussing my absence and what to do about it. I’d like to suggest to them that they just wait to see if it needs anything done about it. I’m a bit more stressed than usual right now, and maybe I’ll decide that it’s all my problem and I’ll deal with it. Or maybe I’ll decide to state once again that as running jokes go, this one has gone far too long and I’d appreciate it if it stopped. Or maybe I’ll want more action. I don’t know. But don’t tear up the lists about it.

Vicki sent me an email saying that one of the people who feels that he piled on is taking a self-imposed exile from the list. And I feel awful about that. He’s not even the one who initially made me mad. Not that I would suggest anybody else is to blame either. I haven’t figured out exactly how I feel and where it’s coming from, so how can I say such and such a person is wrong?

I think the root cause goes back to my own ego. I gather most smart people have this experience at college where they suddenly go from being the smartest person they knew to just one of a smart crowd. I didn’t have that experience – not to boast or anything, but I really felt like I was the smartest person in my circle of friends and classmates.

Ok, digression time: I’m going to lessen that boast a bit – I was in civil engineering, which is really the underachievers branch of engineering. I chose civil because I had a love for beautiful functional structures and bridges. I had the marks to get into systems design engineering, the overachievers branch, but I didn’t even really know what it was until I was nearly finished my first year of civil, and I didn’t want to repeat a year so I decided to stick it out, even though as time went on I hated civil more and more and wished I’d gone into systems. That’s why I never worked as a real civil engineer. Systems design and civil engineering were the two smallest branches of engineering, and they both pretty much hung out with their own kind exclusively. So I never hung out with the brightest of the bright in the engineering school, which is why 20 years later I’m still convinced I’m a pretty damn smart guy.

Anyway, these mailing lists are the one place in my life where I’m definitely not the smartest person there. There I’m just a guy with some specialized knowledge of a few subjects, some strong but not very well formed opinions on some subjects, a desire to learn in others, and a total blank on others. And that’s pretty intimidating, especially when it happens 20 years later in your life than it’s supposed to happen. And for the first time in my life, I’ve got people I respect talking down to me, and it’s painful because I’m never had it happen before and I don’t know how to deal with it.

Being in that crowd is a constant learning experience, a constant humbling experience, and 99.999% of the time, a constant joy. (Now a grammar pedant will tell me it’s not constant if it’s only 99.999% of the time.) Like I said earlier in this entry, I’ll have to do a bit of soul searching before I come back, but I’ll be back.

Taking a break, part 2

A short time after my previous entry, I realized that I can’t keep reading those mailing lists and restraining myself from posting, so I unsubscribed. First time in over 6 years that I haven’t been on some of those lists. Since these lists produce a couple of hundred emails a day, this is a huge decrease in volume for me.

All evening I kept picking up my computer to check my email as I am wont to do, only to find there was none. This is just too weird.

So now it’s 3:30 in the morning. I’ve been sleeping fitfully all night, and finally gave up and came out to the living room to read some mail and news, and of course there hardly is any email. I’m sure that at least some of the problem I’m having sleeping is due to anxiety over not being connected to these people any more.

I’d say it’s like the anxiety you’d get from being disconnected from or fighting with your family, but I’ve never been that close to my family, so what do I know?

Taking a break

I’m on a group of mailing lists. Over the years I’ve gotten a reputation for answering rhetorical questions. That’s partly true – most of the lists live on my system, so I see them before anybody else, so if I know the answer I will answer, without minutely analysing the post to see if it’s a rhetorical question. I think it’s better to err on the side of being helpful – most people would rather see thier question answered, rather than not answered because people couldn’t figure out if it was rhetorical or not. So sue me.

I also have a habit, when somebody makes a ironic statement, of trying to amplify the irony by playing off what they’re saying. Sometimes I do it right, sometimes it falls flat.

Unfortunately because of the first reputation, unlike when other people do it and it doesn’t work right, people just assume I’m totally fucking stupid, and pile all over me. And I’m god damned sick and tired of it. So I’m taking a break. I’m not going to say anything on any of those mailing lists for as long as I can. Maybe if I don’t give them any ammunition, they’ll stop piling on me. Already in the last hour I’ve had to stop myself twice where I was going to reply to a message.

The saddest thing is that these people are the people I consider my best friends in the world. Maybe I need some new friends.