Friday, 31 December 2010

Socialing and Me: Reflections on 2010

Well 2010 has come to an end and it has been a good and eventful year for me. There's certainly been a few difficult moments, and one or two outright bad days, but there's been many good days.
One key aspect of 2010 was attending organised socials, which involved interacting with various types of people I would otherwise be unlikely to come into contact with. Whilst this has been challenging and sometimes quite frustrating, I have certainly learnt a few things through this experience. Meeting some of those people has helped me confirm in my mind where I am most comfortable socially, and helped me know my social identity as to the kind of person I am.

This blog is not about politics and I will not say anything about my political persuasions here, but I am a very political person, and an 'issues' man. I've had quite a few letters printed in local papers since 2004 and this year I started doing some freelance writing on line and my articles are mainly on matters related to politics. They are not full of rhertoric and I work hard to ensure that everything I write is backed up with facts and evidence, quoting parts of documents etc. All serious stuff. I also listen to a number of U.S. based talk radio podcasts, which discuss various issues related to politics and current affairs. The hosts and guests speak in a straight-forward manner, continually backing up their opinions with facts.

With such influences as these, I find that my best conversations are those when I'm on a subject I know about and I may start to resemble an 'expert' of some sort being interviews on talk radio. This is where I am most at home socially. Of course I enjoy lighter conversations too, especially if the other people provide some social stimulation. Now I often find myself naturally comparing two very different people to each other, or two groups of people, for instance I find myself contrasting someone from organised socials to a talk radio host I listen to. I don't wish to be critical of anyone who knows me from organised socials, but of the people I've got to know a bit, I cannot imagine many of them being a very effective guest on a political/issues based talk radio programme (sincere apologise if any of you end up reading this and I'm wrong). Their conversations are not fact-orientated enough, and even when they are, their language by and large will be more like that of a football player, musician, a relationships coach, a housewife, or anything other than a professor or politician. (I don't like carer politicians by the way). I contrast the straight-forward interview with the more frivilous talk and banter that takes place in pubs.

Mixing in with different types of people and in not-so-comfortable situations is good for confirming your own identity and where you are most comfortable socially. One thing I have learnt is that it is good to prepare for social situations that might be uncomfortable and have a strategy set for any particular awkward moments that might arise.

There's an old female teacher from school who I have subsequently had dealings with, who even in a social setting comes across as formal and very business-like, and I think I am rather like her in that way. I am naturally a formal person, I don't exaggerate a story or situation like many young people do (that not a criticism), rather I try to give as accurate a picture as possible.
In short what I'm saying is attending organised socials, combined with listening to political talk radio podcasts, during 2010, has confirmed in my mind where my social identity lies, and whilst I want to be able to adapt to any social situation and there's always much to learn, I have a clearer idea of who I am socially, where my social home is, and I can take pride in my social identity. It reveals the things I am good at.
Another thing I have discovered this year is this. When you find yourself unsure as to how genuine someone's friendship towards you is (which has happened a number of times at organised socials when I witnessed certain people cooling towards me for no apparent reason), you begin to realise and it confirms in your mind who your real friends are. In my case it is with people outside the organised social scene.

With all that said I may well attend more organised socials at some stage in 2011, and still like to remain in touch with a number of people I met there this year. It all depends on circumstances.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Time on my own verses time with others - the tables turn at Christmas

When I was growing up, in a family of two parents and a younger brother, and going to school each day, I always looked forward to spending time on my own in the garden or in a room at home in the evenings and weekends. I was around people so much that I needed all the time to myself I could get. And as I've said in previous posts, I had no interest in making friends and being socialable back then.

I've lived on my own for seven years now, something I always looked forward to doing when I grew up. However as I find myself on my own so much and usually waking up, eating and going to bed with no one else in the house, I find myself trying to maximise the time I spend with others, trying to arrange to meet up with friends and keep busy. I do need time to myself, but I get so much of it that I can forget how necessary it is.

However there are rare occasssions when I do need to get away from people. One of them that happens every year is at Christmas time, normally Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For as long as I can remember, every year on Boxing Day, my wider family on my mother's side meets up at the home of my Mother's eldest brother and his family, as it's their youngest son's birthday is Boxing Day (he's just turned 20) All the children are grown up now and some of them are married with their own very small children now.

I always look forward to this day, and the first part always goes well, having a meal, unwrapping presents over a nice cup of tea and the chocolates we've just been given for Christmas! However, it is around mid- afternoon to early evening that I normally find it gets harder. Most of my family love to play games, board games, writing poetry etc, which I do not generally enjoy, and I find after spending several hours with the family I am simply too tired and games are just hard work so I opt out. I think having done this for so many years now I have recognised what my problem is and have learned to deal with. Firstly by recognising the problem, that I need time to myself, and secondly, my preparing for this my bringing something like a book to read, or bringing my chess set along and having a game with one of my uncles.

Now there are some games I do quite enjoy and I do sometime join in, but the problem I have with playing games on this occassion is firstly, because it is taking place after several hours of being around people with nowhere for me to get away for a break. Seconly, it is because there is often so much confusion about the rules and how we'll play, and people shouting over each other (not in a nasty way) instead of it all going quickly and smoothly, and it all goes over my head and becomes draining. A third problem is that some games take a long time (often because of my previous observation) and you find that you're 'trapped' inside the game without being able to get away from others until its finished. I cannot play games like Monopoly, they require too much thinking of a type I cannot do, and it takes so long to finish it that you can never finish it properly! And again there's often so many arguments about rules that takes up time and makes it even more tiring. I cannot do writing poetry that my family often like to do either, my mind just doesn't work that way and it seems like a lot of hard work for a Boxing day bank holiday.

In previous years I've often found myself board and at a loose end at this stage of the day. I think that preparing for it has helped me very much here, in the same way as preparation helps me in other social situations. Oddly, I often find the late evening is more enjoyable, when the games are over and everyone is winding down with a more relaxed conversation. That said this does vary from year to year. The one thing I can say is that family occassions are far more relaxed then socialising with people you do not know so well (though probably not as exciting) because everyone knows I have Asperger's and has seen me grow up, and it is very helpful when you're parents and uncles and auntie's remeber you as a baby or toddler, because it shows you what you are naturally like and where you hae come from as a persno, as its impossible for anyone to fake anything at such a young age.