Looking back at old photos, I see a kid about 2 years old sitting in the snow, laughing at the camera looking all happy. I know it’s me but I can’t remember it. Sometimes I wonder if that was me and where that happy kid disappeared to.
Growing up in an apartment in a row of low wooden buildings along a road in the middle of a forest area close to the air force base where my father worked, I remember having friends to play with among the other kids down the road.
Soon enough I had only one really good friend.
It was a nice place to live in as a kid though. Lots of space, a vast forest around, very little traffic on the few small roads and also the airplanes to look at through the fence to the airfield whenever there were nothing else to do.
Then when I was about 5 years old, I moved. My parents built a house in another area and I found myself in a new neighborhood. Found some new friends or at least other kids to play with but mostly I still hung out with my friend from the old place.
We remained friends until around 12 years old, then we drifted away and went separate ways. He found new friends and interests, I remained the same and kept to myself. I guess it was inevitable.
My teenage years I spent without any close friends or friends in general. Outside of school I sometimes spent time with some younger kids who hung around the neighborhood. Better than always being alone but at the same time not really good for me in the long run. I missed out on all the usual teenage stuff.
At school the bullying that had started when I was about 9 0r 10 years old only got worse. To avoid it all, I stayed mostly at home when not in school, in my room or in the backyard. I wrote stories, worked on comics, played, painted, dreamed, read books, listened to music, studied. Luckily my young nephew spent a lot of time at my house during those years so I wasn’t always on my own.
At 13 years old,1980
In high school things got a bit better over time. I got some friends in class I spent most of my time with during school hours. Also, I managed to get to know a girl. Some small steps towards a better life were taken. There was not a lot of bullying at this level but the damage had already been done in the past. All of this I have written about many times before on this blog. In this post, I’m trying to describe other things I have been thinking about a lot lately.
Right after high school I got a job in a grocery store and started earning my own money. I had nice colleagues and liked to be working instead of studying. The plan had been to go to college right away but after I got the job I didn’t want to stop working. I figured higher education could wait.
Outside of work, the friend situation remained the same. I had no friends outside of work. Only talked to my brothers, my nephew or my cousins.
Many times I thought about this situation and also tried to change it but at other times I didn’t bother. Instead, I told myself not to worry. It’ll get better with time. Except it didn’t. Nothing changes by itself. Changes has to be made. I didn’t try hard enough. Or I gave up to soon. I don’t know. One thing I know is that I often pretended there was no problem having no friends to hang out with on a Friday night, even though I thought it was a huge problem. I told myself I was better off being alone while I suffered from it at the same time. What else could I do to not drive myself crazy. Well, I wrote a lot of stories about people who weren’t lonely and miserable. People who made friends and found love and all the things I lacked but wanted. Except I didn’t know how to get any of it.
I switched jobs after less than two years. In those days a job was easy to find. I liked my new job. Still in a grocery store but closer to where I lived and with better pay and other benefits. Not long after starting there, I decided to stay in that job as long as possible, maybe for the rest of my working career. I was happy with what I had.
Outside of work, I remained alone and lonely. I started to go out more though. Visited museums, the cinema and concerts. Started travelling when I had saved enough money for tickets. I visited the UK and later made several trips to the United States. Life wasn’t so bad but it could be better, was what I kept thinking.
These being the days before the internet, my spare time visual entertainment was television, VHS movies and video games. Computers I knew almost nothing about and I didn’t even own one until I was 30 years old.
When I finally decided to go to college, I bought my first computer and got hooked up to the internet. At first I didn’t know what to make of the online world. It did take some time to understand how to use the internet and all other features of a computer. Soon I started to explore, made my first visits to chat rooms, learned about news groups and looked through home pages of all kinds. Learned some html coding and tried to set up a page of my own. However, most of the time online I searched for useful information related to my studies or I looked at porn. (Let’s be honest. At least, let me be honest: if it wasn’t for the porn industry, internet would not be what it is in many ways. That’s what I think anyway.)
I liked being in the academic world, at the university I felt at home from the start. There were always people to talk to about subjects that were interesting and intellectually stimulating. There I could also make use of my writing skills.
Outside of school hours, I still hade no real friends though. However on the internet things happened. I started to make friends online, at chat rooms. How this happened I have written about before in great detail, on one of the pages of this blog. Those interested can easily find it for further reading.
It made me happy to have friends to talk to, even if “only” online. My life suddenly took a turn for the better. Even if I had medical problems and soon other problems too, for some years I was mostly happy about having friends. One online friend became a very close friend and really helped me to grow and change a lot of my thinking.
Without the internet, none of it would have happened. Sure, other things could have happened instead but that’s impossible to find out now. All I know is that I don’t wish to change any of what happened, my only regrets are connected to what could have happened had I dared to do things I didn’t have the courage to try.
Then the disaster struck. I lost my job. At first I wasn’t too worried even though I knew it would be a tough time finding a new job. Soon enough, I learned how tough it really would be. I had managed to get through my father passing away from cancer, and through a struggle for years with my own medical problems but trying to get back into the working life has proved to be an even worse struggle. For a time it looked like I was saved when I got a job at a new store but it didn’t last and after that there has been no progress at all.
During these years of unemployment my personal finances have collapsed more or less, I’ve become really poor and even though I’m grateful to live in a country where there is still some welfare to keep me from a life on the streets begging for money, I can’t say I enjoy being forced to rely on the government for my survival. I’d prefer to work for a living as I did for many years in the past.
Without my friends online, I doubt I’d make it at all these days. My friends keep me sane, keep me from giving up when I feel like giving up (and I often feel that way). Thanks to my friends, I find some strength and motivation to keep on going even when it all seems hopeless. Thanks to my friends I can still laugh and smile and keep some dreams alive. I can still feel like a human being.
Sure, those are big words but that’s how it is.
From here there is only one way to go. Forward. That’s where I’m going.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I didn’t write it for you, dear readers, I wrote this for myself. It’s the only way I know how to write.