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Hello.

I'm a 23 year old male, originally from Texas and now living in California. I enjoy bike riding, chess, rock climbing, gaming, and discussing religion and philosophy.

I've struggled with social problems pretty much all my life. I was homeschooled the first 11 years of my life because my parents followed a very strict fundamentalist view of Christianity and they didn't want my sibling and I to be influenced by the outside world they saw as full of evil. The only people I knew and talked to back then were my family, my neighbors, and people from church, but as we were constantly switching churches, I never made any long term friends from that. And by family I mean just my immediate family: My mom, dad, 4 sisters, and 2 brothers. My parents had moved to Texas from Kentucky a few years before I was born, so all of my extended family lived out of state. I still hardly know or talk to any of them except for my one uncle on my mother's side.

When I was 11 years old my dad died of a heart attack. My mom couldn't continue schooling all of us without his help, so my uncle offered to pay to send us all to a Christian school a few blocks from home. When I got there I was very quiet at first, but it was a very small school and they were the same kind of people, with the same kind of ideas, so after a month or two I got used to everyone. I started acting up, making weird noises, telling dumb jokes, climbing things, anything for attention. I switched polarity. And I never did my homework or tried in any of my classes because I didn't care; couldn't see the importance. So about a month into my second year there after I had failed the first, I was expelled and sent to public school.

The contrast from everything I'd been used to and public school was overwhelming. All the kids were swearing in every sentence, talking about sex, drugs, alcohol, making cultural references I didn't understand... I couldn't relate to any of of it so I just didn't talk to them. I kept thinking to myself that eventually I would get out of it, I'd start talking again, but as the years went on everyone who knew me got accustomed to me being that way. Nobody tried to get me talking again, and I didn't know how to start talking to them. I got to a point where talking to people outside of my family was actually physically difficult. I got nervous, couldn't control my breathing right while talking, so in the few instances where people did try to start conversations with me I'd always try to give the shortest possible answers and hope that they'd get bored and go away.

I started going to public school in 7th grade and went all the way through to 12th grade and graduation, all while having no friends, no significant life experiences. Some of the most important years for any person's life, the years where you go from childhood to adulthood and learn the skills essential to adulthood, for me were wasted. After I graduated I tried to find a job, but the few interviews I got always went badly. I didn't know how to answer the questions they asked me, things like "Give an example of a time you helped a team succeed in a project", "Give an example of a time you helped someone"... My mind would go blank.

After a year of doing nothing, I started going to college. I saw it as a second chance at high school, a chance to make connections with people and become somewhat "normal". I'm going to rush this last bit because I need to get some sleep... I went to college for 3 years, starting out as a math major then switching to a graphic design major, but not having much interest in either. I was too focused on trying to build up what little social interactions I had, trying to figure out people and how to talk to them. Around the end of my second year someone from my uni started up an atheist group, so I joined it. I'd had doubts about my religion for a long time and it's hard to say when I made the switch, but religion is one of the few subjects I can really talk a lot on. I've also never had trouble talking to people online (thanks to years of RuneScape), and the group had a Facebook page. So I now had a group of people who I could talk to online, in my comfort zone while also in person where I needed more practice. They helped a lot, and I made a lot of friends in that group and a lot of progress in my ability to talk to people, but because I wasn't concerned at all with my classes my grades continued to plummet. I lost my financial aid and had to drop out after my third year.

I enlisted in the Army in August of last year and shipped off to basic in November, and I'm now learning a new language in California to become an Army linguist. This may sound like a success story at this point, the guy who could never talk to people before becoming a linguist... Such beautiful irony! But it's not. I thought I'd overcome my problems with my atheist friends, but the military is a whole new ballgame. I'm having to make a whole new group of friends here, and I don't know how to do it. I don't understand my own thoughts anymore; I want to be alone, but I also want to be around people. I want to be around only certain types of people, but I don't know how to find those types, or start talking to them when I do find them. The language course I'm in is extremely fast paced. I need to be focused, but all I can think about is trying to figure out other people and, more recently, trying to figure out myself.

So I figured talking to more people like me might be a good starting point. I have a lot more to say, but I'm tired. It's 2:30am and I think this is the latest I've stayed awake since joining the military. I'm going to bed.
 

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Hi, wow, that was an epic post, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you're really resilient to get through all those changes and upheavels. I can relate to the way you can get trapped in a role, the way people see you, and then it's like self-fulfilling. God, those stupid interview questions. i once went for a student job shelving books and the interview was like i wanted to run for president! Anyway, good luck with the language learning. Nik
 

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Welcome, Ninvus! :)
 
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