Making (and Missing) Connections

Today I confused a friend during a conversation. The question was “what fictional weapon would you want to have, and why?” My answer was “a lightsaber”; she laughed, then looked confused when I said I wanted one so we could solve global warming. It made absolute sense in my head, a perfectly logical sequence, and it was jarring when my friend went “wait, what? That makes no sense.”

Making (and Missing) Connections

This happens to me a lot; it’s something I struggle with. I used to think it was a problem of me communicated badly, and while it is, it’s not poor communication in the way I thought it was. I’ve started calling it “skipping a few steps”. Here’s the full sequence of steps that led to my answer: a lightsaber is basically a ultra high powered electronic device that’s super compact. It’s power supply also lasts for decades at least without any real issues. Deconstruct one, figure out how to replicate the battery and however it recycles power/recharges, and you’ve got enough power to fuel a city in an object the size of your hand. It doesn’t seem to require fuel, it doesn’t seem to need frequent recharging, and it’s not fragile. Energy crisis is pretty much solved overnight, and the battery is small enough to power pretty much any device we currently have, with no emissions other than light, sound, and heat. That is AWESOME, and is way more exciting than having a glowy sword of dubious usefulness (as cool as it might be).

This is a (semi-)logical chain of thoughts that I went through in about the time it took for me to say “A lightsaber. I could solve global warming!”

I don’t think of this as particularly clever. It isn’t, to me, a particularly refined train of thought, and an assumption that I’ve had– that I’ve held onto for most of my life– is that anyone and everyone else is having similar trains of thought at similar speeds. They’re easily capable of making the same connections I am, and if they don’t, it’s because they didn’t think of it, not because they weren’t going to get there eventually. I wrote, a while back, about “being smart“, and in retrospect I can see that assumption in the text. When I make a connection quickly, my immediate assumption is that anyone around me can make the same connection, and to me it often feels like people who don’t are either disagreeing with me or questioning my mental capabilities. It leads to a lot of insecurity on my part, and a reticence to speak my mind, especially in person. It sometimes manifests as deep arrogance, when I’m convinced I’m right because I’ve followed a logical train of thought to its conclusion and just assume everyone else is on the same page as me.

It makes it hard to know when I’ve explained my train of thought adequately. A pet peeve of mine is having something I already understand explained to me, and I make a particular effort not to do the same to other people; it feels patronizing to me and I try to avoid it. As I wrote about above, I’ve spent a long time fleeting from the idea that I might be “smart”, because I fundamentally don’t believe I’m anything special. Some conversations and introspection over the last year, particularly as I’ve worked on becoming more open and communicative, have forced me to accept that, if nothing else, I make connections faster than some other people. It’s a testament to how ingrained my avoidance is that I’m conscious as I type this that the phrase I should be saying is “I have to accept that I’m simply smarter than many other people”, but the closest I can get is putting it in quotes, detaching myself from the statement and trying not to own it completely.

The avoidance harms my ability to communicate effectively with people. Denying my own aptitude makes it harder for me to communicate with people and connect with them. It’s a work in progress, but it’s hard to figure out feedback. I’ll occasionally have a spark of inspiration and share it, and I have a tendency to inundate people with text or words as I work my way through the thought process. Most of the time, what I get is silence, even among close friends. In my head, this resolves to “there goes Tam again, babbling about something or other”, and since it tends to kill conversations, I avoid sharing a lot of the time. The reality is that I spend a lot of time in my own head, and external feedback keeps me sane. It lets me continually ensure that what I think are logical trains of thought actually are.

For my entire life, I’ve tried very hard not to be that person who “thinks he’s so smart”, to the point where I’ve gotten really good at denying any evidence to the contrary. Impostor Syndrome is real and present for me, and haunts literally every single thing I do. As I’m forced to actively re-evaluate myself, I realize that denial is just as harmful. It’s hard to know where to go from here. Work in progress.

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