Climbing the Dominance Hierarchy

I spend more time and energy working to improve myself than many people think is strictly healthy. Well that’s fine, they can go fuck themselves. I know what I am. Besides, it’s not your opinion of me that matters.

For instance: I weigh myself every morning.

Every morning. Then I write the morning’s weight on a whiteboard that I take a picture of at the end of the month before keying it all in.

When people hear this I get a pretty narrow band of reactions:

  • Are you out of your MIND? (The shock on people’s faces is absolutely precious.)
  • What are you, a woman? (a particularly entertaining take.)

The answer to all of that is: “It’s what I need to do.”

It’s how I keep on top of myself, It’s how I’ve lost the weight I have in the last few months. It’s how I stop myself (when I do) from heading to the kitchen cabinets and what gets me (when I do) to drink another mug of tea. If I were to weigh myself once a week it’d just be depressing and it wouldn’t be on my mind enough throughout the day. I’d have no chance against backsliding. None.

So it’s fine. It’s a part of what I do every morning, which feels good all on its own, repercussions aside.

The hardest part of the process for me is getting that process of examination itself right. As someone who’s breathtakingly neurotic I worry about damn near everything, whether it’s a problem or not. So of course I worry about whether or not I’m worrying about the right things. Second order metacognition is a dizzying pursuit. But it’s the best way I know to keep myself in between the lines and moving forward.

As I progress through the process of self-examination and rectification I find it quite interesting how things I’d never considered are suddenly problems. Once I started noticing this habit I, of course, worried myself overmuch that it was just a byproduct of my inclination to look for things to get angsty about. While there’s technically some truth to that, it masks what’s actually going on.

The thing about pursuing low hanging fruit is that over time the definition changes. Once you’ve cleaned out the lower level, there’s always “low hanging” fruit, it’s just a bit higher. And, until you’re at the top of the tree it’s always true. Not that I’m ever going to run out of things. Yggdrasil has no practical top.

If you lose sight of what you’re actually doing then it just seems like there are more and more issues and problems.

But I don’t worry about what I don’t worry about, as such it loses short-term visibility. So the things that concerned me a few months ago, a year ago, a decade ago, or more, just aren’t there. It’s one of the reasons these writings are so absolutely vital to me. I can (and frequently do) go back and look at the things I was concerned about in the past and it reaffirms the path I’ve set myself on. Sure, sometimes I lose track and then it serves to help me course correct.

Now…all of that was supposed to be context for what I’d intended to write about, but it just got a little windy (who ME….Nooooo eyeroll.)

Something else has been emerging through the fog as I’ve cleared enough garbage out of the way to see it. It’s interesting because it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while, I just hadn’t been able to see it clearly.

In my quest to keep tighter reign on myself (…err…interesting quandary: You control a horse with its reins, but a sovereign reigns, so…which is it? I’ll go with reigns, since that’s rather more what it feels like) I’ve noticed an increased underlying frustration in dealing with people. I don’t let it surface if I can avoid it.

Unfortunately the problem with that is that you can’t really stop yourself from having a lower-circuit reaction to something by sheer force of will. You’re constituent sub-personalities are far too clever for that kind of crap, so it’s something I have to deal with.

I can track the flare-up to the last couple years, though it’s certianly far older than that.

The problem stems from the fact that there are very few people with whom I interact that have the background I’ve got, particularly now since I’ve moved to Tennessee and retired.

At the risk of pissing off a bunch of people, I just find programmers near universally dull once they’re conversationally outside their field. So I really just don’t interact with them, aside from a couple buddies from the office.

I’ve spent my whole life working in a very specific field and now…it’s just gone. I’ve departed the world where my expertise means anything at all, having cashed in my chips in a sense.

I have a bunch of friends in my age bracket and they’re all quite successful in their own fields, real estate, golf, management, entrepreneurs, all kinds of things. Even those that aren’t particularly so have families which, to a single man, certainly looks like success. All kinds of things that are generally accessible to most people.

It’s not like I can offer a story about hand-rolling a multi version autoswitching FIX processor, dark liquidity trading algos, or a multi-platform reactor based protocol agnostic server from scratch in raw C++ 98. Unless I’m trying to cure insomnia I’ve pretty much got to keep my mouth shut.

If they find out my background is in software engineering they’ll ask about websites, which is fair enough. But, yeah I can’t build your website. It’d be like asking a metalurgist or tool and die maker to fix your transmission. My work is…different.

So I’ll sit with these guys and…well… “have nothing to say” would just be hilarious. But my professional experience has no bearing on the assembly.

Add to that the fact that I’m still single at 51 and it’s pretty tough not to feel like the low man on the totem pole.

It…could be some kind of twisted Imposter Syndrome I suppose.

Peterson’s commentary on dominance hierarchies comes to mind pretty starkly. I’ve really got no position in the group of friends in which I find myself. Now I suspect they wouldn’t say so. But I’d chalk that largely up to Southern Politeness, which may certainly have more to do with me than them as I’m disinclined to praise myself overmuch. That’s really neither here nor there.

Even if my understanding of the phenomenon misses the mark, i.e. if I’m just projecting, which seems at least partially likely, there IS something that I’m projecting. I’m simply, unarguably not making effective use of my time in a pursuit of depth.

It led me to the conclusion a day or two ago that it’s time to knuckle down on a serious pursuit, independent of my myriad hobbies. This story gets a little old in the frequent retelling in my head. But there’s some new life to it.

Giving myself this particular frustration/anxiety (and yes I recall my own admonishment that anxiety is not a reaction) as a source of motivation seems like a great tool since it’s something that bothers the everloving fuck out of me.

So last night I started working through one of the hundreds of free udemy courses I’ve accumulated (as an aside: the subreddit posts dozens of “free as in beer” courses every day. Sign up for a free udemy account and browse through there every few days and sign up for ones you find interesting. The quality can be shaky, sure. But free is free.) on full stack javascript development.

Between that and my writing projects I should be able to have something to say when someone says: So, what are you working on?

It’s a strange place to find purpose, which has always been my absolute greatest difficulty. But if it works, then its utility is immeasurably great. That’s what makes it different than previous iterations of endless circling ruminations on the topic.

Improving social standing really IS a sufficient purpose.

I can hear it now: Oh, we love you dude. You know you don’t have to do anything to impress us.

Yeah, but at the risk of being indelicate: It’s not your opinion of me that matters after all.

It’s mine.