Giraffes, alligators and leading a double life

I don’t fit in. I feel suffocated. Deprived of some essential ingredient in my life.

I spend most of my time around people with different interests and different priorities. I like them. They’re kind and honest and funny. But they don’t care about what I care about. I can’t talk to them about the things that most interest and inspire me. Or I won’t. I don’t know which it is.

For the last few years—since I begun to take writing and reading and learning seriously—I’ve felt isolated. Alone. Like I’m wearing a mask and living a double life.

 One version of Matt is normal. He fits in with the people around him. He engages in small talk, jokes around, and gets stressed out about the same things as everybody else. The other Matt is different. The other Matt hates small talk. He understands that most of the things we worry about are inconsequential. And he doesn’t want to do anything that he doesn’t want to do, that he doesn’t love. He doesn’t want to drink or smoke or stay out late. All he wants to do is read, write, learn, experiment and grow. Which is a problem because most people aren’t wired that way.

The result is that, despite being surrounded by people whose company I enjoy, I’ve never felt so detached and distant.

 A few months ago, I wouldn’t stop telling Molly about this book. It’s called The Game Changer. It’s Franklin Veaux’s memoir about his experience with polyamory and his understanding of relationships. 

Naturally, Molly asked why I was reading a book about the ins and outs of having multiple sexual partners. My thinking was that if anyone understands relationships, it’s the person who can have multiple deep, open, loving relationships at the same time. 

I was right. Franklin’s book forced me to rethink my approach to relationships and communication. It also helped me understand that just because it feels like you don’t fit in doesn’t mean there’s no place for you. It just means you’re not in the right place. Consider the following.

“One afternoon, as we sat on the black leather couches in the living room, Amber told me a story. While she was living in California, she had felt alienated and depressed, so she’d looked to a therapist for help. After a few sessions, the therapist told her, “Look, you aren’t depressed because there’s something wrong with you. You’re lonely because you’re a giraffe and you’re surrounded by alligators. Of course you feel isolated! Giraffes and alligators have different needs and thrive in different environments. If you’re hanging around with alligators, you won’t be able to identify with them. Alligators can’t understand giraffes. Find people like you! Surround yourself with giraffes, and you won’t feel so alone.”

That’s how I feel a lot of the time. Like a giraffe amongst alligators. Not all of the time mind you. I’m lucky enough to be a part of some communities and have a few people in my life that get me. But the times when I’m not surrounded by these people, which is most of the time, are hard because I have to fake it. I have to pretend to be someone I’m not. And I don’t want to do that. Not anymore. 

The first step in solving a problem is understanding the problem. This feeling, this nagging, discomforting sense of detachment and aloneness, has been a big source of anxiety in my life. It still is. But it’s beginning to lose it’s power and sway over me. Why? Because I’ve realised I’m a giraffe amongst alligators, leading a double life, and trying to fit into a box made for someone else.