Letters from the dorm: a disconnection from people might result in a connection with yourself

Cyril Ip
Cyril Ip |

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Top 10: If you were stuck on a desert island, what’s the one thing you’d want to have with you?

It's okay to not want to talk about stuff you don't care about.

There’s this thing that’s been damaging my perception of myself, has nearly wrecked my self-esteem, and has made me feel like an unwanted outsider. It’s an unavoidable part of socialising – a feeling of disconnection. Studying overseas – and meeting people from different backgrounds – has made me wary of showing my true colours and just being myself. That’s because I don’t really fit into any groups or social circles.

It seems to me my peers can easily identify the “type” of people they are: some are into sports, some are gamers, etc. But I haven’t been able to find a group that I can confidently say I’m completely comfortable being in. In every conversation I’ve had with others, there has come a point when I’ve felt wholly disconnected from it. I would force myself to engage, to pretend to be interested in things I had no interest in – like talking about other people’s relationships. It felt weird and hollow, but I’d do it every day. All because I want to be a part of a circle – any circle at all.

‘Just let me fit in,’ I thought.

Before starting life in a foreign country, I’d never felt this way before. I’d never felt a desperate need to fit in, because I already had a circle of friends that I was able to relate to. It’s not like I find it hard starting conversations with people, it’s just that the conversations I started having were about things I have no interest in. And it has nothing to do with the fact I’m in a different country – even when talking to people who are also from Hong Kong, there’s a feeling of disconnection.

I wanted a change, because enough was enough. What could I do, I asked myself, to stop having conversations about things I didn’t care about – but still have friends? Then I realised there’s no need to always have to think and speak the same way my friends do. I’ve made the choice to only take part in conversations about things that I’m truly passionate about (and there are a lot), like music, philosophy, life and self-worth. That doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore my friends when they talk about other people’s relationships and social drama. I’m just going to stop trying to actively join conversations about them. It’s time to be myself. The people around me will hopefully get a sense of what I’m really concerned with, and they won’t try to talk to me about things I’m not interested in. I’ll build a circle for myself, consisting of people I can easily relate to, instead of joining a circle of people I can’t.

Life is hard enough without having to linger over casual exchanges that don’t matter, or chats about things we don’t care about. I should add that I will still approach and talk to people who have different interests to me. It’s just that I know copying my friends won’t help me develop as a person. Understanding and accepting who I am needs to come first, and that should be the same for you.

Yes, doing this might distance you from some people, but this disconnection is a good thing – you might find a greater sense of connection with yourself.

Edited by Ginny Wong