2 min read

Quietly failing

I often fail to communicate my personal thoughts when this might be useful. It's not because I say them wrong, but because I don't say them. God knows I'd rather not let it get to the point of saying something wrong. Better to say nothing at all. But not really.

For example, I had a funny realization today. It was about someone's Discord username. It's a sequence of lowercase words. I had been misreading it (to myself) as something nonsensical and almost name-like. There is a perfect place to tell this story: The Discord they're in. It might be mildly amusing to other people there. I have not yet told this story.

Another example: I often find myself with questions that I can pretty much only answer by asking someone else. Sometimes the answer is hard to search for because the question involves a word or phrase with a more common or casual meaning, but the question isn't terribly hard for a person to answer. Like: "What does win condition mean in Slay the Spire?" (An actual question I have but haven't bothered to ask.) Sometimes the question is hard to formulate and the answer may be hard to give but it's the apparent best way to getting an answer anyway. I have someone obvious to ask, someone who would be happy to answer. Yet I don't usually ask either sort of question, because it would mean communicating.

Another example: I often read about public or semi-public events I could attend that might be interesting and then don't attend them. There's nothing in principal stopping me from attending these. They're Zoom calls or otherwise easily accessible. But I don't attend them. Why? Because I live with other people in a situation such that if I decided to take this call I would have to explain it to them. In other words, communicating.

What's behind this disinclination? I rarely explicitly think about that it is, the thing idea tends to just slip my mind. Not gently, but uneasily, like passing a stranger in the night. But if I do think about it, there tends to be a light sense of dread. I often come up with some reason it is a bad idea to say. That story you want to tell probably isn't as funny as you think it is, they've probably heard it a million times before. That easy question, well, I don't really need it answered anyway. That hard question – you should hold off on asking that, surely they're too busy to answer right now. That event you want to attend, well, surely it's not worth the fuss and the accountability. Surely.

Each individual story sounds sort of reasonable. Together they seem like a lot of excuses.

Then there's one specific category of story I tell. It says: "I know what would happen if I said that thing or ask that question. It wouldn't amount to much." This claim – "I know what would happen" – is not particularly defensible. If anyone were to call me on it I doubt I could satisfyingly justify the claim. But I don't say it out loud, because that would be communicating. Instead, I keep it quiet. I don't have to justify the claim to myself.

The other part of the claim there is "it wouldn't amount to much." That seems vague enough it is hard to say anything about. Maybe the thing to say about that is: "And what if it doesn't?"