I've always considered myself an introvert. My hobbies have always been quiet and, frankly, solo. My spending habits, not counting gifts for my long-distance fiance, supporting my cat or occasional charitable donations, are 100% focused on me. But this isn't an invitation to my pity party - this is an invitation to an open discussion.

As many of you have noticed, I don't frequent TAY that much anymore. Somewhere between the 9-hour days and 90 minutes of daily commuting, my greatest online social connection sort of tapered off, and I've been feeling the effects of that. My life has gone through a great deal of upheaval since I last frequented TAY - indeed, though I swore I never would, I'm moving back to Toronto for better job prospects on Friday. That doesn't scare me though - what scares me, deeply and intensely, is that despite being 23, attractive (if not fat) and, all things considered, successful, I have no social ties to my current home in Brantford, nor will I miss anything about it (except maybe the beautiful Niagara Escarpment landscape that my bike's been too broken to explore).

Between troubles with cancelling the lease, switching banks to avoid rent cheques being cashed, and all the other BS that's involved with unexpected life changes, I've realized how completely and utterly unprepared I am for life - I'm only now learning the intricacies of banking and credit, I'm being put in difficult positions that require me to make quick (yet long-lasting) decisions and, perhaps most importantly, I don't know how to relate to or communicate with everyday people. It's easy to say, "I'm going to switch banks." But when you find yourself making diminishing remarks to a struggling bank teller (when that's actually not your intent at all), you realize something's wrong.

Through my writing so far - and I don't know how well it's come out - I've attempted to establish a yarn of a young man who's completely and utterly out of touch with the social world. Indeed, while I might type with the eloquence of a scholar, I have absolutely no idea how to say "thank you," or how to react to an "Eh, buddy!" and a slap on the back. But again, this isn't a pity party - I've got a point here, so you just gotta bear with me.

Back to banking for a second: Why is it, I ask of you, that I know a ton about the works of William Shakespeare (and every lefty-loosey interpretation of his work, as taught by the Ontario Ministry of Education), but I know not what an NSF on my credit means? Simple - because I was never taught. And the lot of us could surely prattle on for hours about why public education needs to modernize and better-prepare people for life and the work day (because lord knows the world's starving English majors could have used it when they were 17 and choosing a career path)... But that's not my point.

Why is it, I ask, that I know more about the history and development of Halo, a game series I have never played, than I do about approaching strangers for help or directions? My hobby was a choice, and one I surprisingly don't regret. I've written at length before about my anxiety problems, and about how I was pretty relentlessly bullied and abused, not just by my peers, but my teachers and the education system itself. It doesn't surprise me that I found bliss and escape in video games - I'm glad I did. Nor does it surprise me or the people I pay an hourly rate to fix me that I'm a rebellious, angry, cynical misanthrope (who, deep down, is actually quite soft and human) today.

For something not about me, that sure was a lot about me. I've been lucky enough to befriend two TAY users outside of this site - one of whom seems social enough (if not a touch bitter), one who's pretty much a grumpy shut-in on the outside, even though he's actually a nice guy without a lot to say. I know TAY invites a broad spectrum - some of you are would-be dictators, some of you get drunk with dozens of friends every weekend, some of you are gamblers, volunteers, some are devoutly religious, others are staunchly anti-faith, some of you have been abused and others have abused. We're a good mix of people. Some of you likely scoff at my story above, some sympathize, and others know from experience the things I've put to word. This bit is important, because I'm out to imply neither that I'm the only one feeling this, nor that all of us are.

I've sort of lost a bit of focus in this lengthy diatribe, but my point was this - many, if not most of us, have social problems in some form or another. And it's not because we're lazy or inept in any way - it never has been, despite those that tell us so. To put it frankly, in gamer terms, we never read the "social life" tutorial. We never levelled up in that skill tree, and we never got the skills necessary to be great at life. I know I never did. My biggest fear, above all else, is being lonely and angry. I see all these grumpy old farts every day, they hate themselves, and they feel no joy in life. Then I see happy old farts, chilling out at Tim's talking about stuff I'm too young and busy to give a fuck about. I wanna be that second group, because deep down, I feel like that's the missing piece. Maybe some of you could provide commentary on that. :P

Anywhom. I'm tired, and I need to pack. If anyone's got any additional insight, or if they wanna pick up where I left off, absolutely feel free to contribute to the conversation. If you wanna talk at me directly, or hell, if you live around Toronto and wanna meet up for coffee or do nerdy shit once I get settled (I love the Pacific Mall, Dave & Buster's and Love Getty), shoot me an e-mail at nikosiamateas@yahoo.ca.