Quora Question 2: What do I do if my interests don’t match with the people surrounding me?

One approach you might consider is to endeavor to parse out the essence of your dilemma. Why is it, if it is truly the case, that you do not share the interests of the people around you? Once you’ve gotten to the heart of the situation, there are a few things you can do to handle it.
First, the question. It seems kind of ridiculous for the enlightened among us to ask, hey, why don’t you like what they like, why don’t they like what you like? We are at a place in history that even in it its more primitive sectors believes that we should embrace our originality, our creativity – our individualism. Nothing against this, but as a thought experiment address the problem anyway. Why is there a disconnect between your interests and those around you? Think about it like this – unless you were transported to this school and situation very recently, much of your social development has happened in parallel to theirs. While your family might be very different and very unique, there is no reason to believe that this one factor would make all of your tastes different. This is because, in fact, our cultural and social intelligence – especially at a younger age – is very elastic. It is for this reason that immigrant children can adapt to the social normatives of their adopted culture, even against the strenuous objections of their parents. What about you – is there some cognitive or social intellectual aspect of your personality that eschews, say, popular film? Well, however we might like to believe it to be the case, it’s not very likely. This goes back to elasticity – by definition your social impulses on a genetic and developmental level were meant to help you succeed in a self-contained social setting or, further back, your tribe. That is, the cave-dwelling version of you from 10,000 years ago did not and could not have developed a particular distaste for movies which wouldn’t be invented for millennia. Frankly, it is not about you liking or disliking a particular thing. I propose that if you had been born in a culture and society that fawned over opera, you would have been uniquely drawn to dramatic theater. This is because going back to the caveman you, while there are survival advantages individually to being part of the group and on the team, there are also some group advantages to having a contrarian in the group. Very abstract, but stick with me here: if your small group was all into, say, saber-tooth tiger tag, and the ancient you was just not that into it, in some situations – and remember you had thousands of years to develop this trait – you might have been the survivor, and your somewhat contrarian genes might have snuck into the gene pool. What I’m positing here is that you were born to be contrarian in this sense – even if just at your age – you would have been talking about movies right now if you’d been born into a more bookish context. You have that little spark of fight whenever you see the crowd embrace something – you question it, you find its flaws or simply fail to embrace its pleasures. It’s hard – so hard – but you have to consider the possibility that these people around you are actually enjoying a valid pleasure, and further that you are not enjoying it because you are deeply programmed not to. The essence, then, of your dilemma is not where you are or who’s around you – it’s you. And that’s okay, in fact it’s wonderful – but in order to solve this problem, you have to embrace the reality that you’re programmed to, at least in this stage of your life, be contrarian. Think of it as nature’s way of pushing you to a new pack, or forcing you to adapt in unique ways to this one.
If you accept this premise, you are free of some really heavy baggage. Here’s why: If you understand that it’s not about the movies or the books or the kids or any of that, you won’t waste your time concerning yourself with them, and you won’t waste your energy being upset by them. If you can truly embrace the fact that if you were at Hogwarts (don’t mock my references, I’m tired!), you’d be the one annoyed about all the fuss about quiddich – if you can accept that, then you can ask yourself what your choices are. And here, finally, are some suggestions from a person who also had a bit of a contrary streak – though I am sure not quite as large as yours!
a. Find Another Valley: Let’s get this out of the way. It’s a terrible idea to run away (if you’re not old enough to leave on your own!), and it won’t solve your problem even if you did. That’s because this kind of push-back stuff is an adolescent evolutionary trait designed to get you to spread the genetic line outward – if you’re still an adolescent, your move will likely make you itchy to just move again. But, unlike your cave ancestry, you have a few hundred million people who speak your language and with whom you can safely interact online. Rather than doing the quick and dirty join-the-circus trick, spend your free time now testing out the fairgrounds. Think of this as the time Steve Jobs spent in Asia, or Siddhartha spent wandering the towns – just look around the world and see where you might want to go to college or post-college or whoever you aren’t – so that when the time comes and the plane is ready for takeoff, you’re on it. If you’re an adult, then I just doubt you’d have asked this question – but if you did, then maybe now is the time to try a move. Don’t head out to India just yet – if it’s just change you long for, you can get that one town over. Try that first – you can always spend your seven years in Tibet later.
b. Find Another Tribe: As you are clearly an intelligent and interesting person, you might be screaming, wait, no, I know that if I got off the tarmac in Mumbai or Cambridge, everything would just be better. And in a sense you’re right. That’s because of something called confirmation bias – if you move to India or Indiana, because your brain wants to have loved that place, wants to write home about how much better off everything is, your brain will stealthily trick you into noticing that amazing bookstore or that great girl/boy in the coffee shop. A survival tip that I can offer – even if I can assure you it’s far easier said than done – is to try that trick at home. Make a non-geographic change – embrace a new personality or style or activity – one that takes a reasonable investment, and your brain will see you all giddied up and say, Hey, check out that hottie at that bookstore you never noticed down the street! This sounds almost laughably easy, but think about the goth kids or the math team-ers – and then track backwards. They weren’t any of those things in fifth grade, or sometimes as late as eighth. However, because of a skill-set or more often a drive like your own, they wanted to make a change. When they did buy the outfit and change the hair and get the piercing – their brain was shooting all kind of, come on, this had better work signals their way, and so the few other people or sound tracks or whatever that seemed to fit in with their style suddenly seemed just great. The other kids who had gone to the same lengths seemed like kindred spirits. You might find your own kindred spirits by trying to jazz up your life.
The thing is, social constructs are just constructs – you identify with them because your brain needs to agree with you. You could have been a fundamentalist Christian singing at church or a die-hard liberal activist holding a sign if only you’d been born somewhere else. The thing is, had you been born as either of these things, it’s possible you wouldn’t have clicked, and you would have had to find another. That’s cool. Thanks to the internet and this crazy modern world we live in, you can do just that. Just keep it safe and remember, someday you can make it to India, so do your best to stay intact until you do.

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