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My own journey

First year: New beginnings

The obvious first step was to take more initiative in regards to girls, since this was the area that had been causing me the most frustration. I had taken some brief first steps at one party during my final years of high school, when I wound up kissing with a girl and actually experiencing mutual attraction, but I had no idea how to take it from there and wasn't seeing that experience repeat (though frankly, I didn't go to parties often enough to have much solid data on that). I had also discovered a taste for dancing, though I was unskilled and didn't have much confidence about it yet. Since I was starting at a study that was 92% male, I decided to expand my options by signing up for a student salsa class without a regular partner. Over the next 3-4 months, these weekly lessons gave me exactly what I was looking to learn - a solid foundation from which I could improvise, lead and have fun with any girl. I had actually paid for 6 months, but by the time I felt confident on the dance floor and we were moving on to the kind of advanced moves that required her to know exactly what we were doing, rather than just letting herself be led through them, I felt I had achieved what I came for and shifted my priorities.

Meanwhile, I discovered that I had found a community of other proud geeks, where I felt at home to a greater extent than ever before. Until then I had always bonded with the few other people who shared some of my geeky hobbies, but now I quickly had to change that habit because I was simply encountering way too many meeting those old standards. I was still among the less socially adept of this new community, but it was a place that accepted and even appreciated unique and colorful personalities - a wonderful place to grow.

As for the girls, it turned out that the "odds" weren't the most important factor. Even with only a handful in my year, I was now encountering geeky girls who often shared my passions. After a lifetime without success with girls, it turned out that encountering the kind of girls that were *more* attractive and genuinely interesting to me suddenly made far easier to form good friendships with them. As I felt more free to be a fresh person in this new community, I made sure to get to know the girls at the initial events, and when I had spent a particularly good time bonding with one, I flat out told her that I liked her, thought we might have potential and that I'd like to meet up. Now, this was a massive step outside my comfort zone, and I wound up forcing myself to do it at the very last moment before our trains left after the party - but afterwards I felt damn great for having done it and my initiative had brought on a situation where we were 90 new boys and the girl I found most exciting was looking forward to meeting with me at her place. It would turn out that I had no clue about how to actually build attraction on that date, being the epitome of a desperately pleasing nice guy, but I was finding opportunities to challenge myself and grow from it - even if it would take a while.

The next step was to look for a partner online, and here my experience evaluating hundreds written applications, in search of potential rather than current strengths, was quickly turned to my advantage. I realized that the overwhelming majority of the profiles I read were not serious or simply not interesting to me: After reading through 500 across a handful of suited sites, I had found 3 to have potential and had written two of them. One was interested at first but bailed after seeing a picture of my nice guy self. The other went on to bond strongly with me over MSN, as we were both outsiders reaching out, and two weeks later we met for the dinner and movie that I back then thought a date was supposed to be. I was still pretty clueless on building attraction, but we had quite a few shared interests (books and musicals mostly) and I sort of "saved it" by at least manning up to give her a final kiss at the station, so the date wound up with me having a girlfriend - since it was obvious to both of us that this was our status, now that we had kissed on a date. How innocent we were =).

As I slowly got acquainted with that side of life, I used that as an excuse to allow myself to grow further. I had always been the ultimate nice guy, constantly putting others ahead of myself and doing what I had been taught was right and good - so now I was turning that limitation around and motivating myself to step further ahead, because I was telling myself I was doing it to be excellent for my girlfriend.

This coincided with me recently having discovered a passion for singing: Having been a bit shut emotionally, I had been noticing rare moments that managed to reach through and touch me on a deeper, more visceral level (The Lord of the Ring movies' lighting of the beacons, while panning across the snow-covered mountaintops comes to mind as one of the first times I noticed something touching me at this level), and as I happened to stumble across the highlight of a Disney villain song with the orignal English lyrics, I noticed that these were so much more than the children's movies I remembered. I started watching the Disney movies again with the eyes of an adult and seized the opportunity of a vacation in London to watch The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera, as I realized that great musicals were consistently managing to touch me at this deep level and bringing me more in contact with my own passions.

This had been happening over the past year, and when I started computer science it turned out there was an amazing social environment and a huge tradition of singing, based on the exceedingly geeky songs and sketches from our annual cabaret. I hadn't exactly been singing in public prior to this, and signed up for singing lessons (I was saving/investing my inheritance and still living pretty modestly, but decided that the areas where I'd be developing myself or new skills for life were places where I could let go a bit) to get a clue about how well I was doing it: Absolutely horrendous as it turned out. I had never been all that present or skilled with my own body, but we discovered it went way beyond that - after recovering from a bicycle accident and a fractured femur when I was 7, I had adopted a habit of walking on my toes. My singing teacher showed me how more than 12 years of this habit had messed up my body immensely: My calf-muscles were vastly oversize, my thighs undersize, I had layers of deep tension throughout all my upper body (in particular), and my chest-size hadn't developed past a 9-year-old's. And beyond being physically incapable of carrying a tune (any tune), I had only just rediscovered music and had to develop my awareness of tones and rhythm.

I had been aware of this habit all this while, as well-meaning family members and the school nurse had been telling me to stop doing it and that it wasn't normal, but all of their efforts had been a waste of time - now I was suddenly faced with a teacher with the competence to plainly explain how this habit had been holding me back, what was to be achieved by reversing it, and how to go about gradually doing so. This combination of finally giving me the motivation and demonstrating the knowledge to actually achieve progress made all the difference in the world for me finally tackling this issue, and my initial lessons weren't spent so much on song technique, as they were on improving my posture and bodily awareness, while recommending stretches. I went at it with a passion and quickly saw remarkable development for my body, even if I still had incredibly far to go singing-wise.

I enjoyed learning from all the experienced people I was writing sketches and lyrics with, and as the cabaret came, I was there to participate in all parts of the performance; Enjoying the feel of working the crowd in my sketches, and even singing a small solo piece in front of the ~400 people. This was definitely pushing my boundaries, as it was still debatable whether what I was doing could even be called singing, and less debatable whether I was actually hitting the notes - even so, we weren't exactly an elitist group of performers, and the directors found me an easy song that was carried far more by the lyrics than the tune, so I was able to enjoy this leap outside my comfort zone. The fact that we had an amazingly supportive audience, who'd carry us through even the most ludicrous performances and pat our backs for it afterwards, also meant wonders for my ability to let go and enjoy the experience.

I decided to finally have my vision fixed - not because the vision itself was a critical problem but because I had noticed that, even when wearing glasses, I had lost the habit of noticing details and remembering the looks of others so I could recognize them weeks later. I had been having my doubts for a while, but after actually looking at the statistics and realizing that the risk of blindness on even one eye was less than my risk of dying in traffic on the way to or from the surgery, I decided that this was an irrational fear, went for it and didn't look back. I picked the best doctors I could find, made sure to get good advice, and followed their recommendations as they proclaimed that the safest long-term choice in my case would be the slightly cheaper, equally good and way more painful procedure, with a longer recovery time. It took about a week of discomfort (not so much pain as just intense itching) and 6 months of recovery, where I had to wear sunglasses whenever outside during sunlight (in retrospect, June might not have been the best timing for the surgery). The results were immediate though, and even days later, when my vision had yet to fully adjust, I was enjoying the world in far more detail that I was used to, and my habits slowly started recovering. I still enjoy marvelling at the level of detail I can perceive, and I've never had reason to regret this decision.

I was also starting to see more leadership opportunities and responsibility in my non-virtual life. After encountering and making a lasting impression on the organizers of a medium-size LARP scenario I'd been attending in recent years, I was invited to help organize the annual scenario for 150 juniors over a weekend. Apart from being great fun, I was able to contribute in some of the areas that I was passionate about enhancing (e.g. creating more opportunities for conspiracies and intrigue play) while using my own leadership experience to assist a new generation of lead organizers in maintaining overview and growing comfortable in their own leadership.

As the end of the school year came along, I also finally got my own place in Copenhagen. This was of course a transitional period in that I now had my own domain, to set up according to my own identity and priorities, but it also just plain freed up a lot of time once again, because I no longer had to commute 90 minutes each way from my institute. I discarded most stuff from my old room and bought the new furniture I felt was right for me now, as well as a new bike for my daily travels in Copenhagen. I was now free to be most anywhere in the city within 30 minutes, while being more active in my daily life and getting to know the layout of the city beyond just a handful of bus stops. For my new place, I had also chosen to go for a dorm room with shared kitchen, rather than my own apartment, because I frankly didn't need the extra space and I figured it would be healthy for me to be more around other people in my daily life.

Next up: Second year: Expanding possibilities


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