Crap, I did it. I brought it up. I wasn't going to bring it up. I'm going to get in trouble for this.

"So, it's like a... chat room?" Her brow is furrowed as she gently tries to understand.

"Well, no, not quite... more like a message board. Or a newsgroup, really." Why am I telling her this? She's not going to be happy about it.

"A newsgroup?"

"Yeah, where people post messages and then other people can read and respond to them. Except, in this place, everything you say or do... well, just say, it's not like you can DO all that much, just say stuff... uh... everything you do goes before sort of a... board of directors. People who have been around for a while get to vote on your stuff. So everything you say is judged according to content, relevance, stuff like that."

She tilts her head quizzically.

Crap, she's being patient with me. "It's sort of like a newsgroup on steroids."

"And... this is... fun?"

Bless her, she somehow manages not to sound sarcastic when she asks that. "No... I mean, they say it ought to be fun. Hey, I KNOW it ought to be fun. Why not? But... no, it's not fun. I like it, though."


{sigh} Psycho-Erin to the rescue. How do I explain this? "I like the people I hang out with in real life. I love my family..." my normal, happy-despite-dysfunctional family "I like the people I work with..." those nice, regular people living nice, regular lives, who I try not to disturb too much "... but... well. Being around the people on this website is sort of the same feeling I had when I was in school. I'm surrounded by intellectual, probing, critical, often negative people... and, well, it's like coming home."

"I sense a... familiarity. You feel they are more like you?" She is very knowing. Her knowingness is comforting.

"Yeah. I mean, my brain just felt... stimulated and happy, for the first time in a long time." Shit, here come the tears. Why always the stupid tears? Is it something about this room? "I mean, I know it's probably not good for me to be around critical influences right now, but... I mean... I just like thinking this way. My brain has been bored, for over a year now! And it's not that the other people in my life are boring... just... it's something else." Nice. VERY articulate.

"Why do you equate criticism with contempt, Erin? A lot of your problems seem to stem from this."

"Hell, I don't know. You'd think my skin would get thicker as I get older, but it doesn't... for some reason, the better I get at... at... avoiding mistakes in the first place, somehow, the more unbearable they become when I do make them. And yet, that doesn't make any sense! It makes no sense at all... I can't learn anything if I can't deal with being criticized, you know? It's just stupid." Stupid, stupid tears. Stupid, stupid rat creatures!

"What do you think is going to happen to you if you make a mistake?"

That question again... I never know the answer to it. "Don't know. Listen, is there a way to develop a thicker skin? I know I have to get hurt... but getting hurt doesn't seem to have helped much so far."

Her brow furrows again. She is thinking logically. Her logic is comforting, too. "The trick is to get hurt just a little bit, Erin. That's the way you get tougher. Like exercise."

Yeah. Just like... exercise. Okay, so I'll take a short break... and then I'll go back. And I'll treat it... just like exercise.

Because my brain is so very hungry, to listen, and to speak, right now.