A Personal Note

First of all, I have to say that this post will be radically different from other posts on my blog. I’ve never written a personal post here before. Of course, there were texts where I shared my personal feelings, but I shared this in Turkish on Medium and did it (dare to say) more poetically. This post will be purely an attempt to write my thoughts in a monologue. Writing down my thoughts, feelings, and things about my past in this way, maybe it will add a different perspective to me. Writing this post came to my mind after reading Joshua’s last post and these posts by Claudia Sahm. So it would be appropriate for me to thank them.

To be honest, I’ve been an introvert my entire life. Anyone who spends 10 seconds with me has no way of not realizing it. I have many hypotheses about why I am the way I am, but I have no idea which one is correct. As Josh mentioned, “the vast majority of humans are naturally extroverted in personality.” So, I have an introverted personality for a reason. My ideas about the source of this focus on a few things: a) my nurture, b) the process I went through in building my own identity, c) Asperger’s.

Not surprisingly, I often tell people I have Asperger’s syndrome. But that’s not all. I’ll go back a bit because I think I can understand some things better from the retrospective. When I was born, I was seriously suspected of having cerebral palsy. Because which child cannot just sit or walk until 1.5 years old? Frankly, although I can’t remember those times, I can get an idea based on what’s been told to me. I know that thanks to the extraordinary effort of my parents, I made several years of progress in a few months, and then I was able to walk. And it was said that I had “differences” that were just beginning to be noticed during this period. That seemed normal to me, at least until I met other kids my age. For example, I used to think that we had no data on what other people felt in any given circumstances or how we should treat people. Or that other children read dozens of books when they were younger, on a subject they were just as interested in (say, dinosaurs). Or that we have built these capabilities from the very beginning through basic scientific observation. But I learned that’s not true. Maybe that’s why I’m not very good at emotions, and the only thing I think I do really well is to connect and explain almost everything about the world and emotions to basic economic principles or concepts.

I’ll give an anecdote so you can grasp what I’m talking about. On the first day of primary school, I felt pretty “strange.” I knew how to read before, but I had no writing experience. Unfamiliar and uncertain things always make me incredibly anxious, and I didn’t know what to do. I remember the teacher asking has anyone has a pen. I remember the teacher asking, “Does anyone have a pencil?” Even though I had exactly the pen he wanted, I shouted, “I have,” pointing to something else. The girl in front of me, which I later thought was a really nice person, looked at me angrily and said, “that’s not the pen.” Seems like a simple social interaction so far, right? Actually, it is, but I wouldn’t have said that if you had asked me back then. I didn’t understand why someone was angry with me, why they were offended, or why a question was asked to me. I wouldn’t know what to say in any dialogue and I couldn’t make inferences about how anything I said made the other person feel. I simply couldn’t connect with other people’s feelings and didn’t know how to do social interactions.

I continued to experience such things in the following years. I remember very well being a rather ostracized child in elementary school. It doesn’t have to be for a specific reason; we all know how kids are. However, even though I could make friends after meeting people on rare occasions, I couldn’t maintain these relations. I guess that’s why I started burying myself in areas of my interest because I wasn’t very successful socially. Specifically, these were epic fantasy fiction, Medieval European History, Medieval Latin, and basic economics. I had read an incredible amount of articles and books, especially on Medieval History. I was told by a history professor that I had reached the level of a doctoral candidate while I was still in secondary school. While Asperger’s had an incredibly negative impact on me socially, it was instead a blessing academically. My ability to understand and interpret things was relatively advanced to most people my age, but it only made me feel worse. My perspective on the world and human relations has always been a bit pessimistic, but I guess it’s all about my nature. I mean, if you’re 13 but have much “older” than your peers, you shouldn’t expect them to keep up with you.

But at 14, I became convinced that I had to follow another strategy. Honestly, Marcus Aurelius influenced me a lot and may have triggered me to follow such a strategy. This strategy was as follows:

I believe that we have built our character or identity for as long as I can remember. This means that there is no objective or deterministic “meaning of life,” we construct our own meaning and design our own reality. There is no personality given to us; we can import from outside or produce from inside. In this way, we each construct our own meaning and shape our lives. Actually, I think this applies to everything. It doesn’t matter if almost everything is “constructed” because we built them for certain functional features and designed them so that we can replace them when their functionality is gone.

Let’s get back to personality. Doing this ultimately means that it takes a lot of time and effort. After designing the mechanisms based on basic economics principles, I established the general equation of what and how I would react and practiced observing for years. I observed how people treated a waiter in a restaurant, what the median behavior was, and which behaviors were more effective. For example, there is a difference in behavior and outcome between shouting at a waiter and thanking him. After observing both, I decided that the second was more effective and the long-term effects are more satisfying, and it’s been my custom to thank people ever since. I kept a notebook to keep these equations and observations collectively. I chose social behaviors that would provide me with the maximum benefit at the least cost among social behavior patterns and social rules, or sometimes I used my synthesis. My empathy skill is still not very strong, but I have seen that it has developed more as I observe. At least I can predict, albeit mechanically, how people are feeling.

My purpose in doing all this was to design my own personality in the most effective way possible and take advantage of my personality while forming my plans and life purpose. But later on, I had to learn that life is not so mechanical. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and OCD at 16, and the framework I created has been shaken in many ways. I started having tremors due to random triggers, tended to be more socially unstable, and days were going to hell for me. I won’t go into the details of this here, but the next three years with them were utterly devastating for me. I had trouble with everything in every possible way; I was hopeless and had no interest in the world and living in it.

I got through this process in several ways. While receiving medical/psychiatric help, I thought about how I could explain and what I could do about this problem. My method was to interpret my depression and changes in my mood through economic concepts. After observing myself, I realized that I could go through some periods pretty severely, but if I do the right behavior, I could recover quickly(let’s say V-shape), or my recovery could be extended with different kinds of behavior. 1921-22, the Great Depression, Great Moderation, the Volcker era, and the 2008 Crisis were perfect examples for me in this respect. I experienced all of them for my emotional state.

However, these patterns were following each other, and I was going through the same cycle all over again. But at some point, I discovered a difference with the business cycle. My boom and bust periods were more likely to follow a “particular” pattern. For example, I feel better in the spring and worse in the fall, with one(actually two at the moment) exception for the last ten years of my life. After discovering that it’s a cycle, I started thinking about how to recover most effectively, and I’ve found something that works. I was aware that we tend to be more melancholic in the fall for evolutionary reasons. Our ancestors, who spent more time in caves when the weather was worse, were more prone to hunger and sadness. But how would that affect my recovery? Well, it can be put into a normative structure: acceptance. I’ve learned to accept that I’m not okay. I admitted that I was(and still am) struggling. I can cry as much as I want, I can be sad, and yes, time passes while I do this. But losing a few months or years is no big deal. It’s always good to recover as quickly as possible, but sometimes we just have to accept that we’re not okay and give it a try over time.

After accepting this, I realized that I was more successful in social interactions. The time I spent at 3H Movement and Students for Liberty contributed a lot to me in this regard. I used to think that taking responsibility would drive me crazy with anxiety, and I wouldn’t do anything. However, I’ve learned that taking responsibility sometimes makes me feel good. I met many talented people, I managed to be more comfortable in social interactions, and I started to get better every day; most importantly, I learned my limits – there were times when I was burnout, and I saw how much responsibility I could potentially take and what I was most effective in doing. All this has helped me tremendously; I guess I have to say I’m grateful.

In fact, I have roughly formed my “life purpose” in this process. To be sure, it’s not something specific and mechanical. I always wanted to be an academic and acted accordingly, but my primary motivation was not just to be an academic. I don’t want to be an economist just because I love economics.

I should mention a few things at this point. First of all, I think this poem from Wheel of Time, one of my two favorite fantasy series, coincides with my view of life:

“Life is a dream — that knows no shade.

Life is a dream — of pain and woe.

A dream from which — we pray to wake.

A dream from which — we wake and go.

Who would sleep — when the new dawn waits?

Who would sleep — when the sweet winds blow?

A dream must end — when the new day comes.

This dream from which — we wake and go.”

And these passages from Malazan was an inspiration for me:

“Why, without a sense of humour, you are blind to so much in the world. To human nature. To the absurdity of so much that we say and do.

“Children are dying.”

Lull nodded. “That’s a succinct summary of humankind, I’d say. Who needs tomes and volumes of history? Children are dying. The injustices of the world hide in those three words.””

I see life as a dream, but it’s more of a lucid dream. We will eventually wake up from this dream, but if we can control the dream, why not transform it into a better place before we wake up? After all, “Who would sleep — when the new dawn waits?”

I know my strengths and weaknesses. With each passing day, I can experience what I am good at and what I am bad at. Doing what I’m good at may not be enough to make the world a better place, but that doesn’t matter. If I’m doing what I’m best at and contributing to social change, maybe one day I can contribute to making the world a better place, even if I don’t see it in my lifetime. There are things I want to leave to the world from me.

When I read Harry Potter at I was 7, Dumbledore’s life seemed too relatable to me for some reason. Let’s ignore the irony that a book character is the only person to understand how he touches people’s lives and what he’s going through. But later, when I grew up, I put it in a theoretical way, which led me to adopt Hayek’s theory of social change.

According to Hayek’s theory, scholars develop ideas; intellectuals adopt and spread them, ideas become values as they spread, and politicians act according to widely shared values. I think this theory applies to economics as well. To contribute to the advancement of social changes, ideas must be developed in this sense at the first step. I am relatively better at researching and generating ideas, and I believe this is the only way I can contribute to this process.

I’ve been struggling for a few months now(both physically and mentally), I guess I’ve been going downhill since April. It’s all about me and I’ve made myself this way, but it will pass. We may not be feeling well, sometimes we may be doing the wrong things, sometimes we may be unstable, there may be times when we are not ourselves, sometimes we may act wrong even though we wouldn’t normally act that way. It’s okay, because we’re humanbeings. We will stumble and fall, but we will get up and keep walking. And we will know that every time we fall, it will pass. I’ll be fine. It’s gonna be alright.

Joachim Wtewael, The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1598
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