A lot of us like things really intensely and want to talk about them all the time.
But not everyone wants to hear everything we know about trains, hats, elephants, Pokemon, or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Constant monologues tend to drive people away.
In childhood, a lot of us are taught that our interests are the problem. We’re taught that we shouldn’t like things as much as we do, that our interest in them is annoying, that no one will ever want to listen, and that we need to talk about normal things. That doesn’t help.
It’s ok to like things. Liking things is *good*. Spending a lot of time thinking about, doing, and talking about things you care about is a good thing, not a bad thing. And it’s possible to do that and still treat other people well.
Part of that involves respecting other people’s boundaries. Most people aren’t interested in the Most Awesome Thing you like, and lecturing them about it when they don’t want to hear it isn’t going to make them *more* interested. When you’re having a conversation with someone, it’s important to identify things you *both* want to talk about. And if there aren’t things you both want to talk about, it’s important to find someone else to talk to rather than trying to push someone into it against their will.
(A caveat: I am talking about peer relationships here. I think that parents and teachers have a significant degree of responsibility to take an interest in things their kids are into. I will probably address that in more detail at some points.)
Some people will have contempt for you for having interests, and for the particular things you care about. Those people are wrong, and interacting with them quickly becomes toxic. People who don’t want you to like things, or who have a problem with the thing you like, aren’t going to suddenly start respecting you. It gets a lot better when you find people who actually like you.
It’s also important to find people who like the thing you like. People who share your interests exist, and you can interact with them on a level that’s not possible with anyone else. Now that we have the internet, it’s much easier than it’s ever been to find people to discuss the things with.
But it’s also possible to be friends with people whose interest in your favorite topics is limited. Some people like people who like things, even when they like different things. Those people can be really great friends.
In conversations with that kind of friend, sometimes they will need to say “ok, new topic?” It’s important to be able to hear that, and to tell the difference between someone saying, “You’re pathetic for caring about that boring thing, stop being so weird”, and someone saying “I am bored with this right now, and would like to talk about something we’re both interested in.”
Given the way most of us are treated from early childhood, it can be very difficult to learn to tell the difference between someone expressing a boundary and someone expressing contempt. It’s important and possible to learn how to do this, though.
It helps to keep in mind that not everyone who would rather not hear about train wheels right now is trying to take things away from you, though. Your friends aren’t going to make a behavior chart and make you earn train things by talking about other topics and keeping silent about the things you care about. (If they do anything remotely like that, they’re not friends and you need to find other friends who actually respect you.)
It also helps to keep in mind that, no matter how polite they are about it, someone who regularly has active contempt for you and your interests is not your friend.
This is hard to navigate. But it’s worth it.