It's not Topcoder's fault. They haven't done anything wrong to me, and I really enjoy competing. No, what I actually hate is what it symbolizes.
See, no matter how hard I try, I'm not going to be Normal. I'm not going to fit in. Someone asks me what I'm thinking, and I say "programming stuff" . . . and they ask for more details, and I'm about to try to explain.
And I look at them and realize that to explain exactly what I was thinking about would take a year or two of explanation. I can't say that I came up with a way to improve the complexity factor of the algorithm, or that I figured out this new method to localize the caching a bit better . . . I can't say what I'm *really* thinking. I can't talk about how I used a quadtree-based sparse array to solve this problem, or how I use three different data representations simultaneously.
I sit there and I make analogies with cut-out pieces of paper, and it still takes three tries to explain the most general shape of what I'm trying to do.
I don't even bother explaining why. It's not worth it.
And that's why I'm alone. I mean, my friends rock and all, but none of them are deep algorithm people in the way I am. At least I can explain the problem in a few sentences, but trying to explain the details of the solution? Nuh-uh. Not going to happen.
I look through my friends list and there's about half a dozen people I'd consider if I wanted to discuss something in-depth. And none that I *know* could follow me.
And that's what Topcoder symbolizes. It symbolizes me coming back from a several-month hiatus, screwing up, and getting fifth best out of almost 400 people, and considering it a lousy score. It symbolizes me being able to say quite honestly that I'm one of the best in the country - one of the best in the world. It symbolizes me joking about skipping a bachelors degree in CS and going straight for a masters, only half-jokingly. It symbolizes me going to any college on the planet and having to say "look, your undergrad CS program can't teach me much, if anything."
It symbolizes pure stark loneliness.
I want more than anything someone who can show me things, in my areas of interest, that I didn't discover years ago . . . but it's not going to happen.
This entire entry ignores the fact that even if it *were* to happen, I'm so emotionally devastated at this point - partially *because* of all this - I wouldn't be able to do it. I just wouldn't be sane enough . . . I'm not relationships material anymore.
I'm not about to end this life, but when it ends on its own, I'm going to ask whatever diety exists to send me back for another try . . . and this time, make me normal.