"Unworthiness is the inmost frightening thought that you do not belong, no matter how much you want to belong, that you are an outsider and will always be an outsider. It is the idea that you are flawed and cannot be fixed. It is wanting to be loved and feeling unlovable, or wanting to love and feeling that you are not capable of loving." Gary Sukav
Social media is a gift and a curse. It gives us unprecedented access to others in dynamic ways. That access though can easily become a vice. When we are inundated with idealized chronicles of the escapades of others, the impact can be overwhelming, toxic, and downright malignant. There is no way we can separate between who we are online and who we are in real life. Our online personas are in fact part of our real lives, and they are part and parcel to who we are now. I don't think we've really come to terms with the ramifications of that hybridization, or fully processed what that exactly means. The time we spend posting statuses, sharing tweets, editing photos, commenting, liking, etc. that's real time that we spend of our lives. We are participants in a cycle of voyeurism, both producers and consumers. When we stop to think about breaking that cycle, or at least being mindful in how what we share may impact others - we take a moment to step back, see the bigger picture, and offer a nuanced critique.
More and more I find myself muting, blocking, and unfollowing people. I just get sucked in, and could spend endless time scrolling, double-tapping, and investing in the curated lives of strangers and acquaintances alike. Then I have that clarifying wake-up, and choose to disconnect because it's better for me, and how I use my time, or sustain my self-esteem. I see people posting engagement photos, newborns, or rooftop shenanigans - drinks in hand, and this twinge of desire happens. It looks like perfection to me. It looks unattainable, out of reach, off-limits to the likes of me. It's not quite envy, and it's certainly not jealousy, but it's a fleeting moment of longing. That longing though is disingenuous, because I know I don't what those people have. I don't want theirs, or to be a part of theirs either. I want my own. I want what is made for me. No - I want what I create for me. Does that make sense? I'm still authentically happy for people, and I wonder about the validity of the moments they share - at least in the context of their overall contentment. Do we really need the validation of approval from others to enjoy the company of the people around them? Have we become obsessed with documenting the entirety of our lives? Have we traded personal intimacy and connection for superficiality? Most of my happiness, joy, and peace happens off camera. Is that true for others, or am I an anomaly in that way? When I do post, I strive to share things that are empowering, beautiful, or vulnerably true. I want people to see my imperfection, my regularness, my accessibility. I realize that I too am problematic in my contributions to a collective of thoughts, images, and videos strewn about the internet. Being conscious of how we show up, and what we make others feel coupled with a commitment to doing our best to be real matters.
There is a cognitive dissonance that continues to perplex even though I am acutely aware of how it vexes me. I exist in this world as an outsider, and I know that my perspective is also that of insider when you reframe it. I'm permitted in certain spaces, and places, but exiled from others. I am allowed relationships in some ways but denied others. And we all are, well most of us are, a combination of in/out groups, but what happens when you are only able to see yourself as the latter? Perpetually othered, even in a social context of your own creation. You would think acknowledging it would make it better, but that's not necessarily true. I just feel socially ostracized in some ways while also bearing in mind that my privileged identities offer me admittance to exclusive circles in others. Where I want to go, and even more so where I want to feel welcomed and protected though, may never be permissive of me, and all that I am.
Maybe it's my blackness all the things associated with it. Maybe it's my brand of emotionally literate masculinity, my educational elitism, my upper-class indoctrination, and the list goes on and on. Put it all together, and I'm this anachronistic unsolvable enigma who might be too ... too, well everything for their own good. People understand me, in bits in pieces, but I have come to realize my complexity has kept me an arm's length away from anyone who has tried to solve me. Where are the people like me? Where do I belong? Who is willing to put in the work necessary to develop me as a whole person, and not just a character development tool? I have these relationships that position me as utilitarian, and that's partially because I don't allow people to come in but people don't ask to answer. I'm still waiting to find "my people" but seeing others linked with their team - and it doesn't look like mine - has made me inquisitive. I think it's just a perspective shift that needs to happen, but I still am one to interrogate my relationships.
I have long felt this yearning for a sense of "normalcy." I don't know - the American Dream, picket white fences with a suburban home enclosing a upper/middle-class heteronormative white family with 2.5 kids, and a dog. What stands out to me about that statement is take out the whiteness and the canine, and that was my life growing up - but I don't see that for me, and I already experienced it. And I know that normal is relative, and also a social construct but that doesn't change the gravitas of the impact that having your personal story and trajectory diverge from aforementioned norm. In high school when people were rebelling, exploring, and testing their limits, I was just there on the outskirts, watching, and waiting to be invited in - it never happened. In college, I saw people around me being carefree and enjoying themselves with reckless abandon, but I was always too scared, too uncomfortable, too out of place to ever embrace that euphoria.
And now I'm out in the world, I see others travelling abroad on their own without a second thought, people getting engaged, married, or having children with this pristine picture of mundaneness, and others still surrounded by their rambunctious friend groups going out for brunch, having sleepovers, doing concerts, etc. - and none of it is for me. And that's both not okay, and okay. I could never picture myself in those settings for so many reasons, namely - identity, socialization, and experiences. That, right there, that inability to even dream of being like everybody else that says so much about me. Even in a reality I control, that's not for me. Yet still, that doesn't mean I don't want that - unrestricted adventure (safety and comfort), love and "tradition," and laughter/unconditional friendship. Those things seem concrete, whereas, my life story still seems ambiguous. I want my own story in my own way, but I also want that story to be just as tangible. It's the waiting for it to take shape that unsettles me. And I won't know until I experience it to know it's happening, and that's scary. I want the security that other people have, but in a way that is right for me.
Accepting your story will be unique and embracing that means two things: letting go of a story not meant for you; and choosing to live that story to the fullest. Difference in and of itself is also situational and relational. Difference goes both ways. Difference can be productive as much as it can be regressive when reduced to harmful comparison. We cannot measure ourselves by instruments made to measure the lives of others - we will never measure up. We have to have our own metrics, and even then, know that life is often too fraught to quantify. When we stop comparing ourselves to that of others, and instead live our lives for nothing, and no one but ourselves, we get to experience the full gamut of what life has in store for us. Our stories will be different. That is a fact. No two lives are the same, but there is freedom, room for expression, hope in that as much as there is fear of the unknown, anxiousness, and longing for a map. We can only be cartographers for ourselves, and no one else. Coming to terms with that notion makes a literal lifetime of difference. Instead of chasing after impossibilities, we get to focus on our possibilities, opportunities, and choices - and that is what life is supposed to be.
What do I want out out of life? I want to be a foster parent, secretary of education, and to have a companion for life with or without marriage. I want to write a book or two. I want to go up in a hot-air balloon. I want to be a friend who demonstrates unconditional love towards others. I want to be loved. I want what life is willing to give me, and what I am capable of taking. I think realizing that every time I have answered that question prior to this I have spoken out of what I thought I was supposed to want or have instead of what I actually do. My truth that I'm still figuring it out, and I think to get the most out of life you have to keep wanting more from it. Life is constantly answering the questions "what do you want" and "what do you need" to infinity. We are always figuring things out. We should not "arrive." We should not stop learning, growing, adapting, and changing. We should always be becoming us. It's a lifelong process of most the epic proportions.
I love my life. I can honestly, and genuinely, say that and mean it. I feel at peace. I am happy. I am grateful. I am content. I also want more; I want change, and I want to see where I get to go with this life. I am simultaneously comfortable and restless. What matters though is that I am purposeful in enjoying where I am, how I am, and who I am - in the here and now. Not who I was before - I've learned and continue to learn from that version of me, and not who I will be, I'm currently making that person, but I am present in the present. I am enjoying my life for what it is, not for what it was, or for what it could be. I am grounded in reality. I am all-in instead of overcome with nostalgia for yesteryear and anticipation for tomorrow. I'm here. I'm alive. I'm an outsider working his way in to where he's always been. X