We are all aware that Social Media can have negative impacts on our health. And that there are also positives, like I mentioned in my post last week. It’s all about balance, and, as with everything in life, finding that balance can be tough.
Personally, I’d like to eat chocolate cake, morning, noon and night, but the negative impact on my physical health really outweighs the momentary enjoyment I get from eating cake; and yet eating healthy and getting enough exercise remains one of my daily struggles. Especially when my mother-in-law insists on handing me a container filled with brownies (like really? I’m going to say no to that?).
Ingrained since childhood…
I want to be informed, watching and reading the news is hard-wired into me, having come from a family of lawyers, judges, and politicians. Growing up, the television was only ever on for the news, and once 24-hour news became a thing, that was all you could hear coming from the kitchen, with headline recaps every 15 minutes.
The thing is, there is a difference between being informed and able to make cohesive arguments and engaging in clear balanced discussions, versus, being overloaded, mentally exhausted, and incoherent. It is exhausting to be constantly engaged, to try to constantly learn, and to always be questioning what you are seeing and where the information came from. Of course it is, but it is important.
Loss of control
What is also important is your own sanity. So, balance. It always comes back to balance.
Something that, when it comes to news consumption, I’ve never really been able to achieve. With the advent of the smartphone came the advent of news apps, and with the advent of social media came the immediate ability to discuss the news with anyone in my contact list, at any time, anywhere.
Now I’ve noted elsewhere, that I’ve not used social media to join in discussions, or get involved in areas of interest that are important to me. And that my knowledge on so many areas of our world is seriously lacking. This is something that is a constant work in progress and one that I will be working on for the rest of my life. I have, however, made full use of news apps, to drive myself and my social circle slightly insane.
I had managed to get a slight handle on this behavior when the summer of 2016 rolled around and then Brexit happened; then the fall of 2016 rolled around and Trump happened and FOMO basically took over the unconscious parts of my brain.
I downloaded more and more news apps, yes yes, I know mainstream media, #barf. But at that time I had not considered Twitter to be a reliable source of news, the idea that the phrase “the President Tweeted” would become an actual bonafide normal thing, just did not sit with my notion of how a world leader behaved. The Guardian in the UK, the New York Times and Washington Post in America, CBC and the Globe and Mail here in Canada. These were and still are, my go-to sources for news. However, since our Personal Branding assignment, I have also come to recognize the tool that Twitter can be, when it comes to finding new sources and engage in ongoing conversations. Which feels like it has increased my news consumption several hundred fold.
And believe me, when I say that I often research around a news story when it feels as though the reporting lens is off, or the writer attempts to use emotional language without presenting the data or their sources, I go at it, I mean it, for hours. I can spiral into a never ending funnel of crazy. I want to know why, I want to know how, and I want to know what makes the writer believe what they say
And then 2020 happened…
Preserving my sanity
So, Sunday’s are now a “no social media”, “no news” of any kind, sometimes even a “no computer” and “no gaming” kind of day. A day to allow my brain to calm down and review everything that it has taken in over the previous week. Maybe a flick through “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling to remind myself of how far we (humanity) have come, or “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck to remind myself that only I am responsible for my effort and learning, and that I can and will achieve my goals. Or, if I’m really done and need something really soothing, I’ll indulge in whichever full-blown fantasy series has my attention at the moment. Currently, a re-read of the “All Souls Trilogy” by Deborah Harkness is underway. If you have never read this series it is like sitting in a huge armchair, next to a fire, wrapped in a warm comfy blanket, on a Winter stormy night, with hot chocolate. Basically, it is delicious and comforting and just so much fun. I highly recommend it.
Balance remains a lofty goal that I aspire to, but at least one day out of seven, I (try to) give my brain a break. And I know that I am lucky to be able to even take a step back.
Do you ever find yourself completely overloaded by social media? What do you do to give yourself a break and find your way back to some semblance of balance?
Sometimes I just over do it and need to take a moment to find balance. How do you manage your Social Media consumption? https://bit.ly/37RxEk5
For Facebook: As many of you know I over do it on a regular basis with the news and Twitter. I’ve implemented a one day off a week rule, to let myself find some sort of balance. What do you do to regulate your social media consumption? https://bit.ly/37RxEk5
I had a different post in mind for blog post three. After looking at the way in which an individual and a community use Social Media to advance their cause in blog post two, I was intending to examine a more sinister side effect of Social Media, that of divisiveness and isolation. But, my mind could not come to rest on that concept. There is plenty to write about, but a feeling within me wanted to focus on something else. So, I spent some time thinking about my experiences with social media beyond the obvious negative impacts on my own mental health.
And, once I spent some time brushing away the dirt and grime, I found what I was looking for. That at its core, social media, in my life like with so many others, has been a tool for connection. True, I have not utilized it effectively, I’ve never engaged online in causes that mean something to me, nor put anything of myself out there; though I am hoping to change that. I have, however, used it for exactly the reasons I was told I would use it for, when in 2006, my now-husband convinced me to create a Facebook account.
A Persuasive Argument
“You can use it to keep in contact with friends back home”.
I remember it clearly, sitting at a computer, on-campus, at Wilfred Laurier University in the Fall of 2006. The screen in front of me displaying a blue and white website of something called Facebook. Up to this point my use of Social Media was limited to MSN messenger and Skype. Sure, I had a MySpace page, I didn’t use it. Text messaging and actually calling my friends were the main forms of communication in my social circle. We were neophytes to this developing digital world.
But, I had chosen to uproot myself and go on an adventure; international texting was not a student budget-friendly option and international calling required a call-card and a payphone. Skype tended to drop calls and there was only so much you could do with MSN messenger. Still, those tools had been sufficient up to this point, why bother with something else?
Facebook was only a couple of years old at this point and I had literally never heard of it. But, I was dating a tech-savvy, internet loving genius, and I was fascinated by his argument around the potential of this platform and his enthusiasm for the positive potential of the emerging digital world. So, I made my profile and joined both the network for Wilfred Laurier and my UK university. Then, through MSN messenger, I reached out to my circle of friends back home, who, like myself, were starting to learn about this new thing called “Facebook” and were also creating their own accounts. As my husband pointed out, I did and have, used it as a tool for keeping in touch.
The Anchor To My Past, Allowing Me To Adventure Forward
Over the last 14 years, I have been able to participate, albeit remotely, in the lives of my childhood friends, high school, and university friends. I watched as they got married and had children. Mourned their losses, and cheered on their successes. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to not be able to retain that sense of home, while making the transition from living in the UK to living in Canada.
It is hard to explain to those who have lived their lives in one community, or within easy traveling distance of their home community, exactly what it feels like to suddenly be surrounded by people who have no context of your story to this point in your life, and to have no easy option of returning home for a visit. It is infinitely freeing, but still extremely isolating, all at the same time. And I undertook this adventure of my own volition, I cannot imagine the difficulty faced by those who have no choice but to uproot their lives and move elsewhere. I recognize that I have been immensely fortunate to have had the opportunities that made my adventure possible.
Looking back, the ability to connect digitally at any point, to those who knew my story, who understood why a certain song had meaning or with whom I could share a joke that would be lost on those in my new social circle, helped to make the distance and change seem less daunting.
I told my friends and family back home that Canadian winters are like the Matrix, no one can tell you what they are like, you have to experience it for yourself. And I wholly stand by that!
I once walked from my apartment to school with wet hair and had to stop at Subway to unfreeze my head, the kind staff brought a space heater to my table to help speed up the process. I only made that mistake once! Canada has a way of making you respect its climate, whether you want to our not. My Facebook feed became a steady stream of pictures of snow and temperature gauges as I showed my incredulous friends and family what the weather was like. Yes, we Brits do love to talk about the weather!
But despite the natural feelings of missing family and friends, I’ve never felt more like I belong anywhere than here in Canada. It is one of the main reasons why I came back to take my postgraduate studies here. During my exchange to Canada in the final year of my undergraduate studies, I felt an immediate connection to this country, I felt at home. It is hard to describe, but I have known since I was a child that I would leave the UK. I announced it to my parents when I was twelve.
And so for a wanderer like myself, Social Media has been an anchor through which I remain in contact with those most important to me and through which immense kindness has been shown.
A Gift No Words Can Truly Explain
This was never highlighted more to me than in 2017, when my family lost my father after a devastating illness, that had slowly destroyed the man he was. A few weeks after his death, distant cousins who live in Australia reached out through Facebook. Cousins on my father’s side; they had visited the UK periodically during my childhood. We visited Australia once when I was five; a long flight, a misty haze of heat, and a Christmas spent in blinding sunlight.
Did I remember them they asked? Of course, I responded. Did I remember that when they visited they always brought a camcorder with them? I vaguely remembered family jokes about this odd habit of filming everything, which in today’s world doesn’t seem that odd anymore.
I did, I responded, well, they told me, “we are pulling together all the video footage of your father that we have. We would like to send it to you, so that you can share it with the rest of the family.” I was floored by this generosity and kindness, that, for reasons beyond the scope of this post, was not something to be expected, my mother having chased this side of the family away many years earlier.
Two months later a USB stick arrived and for the first time since 2006, I saw my father standing unaided, in the kitchen of our family home, singing, and dancing. His arms outstretched before him, his laughter radiating through the room. There was so much footage, a gift that I simply cannot do justice. I have no photographs of just him and me, we were the photographers of the family. I had no footage of him, and my memories of him by that point in time were overloaded with the destruction of who he was, wrought by his condition. Seeing this footage was like the opening of a floodgate; memories long buried returned, and now I can hear his whistle, feel his hugs and hear his laughter and baritone singing voice as though it was yesterday.
Had I not been on Facebook, those family members in Australia would never have been able to reach me, I am thankful to them every single day. And, when I look around and see the damage being caused by the negative aspects of Social Media, I try to remind myself of the positives these tools have, as well and the amazing connections they have allowed me to retain and create over the years.
Leaving aside the overt negatives, in what aspect of your life, has Social Media played an obvious and important positive role? How has this evolved over the years?
And while you think, I’ll leave you with a tune my father whistled frequently and with gusto over the years:
Reminding myself of the positives: A connection to my past, a voice to my present and a gift from across the globe. How has Social Media positively impacted your life?
For Facebook: I have spent a lot of effort battling the negative effects of social media on my personal mental health, sometimes forgetting the immense positive impacts. Here’s my post remembering that while there can be negatives, there are also huge positives: https://bit.ly/30CSsKr
I am a casual gamer, yes you read that right, I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m a casual gamer, #proud. I play one video game consistently, sure, there have been flirtations with other consoles and their offerings; I see you Nintendo Switch, but I always come back to my one true love, World of Warcraft. Queue the eye rolls and groans of displeasure. Sure, my /playtime is now a lot less than it was a few years ago, before ‘adulting’ became a reality of my daily life, but I keep up with each expansion and maintain a stable of characters on each side of the in-game conflict (at cap no less).
Oh, I can feel the judgment from both players and none players alike! Though for purely different reasons, of course, one thinks ick video games, grow up! The other thinks ick, she plays both factions, well pfftt to both of you, a girl has to have her bad habits and as far as they go, chocolate and Warcraft aren’t really all that bad.
Why am I mentioning this game you might ask? Well, dear reader, I mention this game because I have a brain that works in zig zags and circles, goes down one rabbit hole and comes out over the horizon from the dragon’s cave, and then sprints off in a spiral into the nether. In short, I see one thing and I’ll think of something else.
In that it shouldn’t be remarkable anymore; Mr. Trump does like to tear up the script, and this latest international stunt shouldn’t be seen as anything less than attempting to distract from his overwhelming lack of interest for anything other than himself and his own business interests (I am still wrapping my head around his behavior of the last week domestically).
Choosing to sever ties completely with the W.H.O during a global pandemic is an act designed so sow disharmony and discord and should have an entire book dedicated to it.
China is now going to swallow Hong Kong whole, 27 years earlier than agreed. Again, books should and likely will be written about this decision and the devastating impact, it will have on the 7.5 million inhabitants of Hong Kong.
But while my brain tried to sort through what I was reading, I remembered a moment last October when a young man managed to propel himself into global headlines, by simply making a statement on Social Media
There was no racial slur, no intolerant language, it was not a moment of hate speech, but a moment of expressed opinion. Basically, a young man had been handed a megaphone and he had, inevitably, used it.
Well, what does this have to do with Hong Kong? Non-gamers are undoubtedly confused right now, while gamers are more than likely thinking, “oh no, this again?” But, I have to say, I think the Blitzchung controversy of October 2019, is actually well worth an examination in the context of a course on Social Media. So, if you are not ‘in the know’, and even if you are, let us jump back in time 8 months to October 6th, 2019, and what happens when a large gaming corporation hands a megaphone to a young man living in a city under siege and doesn’t think it through.
So, some background information, World of Warcraft is owned and developed by Blizzard Entertainment (which I will refer to as Blizzard moving forward, I’m not going to delve into the Corporate structure of Blizzard Entertainment or Activision Blizzard here), which operates a number of games. One of these games is a turn-based fantasy card game called Hearthstone. I am going to admit here, I don’t play Hearthstone, I know very little about it, other than, I received a blue fiery pegasus mount in World of Warcraft when Hearthstone launched, it was very exciting.
Blitzchung was a grandmaster of the esports circuit for Hearthstone and was participating in a regional tournament for a fairly hefty sum of money ( approx. $10,000 USD). After each match, the winner is interviewed live online to discuss the match and how they are feeling about the tournament. Everything was going smoothly, Blitzchung had won his match and was due to participate in the expected post-match breakdown when he showed up to the interview wearing goggles and a facemask.
If you have been following the news coming out of Hong Kong over the last few years, the protesters there have developed several different ways to protect their identity while protesting oversight from Beijing, facemasks being one of them. These protests have gathered strength in the last year and by October were at an all-time high, for reasons I’ll touch upon in a moment.
Blitzchung whose real name is actually Ng Wai Chung removed his gas mask long enough to shout “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” (Porter, 2020) while his interviewers laughed and ducked below their computer screens and moments later the broadcast shut down.
Now, I didn’t actually hear about this incident until a few days later when it was all over the gaming community and then actually hit the mainstream media world headlines. At first, I didn’t really see what the big deal was, a player had signed a contract to compete in a tournament and had then, apparently, breached the terms of the tournament code of conduct. He was banned from the game for a year and his winnings were revoked (Blizzard Entertainment, 2019). Did it sound to me like the reaction from the company was over the top? Yes, did I take the time to really see the situation for what it was? No.
I’ll admit, I didn’t watch the clip of the ‘incident’, I didn’t really even bother to read that much about it, sad to say, such was my indifference at the time. As I said above, casual player here, and I wasn’t surprised that the company acted the way it did, given their economic interests in China. Hong Kong is a touchy subject for them, and they wield a rather large economic hammer. I’m not saying here that I agreed with Blizzard, I was indifferent, unsurprised, and focused on other things.
But the gaming community lost its collective mind. #blitzchung was trending on Twitter, gamers were uninstalling their Blizzard games, and sharing their outrage across every Social Media platform, I couldn’t help but see it. Such was the intensity of the reaction, that six days after the October 6th incident, on October 12th, Blizzard changed their decision. Returning all winnings that had been clawed back from Ng Wai Chung and reducing his ban and the ban of the interviewers to six months instead of one year (Blizzard Entertainment 2019). This is a remarkable response from a global organization that stood to lose access to the single largest consumer market on the planet. That may sound like hyperbole, but while this scenario was unfurling for Blizzard, another was running its course for the NBA, so tensions were high.
This fast reaction really highlights the power of Social Media to shine a light on organizations and keep them true to their supposed core values. The pursuit of market share and economic growth is part and parcel of a Capitalist system of economics (wow, yes, I simplified the *bleep* out of that, I know!) So the fact that the gaming community, through Social Media, managed to bring an about-face in six days, is to me, rather impressive. And that is what caught my attention.
Through the course of writing this post and revisiting the media from that moment, I have to say, I get it. A year ban and the removal of his winnings? And the firing of the two interviewers? Definitely an overreaction on the part of Blizzard. A reduction to a six-month ban and giving the winnings back? Still an overreaction. I’m glad that Ng Wai Chung received his winnings, he played the game and won, fair and square, but to still receive a six-month ban?
It leads me to ask this question, what was Blizzard expecting? Let’s get some context for the environment that Ng Wai Chung is living in. And if you aren’t familiar with the timeline of Hong Kong and the reasons why there have been protests going on there for years, I’ll give you a moment to read this, and this and why the protests have increased.
Having spent his life in a city on the edge of the largest nation on the planet, growing up in a system that at its core is antithetical to the core values of the Chinese Government, is it any surprise that Ng Wai Chung took that moment to send a message of support to his fellow Hong Kongers? I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often, though the reason is likely absolute fear of retaliation. A realistic fear, given the track record of the Chinese government when dealing with those who disagree with them. This article is one of many that highlight individuals who have vanished in recent years, or experienced extreme reactions from the authorities, for expressing views that differ from or criticize the government. And, recently, a critic of the Chinese government’s handling of the Corona Virus, vanished.
Given the relative openness and democratic nature of Hong Kong, any pivot towards mainland China threatens the very core of Hong Kong’s values. Any individual arrested in protests, or even speaking out against China via Social Media, would be at risk of being sent to the mainland and never heard from again. To link this back to the context of this post, Ng Wai Chung, by making the statement that he made during the live stream, was placing himself at risk of being arrested and deported to mainland China for crimes against the state. For speaking one sentence.
He knew he was taking a risk, you can see it in the nervous laughterfrom him and the interviewers. But he still took a stand, because he had faith in the institutions of Hong Kong to protect him and in doing what he did, he believed he was taking a stand to protect those institutions and show his support to his fellow protesters.
I’m fairly sure, that given the American projection of its values across the world, and the fact that in its own mission statement Blizzard champions the individual’s freedom of expression (Blizzard Entertainment 2020), Ng Wai Chung likely didn’t expect a year-long ban and the loss of his winnings. A slap on the wrists in the form of a statement from the company maybe, but at their core Blizzard is an American company, right? Those ideals that America has spent decades championing around the world mean something, right?
It speaks poorly to the leadership at Blizzard, that while they absolutely reserve the right to determine what constitutes a breach of their code of conduct, as they highlight in the code of conduct that Ng Wai Chung agreed to adhere to:
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damage’s Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. (Blizzard Entertainment, 2019, 6.1.o. Pg 12)
That they chose this particular instance to enforce it. While their mission statement, which is made up of eight core values, embraces the notion of “every voice matters” (Blizzard Entertainment, 2020), and calls on its employees and gamers to be “…respectful of other opinions and embrace criticism as just another avenue for great ideas.” (Blizzard Entertainment, 2020) Their actions in this regard feel suggestive of a decision made while focusing on the bottom line and not the actual context of what had happened and how it might align with the organization as a whole.
On October 6th, 2019, Ng Wai Chung was exercising his legal right to express his opinion about the situation in his home city. A right that as of May 28th, 2020 has taken a fatal body blow after the Chinese government bypassed “…Hong Kong’s legislature and therefore public debate and consultation.” (Kuo, 2020, para. 13) And approved a new piece of legislation “…banning subversion, separatism, and acts of foreign interference on Hong Kong…” (Kuo, 2020, para.6)
I don’t blame Ng Wai Chung one bit for using the megaphone Blizzard handed him, I would have done exactly the same thing were I in his situation, at least, I hope I would have been brave enough to speak up. And I echo the frustration and disappointment aimed at Blizzard’s leadership. In a perfect world, social responsibility should come before profit.
The ideal is something that we should expect everyone to strive towards, a constant progression towards bettering ourselves, hopefully, in this situation, Blizzard will take note of their own core values and “learn and grow” (Blizzard Entertainment, 2020) from this experience.
I recognize that there are many other examples where social media has been used to place pressure on an organization. This just happens to be the most recent one that landed on my radar. Is there an example that has stuck with you? A misstep by a commercial organization that was then retracted due to public reaction.
Do you think, if you were to switch places with Ng Wai Chung that you would have been able to speak out in the way he did? Is it even possible for us, sitting safely here in Canada, to really comprehend the nature of his experience and the pressures facing Hong Kong residents, as China accelerates is reunification plans? Some might say we have no right to comment, but, isn’t that the whole point? That I live in a country that has enshrined my basic human rights and my right to freedom of speech, so that I can safely have an opinion and so that others may safely agree or, disagree with me? I think Social Media is a gift when it comes to freedom of speech, so long as we continue to push ourselves towards the ideal, towards the fair, truthful, and open passage of information and the free exchange of opinions and ideas.
In parting, I’ll leave this video here in which Ng Wai Chung talks about his life after the Blitzchung incident and his love for his home city. I feel that there is something we can all learn from his attitude and his actions.
If you were handed a megaphone, would you use it? Freedom of Speech – Stuck between Capitalist Interests and Authoritarianism – https://bit.ly/3eKJhLL
For Facebook: As China continues to crack down on Hong Kong and the International Community steps back with no will to intervene, I look back at a moment when an American company handed a young Hong Konger a megaphone and didn’t expect him to use it. Are basic human rights and individual freedoms global? Or only applicable when they don’t impact the bottom line? https://bit.ly/3dykfzn
Ma, A. (2018, August 19th). Barging into Your Home, Threatening Your Family, or Making You Disappear: Here’s What China Does to People who Speak Out Against Them. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/
Have you ever had that feeling, your heading home, and you zone out, you are just a passive passenger along for the ride in your own body?
Suddenly, you’re at your destination, and you don’t quite remember all the details on how you got there. Some specifics sure; you stopped at that red light, the music playing in the background; when it was catchy. But for the most part the journey was a haze as you thought about your day gone by, the day coming tomorrow, the weekend coming up, or, nothing much at all.
When this happens to me I often think of a quote, that, while I have never actually read any of Ursula K Le Guin’s work (something I mean to rectify), has always stuck with me:
“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.” (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness)
When the daily rush of normal life came crashing to a halt in mid-March, I had this exact same feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the place where I find myself is an absolute paradise; married to the man of my dreams, beautiful home, adorable puppy, the most amazing circle of family and friends a person could ask for and a great job. I know how fortunate I am, there are no complaints here, only an attempt at growth.
As I adapted to this new normal, I felt a shift, an awakening within me of imaginings and interests that I had forgotten. Curiosities, that have been left in a pile at the edge of the desk and then, slowly, over the years, scooped into boxes and placed in the dusty corners of my mind.
I am a dreamy kind of wanderer, I always have been. Happy to float from place to place with no real goal other than to see where it leads. At least, I used to be.
I never really had a clear answer for that age old chestnut; “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I clearly remember being confused about this question at one particular family gathering. How was I, at the age of ten, supposed to know what I was going to do with my life? I was ten, what did I know of the world? I pointed that out and received an uncomfortable silence from my adult audience and a pat on the head, followed by, “You really need to give it some thought.” So, I settled on Vet. It was easy, I love animals and it appeared that Vet was a lofty enough goal that it would elicit sounds of approval from the gathered adults.
My true, secret goals were vague; to travel, to go on adventures, to fall madly in love. But society loves clarity, loves direct and clear goals, an end in sight, in a straight line. At least, that is what I was taught:
Graduate high school
Go on to Post-Secondary studies
Meet Significant other
Graduate Post-Secondary studies
Land the job of your dreams in your chosen field, immediately
There is nothing wrong with any of these goals. In fact, I ticked a fair number off that list, but I did them the windy way, the way that worked for me. Much to the chagrin of my straight edged and very direct Mother.
I enjoyed pulling on threads of interest and seeing what was at the end of them. Something that I used to constantly apply to my life. I’d see something of interest, wander over, experience it and either wander back or see where it took me. Some would call that aimless drifting, I was taught that society would call that lost, but, in the wise words of Tolkien “Not all those who wander are lost…” (Tolkien,1977, p. 202) I may not have a clear end goal and I may be taking a winding and roaming route, but for me at least, that was fulfilling.
Somewhere though, I took a wrong turn. I pulled on a thread of curiosity and found myself stuck in the mud. Which is the danger inherent in any decision.
Other people’s truths became my own, the imagined yard-stick by which society measures life’s milestones somehow found its way into my inner sanctum. I had checked off some of the markers, yes, but it wasn’t enough. There were more to check off and time was short, the yard-stick only goes to thirty and I was well beyond that. My curiosity became a hindrance, my desire to walk to the next corner and see what was there became a weakness. I lost sight of the journey and tried to force myself into a mindset that has never truly been my own. To see the goal with clarity and walk straight at it pursuing it at all costs. Never mind the emotional toll of not being true to myself. Never mind the destructive effects of obsessing over the future and trying to see what was coming, while all the time standing still. Because no matter how much you hammer at it, a square peg is never going to fit into a round hole.
Would I go back and change that decision? No. I believe that every choice has value, whether it leads to success or failure. It is what we do with the lessons we have learned that are important. Even if it takes a while for the lesson to really sink in.
And so, it was in this constant state of frustration, that I ran head first into the huge stop sign that this global pandemic has placed in the way.
Out of something truly scary, truly terrible and wrought with uncertainty and fear for the future, I have found my breath, and I know that I am absolutely lucky to be in this position. This forced pause from the daily routine has allowed me to take stock of the destination I find myself at. After years of hazy travelling, it has allowed me to recognize that I have, actually, achieved all the goals that I held close to my heart growing up. I have traveled, I have been on so many adventures and I have fallen madly, ecstatically in love. I am right where I want to be.
Sure, I succumbed to the perceived pressures of everyday society, that yard-stick has poked holes in my unwavering belief that everything will in fact be OK; that I am enough, that it is the journey and not just the goal that matters.
I feel my curiosity returning, new goals have arisen from the dusty corners of my mind; can I learn to write effectively and do it well? Can I learn to draw well, sew the clothes that I daydream about, can I learn to write music? In the simplest terms, can I be creative? Something that didn’t fit the narrative given to me by the rigid hallways of the education system I grew up in, or the narrow focus of my mother’s self-hating view of me.
I see new possibilities and new winding paths to charge headlong down. I will gather the tools that will help me focus, learn and grow. Over the next few posts, I’ll explore what it means to me, to awaken and reassert my weird and quirky self. How I am teaching myself to ignore the ingrained negative self-perceptions and silence those voices that tell me to conform.
I didn’t graduate high-school on time with my peers, choosing instead to change all my subjects halfway through my final years; I picked my post-secondary studies out of a coffee cup filled many choices and I’ve never had a clear goal of what my career should look like, other than it should have many twists and turns, filled with interesting experiences.
I am in my mid-late thirties and according to those external perceived pressures, I should be done and set on my path. And yet, I’ve achieved everything I have ever set my mind to by taking the road less traveled and enjoying each winding route. I’d like to reclaim that mindset.
So, now the blinkers are off, the fog has been blown away and I am awake again. We get one shot at this amazing journey called life and I’m not going to allow myself to fall back on old habits. I’ll gather tools to my side, I’ll inflict my terrible writing and rambling thoughts on anyone who will willingly (or coerced) read it, I’m looking at you fellow classmates! And I’ll see where this new path leads!
Care to join me on my wanderings? Maybe we’ll find something magical!
For Facebook – I wrote a blog post on what this moment in time means to me and how I am working towards personal growth. Freeing myself from perceived social pressures about life and how we measure our value and success on this journey. An exercise in self-reflection-what this moment means to me. https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6