With Great Connectivity Comes Great Responsibility
Yes, I am quoting Spiderman.
One of the only things that we as a human race can count on to remain constant is (ironically enough) the inevitability of change.
Very few things will ever stay exactly the same. Not our bodies, nor our minds; our physical environments, or our social. This is a fact that is terrifying in some ways, but exciting in so many others.
Social media has a way of beautifully displaying only the highlights of a person’s life. We like to show off our new clothes, haircuts, relationships, and travel destinations, while neglecting to share the parts of our lives that are real, hiding everything that cannot be made beautiful with the perfect filter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this too.
The parts of our lives that we often deem uninteresting or “un-instagramable,” are usually the parts that make us who we are. I don’t think it is at all necessary to use social media as a means of airing out our dirty laundry, but I do think that it has the ability to give us all a voice.
Technology can make us feel so powerful, but it can also make us feel so small. A couple hundred followers, a thousand or so Facebook friends… That’s nothing compared to the millions reachable by the likes of the grammy winners, the reality stars, and the (inexplicably) internet famous. When I look at it that way, it’s easy to get discouraged. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have stopped myself from speaking out. Saying Jane, “You don’t matter.” “Nobody is listening.” “Nobody cares.”
This is an attitude that is widely held today. Whether it’s speaking out about a cause, going out and voting, or donating your money or time, so many of us feel like we are not making a big enough difference, so we decide to do or say nothing at all.
We are a generation that is constantly seeking instant gratification. From detox teas, to waist trainers, to magical diet pills, we want results as fast as possible without having to work for them, and even worse, we give up when we don’t see these results fast enough.
The reality is we can’t save the whole world on our own, we can’t keep waiting for someone else to take care of our problems, and we can’t expect change to happen overnight.
We need each other. People need people, and it is not weak for us to admit this.
That’s why it’s so important for us to speak out. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we do matter; That someone is listening; That someone cares. And who knows, maybe your words could be the ones that spark a change. Because of you, someone might actually donate or speak out for their cause. Someone might read your words and realize that even though things are hard and nothing seems to be going right, they are not alone, and they might decide to keep going. A voice is a powerful thing.
Claiming my Voice
2014 and 2015 repeatedly knocked me flat on my back with tidal waves of depression and a near constant flow of anxiety. The majority of the last two years, I felt like I was buckled into a canoe… in the middle of a hurricane. I felt like a little kid on the beach getting pounded by the waves, pulling myself back onto my feet, only to be knocked back down minutes later by a wave twice the size. Even when things were going well, it was hard for me to focus on the good because I was always on edge, always waiting for the next storm to hit and drag me back down.
This year I spent a lot of time reading the stories of other people going through the same things as I am. These stories reminded me that I am not alone, and made me realize that I wanted to add my voice to the chorus, and use it to help others.
Over the summer I read a book by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. That book, titled If You Feel Too Much, served as a beacon of hope for me, and in it he says:
We keep going and we go together. We lean on people and we invite people to lean on us. We ask honest questions and we give honest answers. We ask for help, because we know that it’s okay to ask for help.
Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part.
Life is worth living.
We’ll see you tomorrow.
I’m writing today because I am flawed. I’m writing today because I have accepted that I cannot save the whole world on my own. But I’m not giving up. Although you alone cannot save them all, you might be able to help some. Maybe only one. But the way that I look at it is that out of my 600 instagram followers, and 1000 Facebook friends, if something that I shared or said could help a single one of them, it was worth the discomfort. It was worth the vulnerability.
Depression isn’t something that I ever want to be embarrassed about again, and the hell if I’m going to allow a chemical imbalance control my life for a second longer. I’m fighting back, and I want you to keep fighting too. I want to see you tomorrow, that is what my shirt stands for.
In light of it being the last day of the year, and tomorrow being the start of a new one, here is my resolution of sorts.
This year, I’m not going to lie and say I that I am going to become someone new, but I am promising to do better. I am promising to love others better, and love myself better, and I am doing it publicly, in hopes that you will hold me accountable, and in hopes that if you too are struggling, you can find some comfort in knowing that someone else is going through the same thing. Solidarity my friends.
I have three final pieces of unsolicited advice for anyone who is still reading. Feel free to skip these next three points if you think that have your life together and you don’t need advice from a nut like me. I don’t blame you. But to anyone else:
- I encourage you to find something to believe in. Find something that centers you when you lose your grip on reality, or start to feel alone. For me that was my faith. When the waters get too high and the waves cover my head, I can always count on God to fill my lungs with air. My purpose of writing this is not to tell you what to believe in or try to make you believe what I do. But from the bottom of my heart, I hope you can find a purpose in something higher than yourself, because that has helped me so much.
- Find your people. The people who love you despite your inability to love yourself, or love them back as much as they deserve. The people who root you on when you are doing well, who push you to do better when you drop the ball, who are willing to just listen even if they can’t understand. Hold on to the people who know your heart, and know that you are trying.
- Throw “cool” out the window. Stop trying to please everyone else. Do what you love, be who you are, believe what you believe and the right people will come and stay. People will laugh at you, and they will disagree with you. They will judge you and they will call you weird. Let them. Hell, shave your head just to spite them. Cool conforms. Cool is boring. Cool doesn’t change the world. Cool doesn’t save lives. And in the end, they don’t have to live with the choices you make and the person you become; You do. So do it right.
Thank you to everyone who was there for me this year, from my amazingly patient and understanding teachers, to my wonderful roommates who were always there to supply chocolate in my time of need.
Thank you to everyone who came into my life this year, and to those of you who stuck around. And thank you to everyone who didn’t.
Thank you 2015 for teaching me everything that you did, and for teaching me that I have so much left to learn, and so much left to look forward to.
So 2016, bring it on. I’ll see you tomorrow.