I caught myself obsessing over my paltry number of ‘likes’ on an instagram post in the bath tonight, and I was ashamed (before myself and a god in whom I’m not sure I even believe). And with the shame came a realization: this teaching job, between occupying so much of my time and being located so far from San Francisco, has made me feel so isolated from my friends that I have come to feel a social media hunger that I have rarely felt before. Every time a post goes unliked for an hour I am consumed with thoughts of being forgotten. Don’t they care what I’m up to, how I feel? Doesn’t anybody care??
It’s a rather shocking level of self-absorbed anxiety, even for the author of a book not-so-jokingly entitled Navel Gazing.* I know my friends care – I even have the rare privilege of knowing they care because they actually reach out via text or email. But I spend so much of my time consumed by my job, seeing nobody besides my students and coworkers (and my lovely boyfriend, who luckily lives very close) for weeks on end, that I fear I’ll become a distant memory at worst, and at best (this is already happening) I just won’t be caught up on my friends’ lives, and vice versa, so that when I do meet them for drinks that once in a blue moon we’ll spend the whole time filling each other in and we won’t have a minute to analyze or support each other. Meet-ups become data dumps.
And then there’s the other issue, that of why I’m not getting as many ‘likes’ as I’d like: I’ve made my instagram private. When I first found out that my students were stalking me (because they are children and are therefore terrible at anything covert, so multiple times one of my photos was ‘liked’ by one of them and then immediately unliked, but of course the notification remained, mwahahaha) I refused to shut down my public feed. I was an author, after all, and I had a right to a public life that was nonetheless private from my other public life, within the classroom. I had no responsibility to be a role model outside the school grounds, and I was determined to say exactly that should I be approached (and reproached, in all likelihood) by a parent or the administration. But then all of a sudden something else** was on the line, and I cared a great deal about my public persona. Rather than purge my mildly inappropriate past from the internet (I mean, I swear, and I drink wine, but I don’t take risqué photos and hashtag them #freethenipple or anything – in the words of the great Achoo, “it ain’t exactly the Mississippi!”), I decided to just make my profile private. Which has stopped the stalking, and made me feel more secure about this other thing that may or may not come to fruition…but it has also cut me off from the world of people who don’t follow me but might have come across my photos via a hashtag or the ‘explore’ tab. And I’d always told myself that those people might become followers, and they might even read my book, and maybe I wouldn’t feel like such a failure as a writer in addition to being so lonely and isolated from my friends out here in the Far East Bay.
And that brings me to my last point for this relatively disorganized blog post: I feel like a failure. I’ve failed myself by not finishing the second book in the time I thought I would finish, and, worse, not writing anything new for the past four months. I’ve failed any readers I did have by not blogging for months on end. And I’ve failed my friends and family and acquaintances by being able to hold only one passion in my hands at a time – right now that’s teaching, and unfortunately writing has been shunted aside.
BUT all is not lost. First of all, I have been obsessed with Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons, and more recently with her book, Big Magic, and all of these bits of advice and wisdom have reassured me greatly, to the point that I still feel like a failure but I feel less of a pressing, urgent anxiety about it. And secondly, I have decided to make the following my mantra for life (and have even embroidered a gigantic, beautiful wall hanging with it to remind me every day): ‘Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.’ It is in that spirit that I got straight out of the bath to come and type this blog post, and it is even more in that spirit that I will post it right now, despite fearing that it is disorganized and lacking in the beauty and wisdom of my ideal post.
Something is better than nothing. Or so I am determined to believe.
Happy New Year <3
*And yes, I have noticed that the much-more-famous-than-myself Michael Ian Black used the same title for his new book. Let’s not discuss the curse that seems to follow my poor first book child throughout this world.
**I know this is infuriatingly vague, but this blog is still public and I am not yet ready for my professional acquaintances to know what exactly was on the line. Sorry, non-job-related readers!