So many eyeballs, so little time…?

I’ve been trying to figure myself out. I know, everyone is surprised. It’s all I ever do, I guess.

Social media forces us to see ourselves through many people’s eyes. I’ve made this connection before, but when Sartres said “hell is other people” he was speaking before social media even existed. Now, we all kind of live our lives both as an actor and an observer. We see ourselves as both a self and an object for public consumption.

It’s not surprising, then, that social media makes us feel both more and less real – it gives us a snapshot of who we are that’s independent of us, makes us tangible to ourselves in a way past generations never had, but it also removes us from ourselves, shifts our focus from our interior lives to our exterior ones, and strips us of the ability to see only with our own eyes.

But to see oneself the way others do is no easy task, and it’s almost always painful to face the reality that ultimately, other people do not see us the same way we see ourselves. They do not feel with us or see with us, they do not experience our existence as bringing the world into being, nor do they experience our death as the end of one. To them, we are just part of the backdrop of their lives experience, and no matter how central a role we are given, we remain dispensable, our roles in each other’s lives are infinitely more fragile than we like to pretend they are.

So I guess, uh… I’ve been trying to figure out how to see myself as an object for consumption. But that can be extremely painful, because… to see yourself the way others do is, well, hell. For one thing, there’s always a lot of uncertainty which on its own is enough to drive a person insane, but… we want… I want to believe that I can make people see me as more than a part of the background – not because I believe I’m terribly important, but because I’m clinging to the idea that I can somehow help other people to learn empathy and compassion by giving it to them myself (to the best of my ability). But you can’t force people to imagine what it’s like to live in your skin. You just can’t.

Ultimately, I am the only person who can affirm my own validity. And that sucks. A lot. I’ve learned how to see myself through other people’s eyes, but I still don’t know how to see myself through my own. Maybe that’s what I’ve been trying to avoid all along, I don’t know.

Does any of that… even make sense…?

Who am I living for?

[not sure if this was worth posting but… I thought I’d do the whole post/reread/change mind & make private cycle on it…]

Katy Perry is just one of many to ask the question, and for good reason – in many ways, it’s kind of the central question of human life. One could argue that all of ethics requires a way to argue for an answer that makes room to consider the lives of others to be somehow connected to one’s own – that the “who” includes more than just myself.

But on the other hand, if a person doesn’t live for their own sake as well, the result will be a life of pure suffering.

Every good story has this conflict – between the freedom of individuals, the recklessness of living a life of authenticity, the high of the total embrace of self, and the need to balance the needs of the individual with those of the group. 

So… how do we do it? Romeo & Juliet makes a case, one could argue, for the reproductive freedom of the younger generations, Freud catalogues the various ways that we repress our inner conflicts, and how they manifest themselves when they bubble up to the surface again. Jesus says love thy neighbor as you love yourself, Ayn Rand argues for a rebranded solipsism, so… who’s right? And who’s to know for certain? 

To bring it back to me, though, since that’s my only talent, um… I’m at this point where I’m trying to decide what my future looks like. And if I’m living for just myself, I’m not sure… if I would want to keep trying at all. But I’m not, I’m also living for my family and friends and my cat… which means I don’t have the option to give up on myself. So, then what? 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that at first, I did… youtube and blogging and all my bullshit, uh… when I started, it was for myself. That was all, it was the thing that kept me alive, kind of, just this little outlet that kept me motivated, that made me feel like I still existed, somehow, even when I did the best I could to hide from the world. 

But now, it’s scary. It’s not a fun little steam valve where I can say anything, there are consequences to the things I say, now, and if I were just living for my family, I would stop. If I was just living for myself, I’d probably start a channel where I myself am completely anonymous so that I could speak freely, again, even though I know there’s no escaping the consequences of the internet, really, in the end, probably… 

But I now also feel, I don’t know. I feel like I can’t just let all the work I’ve already done go to waste, I guess, maybe. Or maybe I’m just addicted to getting notifications from strangers. Or maybe I just feel like we’re all desperate to tell anyone who’s willing to listen our whole life story, our wants, our hopes, our fears, our everything… we all want to be seen. And maybe I got to a point where I was so terrified of being seen by anyone that I decided to make myself visible to everyone, because at least then I wouldn’t feel like I had made myself invisible. I could disappear from the world in the flesh, but remain as a social media hologram… or something…?

I still want to do that, to be honest. I still don’t know if I’m just not cut out for… being more than a brain in a vat. I think I’d rather be a hologram, whenever possible. And I know that maybe that isn’t healthy but I guess I just wonder, what’s healthy? It used to not be possible, if you wanted to be a shut-in and still connect with people, you had to write books or make art, you couldn’t just sit down at your computer and talk to someone halfway around the world. But now, you can. So… what’s healthier? Recklessly sharing your half-baked ideas with the internet, or cornering a stranger at a bar and giving them your entire life’s history while they politely eye the door? 

Anyway, I don’t know who I’m living for. I know that I’m too spoiled to compromise on a lot of things, that I would rather be dead than work for a cause I don’t believe in, and so on. But I also know that I’m insecure, and that I’m terrified of the possibility that there are no good options for me. That I’m just another dumb kid whose parents, with all the best of intentions, convinced them they were special, and that now I’m too childish to let go of that belief. 

But I’m also scared. And I know that no matter how hard I try, there will always be people who want to hurt me on the internet, that exposing myself online has always been as dangerous, in fact more dangerous, than real life, and that this story is probably not going to end well for me no matter which path I choose.

So then instead of ruminating, instead of acting, I freeze. Like if I can just sit still for long enough, the danger will pass, the fear will pass, the nausea will pass, but it won’t. So, what do I do? I really don’t know. I’m at sea without the slightest idea how to get to shore, and Lord knows I’ve always been prone to sea-sickness. It’s hard to keep believing I won’t die out here. 

An open letter to the people who hurt me most

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why you did the things you did to me – imagining what it must’ve been like to live in your head. How a person could get to a point where they either didn’t notice or didn’t care how much they were hurting another person.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. In fact I know that I’ve hurt plenty of people, too. Many of you included. But let’s not compare scars. I’ve tried to use my experiences of being the bad guy in the story to help me figure out how you did the things you did.

But I’m really… bored of rehashing those thoughts over and over until my brain goes numb. Because I think… while I know some of you genuinely cared about me, a few maybe even loved me so much that you couldn’t control it, a few probably hated me, and a few didn’t think twice about the fact that I had a mind of my own, at all… the one thing you all had in common was that you were so caught up in yourself, you were blinded, or perhaps just willfully blind, to the fact that my internal experience of my reality is every bit as real and vivid and immediate and meaningful as yours. That a reality you can’t experience first-hand can nevertheless be exactly as saturated with the heaviness of being “real” as the reality you can. That I am not merely a character in your story but the hero of my own, that I am not a paper cut-out of a person but a real one, and that you, in treating me otherwise, have not tarnished my reality, but your own.

And now, I’m scarred. I’m sure you are, too. But I choose not to let those scars make me forget that you are also human, that you also feel helpless, and that you deserve compassion, too, no matter how deep the scars you gave me feel. Life is a fucked up fun house and you’re lucky if you get out with only a handful of disasters on your conscience. So this… this is all I have left to say to you. All of you.

I’m sorry that life hurt you so badly that you felt that you had to hurt me. I’m sorry that you can’t see that other people’s pain is as real and important as yours is. And I’m sorry you bought into the false narrative that you and I are separate, because the truth – or at least I believe it is, maybe I just hope it is – is that everything you did to me, you did to yourself, as well.

The fun house mirrors might make your reflection look like a different person, but the eyes that stare back at you are still the same. What do you see, now, when you look at mine? Can I even convince you of the reality of the ocean behind them? Will you ever see the people around you in high resolution, or will you live your whole life creating caricatures to superimpose onto them instead? Will you even read this? Would you understand a word of it if you did, or would this just become another piece of evidence in my file, labeled “crazy girl number 467”?

Do you understand that I pity you, that I show you the mercy you failed to show me, not out of weakness, but strength? Can you see beyond your insecurities and your ego and your relentless self-abuse enough to realize the mountains I had to climb within my own mind to be able to write these words? Is there anything I could say that would make a difference to you at all, or can some people really just never be convinced that the earth rotates around the sun, and not themselves…?

Maybe we’re not as different as I’d like to think. We’re probably not. But I, at least, can see that. Can you?