What can I do?

I’ve had this reminder on my wall for probably over a year, now, that says “just do what you can.” I try to write such reminders when I’m feeling positive and motivated so that when I inevitably slide back into feelings of powerlessness and pointlessness, I’ll at least still be surrounded by little notes from my past self reminding me to stop agonizing and self-flagellating*, and focus on what’s right in front of me.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard. And especially now with my whole youtube thing, I often feel really exposed and vulnerable and stupid, and… even though I KNOW deep down that my strength is precisely that I am so good at being vulnerable, that doesn’t always make it easy. My “courage to create”** only comes in moments. The rest of the time, I’m still scared, and even if I can see why the version of me that made or did the thing that was vulnerable, I don’t feel like I am that person. I just feel exposed.

I think that deep down we all feel like we’re not enough, no matter what. I think it’s just a part of life – you can become more comfortable with yourself, but life just is discomfort. Having a self means being self-conscious, and being self-conscious means never feeling like you are as good as you should be, or as good as the next guy. These days most of my self-consciousness is wrapped up in my creativity – not that I’m not as successful as I want to be on youtube, that part actually has stopped bothering me almost completely. But it bothers me that I’m not as informed or intelligent or well-spoken as so many people on the internet, and ever since Peter Coffin shared my video*** my anxiety has taken the form of comparing myself to youtubers who actually make a difference. Peter Coffin, Contrapoints, HBomberguy, PhilosophyTube, Mexie, Beau of the Fifth Column… just yesterday I found this channel called Renegade Cut that completely blows anything I could possibly do on youtube out of the water…

I guess what I’m saying is that it breaks my heart, a little, that I can’t be those guys. I’m not smart enough, hell, I don’t even know if I have enough conviction, I’m definitely not informed or well spoken enough to do the kind of stuff that they do (and nowhere CLOSE as far as editing goes, obviously). And I guess I feel so undeserving of what I perceive as this, like, incredibly kind and generous favor that Peter Coffin did for me by, like, associating himself at ALL with my channel, because I have no idea what kind of youtuber I am, or could be, or whatever, but I know for goddam certain that I will never be as skilled at it as he is, that I’ll never even come close to him either in terms of content or ideology because that just isn’t something I think that I CAN do.

Those people, though, I guess, are so good at what they do because they, too, are just doing what they can. It’s just that their capabilities are different from mine. As I said in my incredibly ill-advised “rap” –

Yeah I can act a little dumb, but I’ve got a lot of heart
& I learned a thing or two from my main man Sartre:
#1 is it’s important to be your real self,
#2 is you should never put your feelings on the shelf

I am good at very few things, but I know for certain that I am VERY good at being authentic, and at being vulnerable. And embarrassing myself.

What can be hard, what will probably always be hard for me to accept, is that I will never be good at being anyone else. I will never be the “serious youtuber.” I will never be able to present my ideas and opinions with the nuance and conviction as any of the people I mentioned above. Or lots of people.

But maybe that’s okay. Maybe youtube doesn’t need me to try and be Peter Coffin just to feel like I deserve the validation he gave me. Maybe I’m just the girl who humps teddy bears and cries and tweets too much, and occasionally makes videos that aren’t just dumb and silly. Maybe I’m just the girl who’s there to show other people that you don’t always have to know what you’re doing, but you do have to try, and you have to keep trying even when you feel completely empty and worthless and hopeless and lost, even when you hate yourself and you feel like giving up and changing your name and disappearing into the wilderness to wait for the world to burn…

The world needs about 50,000 more Peter Coffins. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also need you, even if you haven’t yet figured out what for. There are things that you CAN do, even if they’re small things, or stupid things, or reckless things, or silly things. The older I get, the more I think that being a good person isn’t about what you actually do – not that the results aren’t important – but I think that being a good person is mostly about trying to be. We’re all broken, we’re all shitty, we all do things we regret, and have flaws, blind-spots, and so on… but if you try to judge yourself based on the fruits of your labor alone, odds are you’ll wind up feeling discouraged and wanting to give up altogether, the same way you would if you played all the way to the final level of a game before the computer crashed and undid all your progress. Honestly, that’s kind of where I’ve been at, lately.

But if you judge yourself by the effort you put into being a good person, or at least a better person, then it doesn’t matter what level you get to. Even if the game glitches out a thousand times and you have to live in this Sisyphean gaming nightmare**** – the computer can’t delete your effort. It can’t delete the journey you took, even if you have to repeat that journey a thousand times. Even if you take one step forward and two steps back, you still took that step forward.

That counts. It all counts. Even if all you can do is show up and play the game one more time, that counts. All that matters – all you can do, is what you can do. To expect more from yourself is just setting yourself up to be miserable.

* hilarious sidenote: definitely typed “flatulating” the first time. Really thankful that autocorrect had my back on that one……………
** a book I highly recommend despite the fact that (as with a shameful number of other books that I own) I have only read the first chapter
*** which was obviously an incredible ego-boost, as well, I’m not saying this is where my anxiety is coming from now, just the focal point it organizes itself around lately
**** OH MY GOD IS THIS A GAME ALREADY I HOPE IT IS*****
***** it is, but I’m not going to download it to be honest, because… now that I think about it, that sounds… depressing…

A link to my darkest video

Hi. I posted this and, um. People were really awesome about it, but I don’t want random strangers stumbling on it with no context, so… I think when that happens, I’ll TRY to just post the video in a blog post so that the people who really want to find it still can, because I’ve received a lot of DM’s and comments and stuff about this one and I feel like… I don’t know. I feel like I want it to exist. Although my uncle is signed up to my email list for this blog, so that’s awkward. Um. Sorry, Uncle Quacky Duck, I promise to call you soon and I’m sorry for being a terrible niece and also… recommend not watching this one… 🤣

Ooooh jokes. They’re fun. Humor. Levity. Okay well anyway I’m just going to send this link to anyone who asks about this video from now on so that I don’t have to have it public but also don’t have to have it completely private if it might, like, help other people with their own issues or trauma or whatever. Idk. I’ll probably make this post private again eventually. Anyhoooooooooo…

https://youtu.be/5UOxmxihmfw

Talking is Pointless

People love to talk. We never stop talking, really – our culture avoids silence the way other culture avoid disease, we try and make spaces for it – churches, libraries – but this is really just to quarantine it off from the rest of the world where we safeguard against it with Muzak and talk radio and news and ads and television, now with smartphones, we can’t go a moment in modern life without either talking or being talked to. But what’s the end result of all the yammering?

Well, we have a president whose inability to shut up is practically the reason he got elected. We have a news cycle that never stops, a “Hollywood elite” that profits endlessly on hot takes, and a million tweets every time even the slightest celebrity gossip gets public attention.

We are drowning in words, but we are completely starved for meaning. We have a surplus of people who are willing to share their opinions, and a shortage of people who have even the slightest idea how to listen to anyone else’s.

Foucault said that the implementation of sexual controls in society depends on us engaging in a kind of double think where the things that are “secret” and “taboo” actually take center stage in our lives – we talk about sex, Foucault says, constantly. How else would we know what we’re meant to be doing, or not doing? By making sex a secret, we make it much more interesting than it actually is, and so we never stop talking about it.

But what if our inability to stop talking about things – politics, sex, or even the weather – what if all that does is keep us stuck outside of ourselves for the majority of our lives? What great thinker ever wrote their master work at a cocktail party, or on Skype? We use each other as the means by which we form our life’s narrative, and we do so shamelessly because this is what we’re taught to do. But ultimately, my “identity” isn’t changed by the way I understand myself. I remain the person I am regardless of the story I have in my head about who that person is.

Everyone keeps talking because we’re all still looking for someone to make us feel heard. But what if the problem is that it really doesn’t matter whether other people understand us, but whether we understand ourselves? What if we only think that we want to be heard by someone else, but what we really want is just some fucking peace and quiet in which to listen to ourselves?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just rambling as a person who needs a substantially larger amount of silence in my life than most. But I do… worry about that. I worry about my intentions when I speak, about holding people hostage, or… I don’t know, maybe these days I worry more that I sometimes just want to stop talking entirely, because I just don’t see the point in rehashing things that I can’t change. I’d rather turn off the fucking Muzak and make up a fairy tale, at least then you have a chance at saying something new.

Maybe I’m just cranky. But fuck it, no one reads this anyway. And it’s just more pointless talking into the void, in any case… I guess I’ve never been great at avoiding pragmatic contradictions.

Anyway. End of dumb, pointless blog post #782 or whatever.

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?

I think my problem…

is that I never know where to put my feelings, and I always choose the wrong places.

That’s all. That’s the whole post. It could’ve been a tweet, but again, I have no idea what the right place is, for anything, ever. I just have a lot of bullshit that has to go somewhere, yuno?