The thing is, I’m an all or nothing person. I wish I wasn’t, but I am. And I’m so afraid of myself because of it. I have been for a very long time. I’m so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, and I’ve had the idea that I’m bad at life reinforced a WHOLE lot of times. I’m always either too guarded or too vulnerable, there is no in between. Except when I manage to do both at the same time.
YouTube was my phase of diving all the way into being too vulnerable, but in the end it wound up making me swing too far the other way because of the anxiety it sparked when I realized what I was actually doing.
I know, also, that there are people who would tell me that vulnerability and art are the same thing, and I agree, but I don’t think I can do it the way I want to without compromising my entire life. Because I know myself well enough to know that I’m not capable of telling just a fraction of the truth. I’m a 100% person, and that fucking terrifies me. It would terrify anyone. It’s way too many percents, when it comes to the truth. I need to figure out how to scale it back to 90-ish. I would accept 90-ish. But I’m not sure I’m capable of doing that.
Is there something broken in me? Probably. And I know what some people might say, that maybe what makes me unique is a super power and not a weakness, but we all should know by now that every super power has its kryptonite, and maybe my kryptonite isn’t worth the risk. Maybe I’d rather just live a normal life and never find out what happens if I learn how to fly. Flying results in falling at least some of the time. It’s statistically inevitable, no matter how romantic flying might seem when you’re safely planted on the ground.
A really great idea on my part, I know. How could it possibly backfire? I can’t possibly imagine…
I couldn’t sleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about this article in the Guardian about the recent Plymouth shooting. I recommend giving it a read, if you haven’t, because it contains some interesting details that the others I read didn’t.
It feels unbelievably arrogant to even be writing about this, but I have some thoughts, and I’m too sick to speak, so this is my only choice. It also feels crazy to be focusing on this story with everything else going on in the world, but I guess that’s just how the world is, now. No matter what tragedy you focus on, there’s a bigger one happening somewhere else.
What broke my heart, what I can’t stop thinking about, about this shooting in particular, is that the shooter had visited a subreddit called IncelExit, and shared his regrets about ever being involved in the incel community. He’d wanted to get out, but he felt “I personally don’t think once you live this life you can really ever change the damage done … I personally believe my scars and damage will follow me forever.”
He’d started to question the narrative of the incel, he’d wanted to get out, but he felt he’d been permanently affected by the ideology and that there was no way out. At age 22.
I haven’t been making youtube videos lately. I’ve often considered taking all of it down, and just calling this chapter of my life over. But it strikes me that whether they believe it or not, incels and I actually have a lot in common. A lot of the time in these kinds of stories you hear about a youtube channel that’s since been taken down, which is so sad and so relatable to me, despite the horror of what the person ended up doing. To feel so alone, so trapped in your own head and life, that youtube felt like the only possible way of reaching out and connecting with people. The only safe way. The only way to actually feel heard.
I thought that I could create a place for myself where I could just drop the pretense of everyday life. A place where I could just exist without feeling scrutinized or judged for being different. A place where I could talk about the things that interested me without worrying that I might be boring someone, or getting chastised for caring about things that other people didn’t. Or not getting to the point quickly enough, or losing my train of thought… A place where I knew that anyone watching was there because they wanted to be, and not because they had to. A place where I could just be myself.
It strikes me that’s why so many of these deeply lonely people, people in so much pain that it leads them to do terrible things, have a youtube channel, too. Or a blog, or leave long rants on reddit or some other forum… they, too, are creating a space for themselves, a safe space, in a way, where they can escape from the feelings of alienation and isolation that plague them in everyday life.
There’s something so sad about a world that tells people that you’re worthless if you’re still a virgin at the age of 22. Until reading this article, it hadn’t occurred to me how American this problem really is. The Guardian mentions the danger of exporting incel culture from the US, and it finally dawned on me that the US doesn’t just have a gun problem, we are mentally ill as a country. We are so aggressively shallow as a culture that we don’t even notice it, it just seems natural to us. We feel that we have a right to comment on the physical appearances of other people, and to many people, it seems, there isn’t much else about a person that’s even important.
As a woman, I feel this all the time. I’ve blogged about it a lot of times before – the desire to want to be perceived by other people primarily as a human being, a psychologically complicated and real being, and not an aesthetic or physical one. But it isn’t just women, of course, who receive the toxic message that their appearance is their only relevant characteristic. But since when is it a crime to be ugly? And for that matter, who gets to decide what “ugly” and “beautiful” mean? Are these categories not largely if not entirely fabricated by the people selling us the products that are supposed to make us good looking enough to matter?
I feel my thoughts aren’t coming out the way I want them to, but I’m sick and medicated, so bear with me.
The other thing that broke my heart about this article was the mention that the shooter’s last post on facebook received zero likes. I’ve been there. The entire reason I stopped using facebook was because it broke my heart every time I posted – I didn’t want to know who did and didn’t like what I had to say anymore. I didn’t want to feel like my social value depended on ones and zeros, I didn’t want to see any more posts of hot girls I went to high school with receiving hundreds of likes while I sat in the corner at the school dance being too sweaty and nervous to talk to anyone, just like I’ve always done. I didn’t want to feel like a loser anymore.
So I tried to make my own online space, instead. Somewhere I made the rules. Somewhere I was the leader, and the judge of my own importance. Somewhere I didn’t have to worry about how many likes I got, because the likes, if there were any, were from strangers who had no obligation, no reason for being there other than being interested in what I had to say. Just like so many other desperately lonely people who got tired of comparing themselves and their social status against everyone they’d ever met all day every day, I tried to escape from the feeling of insignificance that plagued my actual life, and create a new one.
Here’s what I want to say, because this isn’t about me. It’s about the heart-breaking fact that there are incels being radicalized online who want a way out. That there are people who haven’t been touched in years whose skin feels like it’s on fire and who can’t imagine anyone looking at them and finding them anything other than repulsive and despicable, and who’ve learned to take some kind of twisted comfort from their own suffering by sharing it online with people who are in as much pain as they are.
There is always a choice. There is always a way out. Your value as a person is not dependent on how much sex you have or what you look like, and it never was. There is so much more to you than the pain you are in right now. Loneliness is not a feature of who you are, it is a feature of your circumstances.
Our culture is sick, and it is making you sick. But there is another choice. You can delete social media. Go on a walk and listen to the birds. They are real. The tweets on the internet are not. Go take a pottery class and feel the clay on your hands – it’s real. The voices in your head telling you that you’re worthless are not. The digital world is immensely compelling and valuable in its own way, but it isn’t real, and could all be gone tomorrow. But you are. Stop comparing yourself to the people on your timeline. Stop comparing yourself to anyone at all. You are young. There is so much time for you to figure out who you are and what you want out of life, independently from what you’ve been told you should want.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop believing the lie that your value as a person depends on things you can’t control. It doesn’t. YOU decide how to define yourself, YOU decide how to treat other people, YOU decide whether you want to let life defeat you and convince you that you don’t matter, or whether you want to take responsibility for your own health and happiness on your own terms, and fight to make the world a little better. Yes, the world is shallow and cruel and unforgiving and indescribably lonely. But you are not the only lonely person. And you can help make life easier for the other people like you. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always fun, and it won’t make it sting any less when the wrong people receive the most attention for things that don’t matter. But it will give you something to live for that doesn’t depend on other people. It will give you control of your own life and your own happiness, and it will lead you to the startling and profound realization that everyone in the world at times feels exactly as hopeless and alone as you do.
It is much easier to see yourself as a victim than it is to take full responsibility for yourself, no matter what’s going on around you. But it’s much more rewarding and empowering to give yourself permission to try, even when it might not be rewarded in the way you hope by the people around you. But you have to try. You have to stop blaming other people for the way you’ve learned to treat yourself. You have to give yourself the respect and the care you so desperately want from other people before you can expect it from them. You have to remember that the cruel voices in your head are your own, and only you can change them.
Repeat after me, and then keep repeating it until you believe it: I am valuable. I deserve love. I deserve happiness. I am more than just a body, I am more than how many likes I get on facebook, I am more than how other people perceive me. I am here, now, and I am going to make the best of it. I know that I deserve as much respect as I give to other people. I am strong enough to be whole and to be kind, even when other people are not kind to me. I will not be defeated by the monsters in my head. I will not allow a toxic culture to change who I am deep down. I will not allow my pain and loneliness to let me forget that other people are as real and important as I am. I am stronger than the pain inside me. I am stronger than my fears. I deserve to respect myself enough to get better, and I am strong enough to ask for help when I need it. I am going to be okay.
Edit #1: If this post succeeds even once to attract the audience it’s for, please watch this video because it contains a lot of relevant information and is much better written/all around a better use of time:
I’ve been trying really hard to work on my mental health lately, and I think what I’ve been noticing is how difficult it is to tease apart what’s part of your disorder and what’s just you. Maybe partly because I haven’t been properly diagnosed with anything other than anxiety and depression despite the fact that I’m pretty sure there’s an underlying cause of both that I haven’t yet named or had a professional figure out for me, I don’t really allow myself the luxury ever of seeing my mental disorder as separate from who I just am as a person.
But it isn’t just who I am, that’s the whole point of having language to identify and categorize mental disorders (or at least one of them) – it becomes possible to understand yourself as two things, the you that’s being obscured by the illness, and the illness itself. “Illness” sounds like a bit of a strong word, but I’m trying to just let myself talk without all the second guessing and editing for a second.
The point is, it’s hard to even realize that there’s a you underneath waiting to break free from the “disordered” you if you don’t allow yourself to mentally distinguish between who you are and what you struggle with. I may struggle with anxiety and depression, for example, but that doesn’t mean that who I am deep down is characterized only by fear and sadness. Who I am is, in fact, obscured by those things, which is what makes them dysfunctional.
This all probably seems pretty obvious to most people, I don’t know. But I couldn’t sleep so I decided to blog.
Anyway in getting out from under some of the things that have been weighing me down, I’ve decided to be a clown, apparently. I’m not quite sure how we got here, but I’m excited and glad that I did, and I chose a clown name for myself based on a childhood nickname – Sassafrass. It’s also interesting to note that I did a little research on sassafras as a result, and apparently it’s thought that the word comes from the Latin for “stone breaker” because sassafras roots are known to break stones, I guess. Listen, I got lazy with the research, but the point is, maybe there’s a helpful metaphor in there somewhere.
If my brain is the soil and my life is the tree, then the mental challenges or illnesses or what have you are the stones, and what’s important is to make sure that you nurture the roots enough that they have the wherewithal to break through the stones so they can get to the real soil waiting underneath. Does that make sense?
Anyway I also like the image of a plant breaking a rock for the obvious reasons, and I do fancy myself as having a “kill them with kindness” type of vibe, in my best moments, so the name fits for a variety of reasons, I think. Plus sassafras is apparently also used in the healing of wounds and is a controlled substance due to having chemical precursors to MDMA which is where the metaphor sort of breaks down but… is still some fun trivia….?
Who even is going to read this? Anyone? I could say whatever I want here, and it probably wouldn’t matter. FLARGLESCHMARGLESCHMOOPDEDOOOOOO
My mental health is worth a journal. So let’s identify the barriers holding us back from actually journaling: (1) a feeling of hyper-visibility in today’s world (2) deeply rooted insecurities and fears about myself as a person with free will and agency (3) a refusal to accept myself as a flawed, imperfect person (4) a refusal to accept myself as a person who nevertheless deserves to give and receive love.
Is that it? I think also it’s the fact that I’m so precious about my own writing, sometimes – I have too much of my ego invested in trying to be, like, the best instead of just trying to be good, or better than I was yesterday. But I am a person with a beautiful brain, even if it is a broken one, and I should try my best to remember that a gem only refracts the light in new directions after it’s been shattered, and I am no less worthy of attention or even admiration than anyone else. No one is, I don’t think.
It goes back to that quote, again, – “There is no object so foul that intense light cannot make beautiful.” I don’t remember what I said last time I blogged about it, maybe it was the same thing, but the quote also applies to me. And I’m not even that foul of an object, comparatively speaking, so I’m probably solid, if we’re willing to lower the bar a little. But maybe that isn’t the point, either.
Maybe the quote I should be tying it to is “I’m still scared of losing my head, I guess there’s just something selfish about me” in Keane’s “Difficult Year.”
I also need to blog more. It’s all connected, though, I need to do everything more. I need to embrace the fact that I’m one of those annoying creative types who won’t shut up. But writing is so much more annoying than other kinds of creativity – some people have a burst of inspiration and end up with a beautiful thing to hang on the wall or a beautiful object like the ones Brandon makes, but I just make… words. And I’m not that good at it, either. But everyone who does anything is sometimes not that good. And most people struggle to tell the difference between what’s good and bad, anyway. And words can do things that other mediums can’t. But any kind of creativity takes a lot of courage, I think. And it’s demoralizing to me that I have an entire blog that’s almost exclusively about my own anxieties and not something important or meaningful like, I don’t know, political commentary or song lyric analysis or whatever. I don’t know why those were the only two examples I chose, but you get the point.
I think I’m underestimating the audience a lot, though, sometimes. I understand that whatever I’m making, whatever creative things come out of my brain, probably is going to be a niche market, and I’m MORE than okay with that. I don’t need fame or glory or awards, all I really want is to be seen and understood, warts and all. So maybe the new plan should be to go back to the old plan, where all I do is try to love myself as much as I can, and as shamelessly as I can, whenever I can manage to. Whether it’s only in moments, or I can actually manage to do it for long periods of time.
For so long, my sincerity and my vulnerability have been weaponized against me or treated as something that needed to be fixed. But if I stop fighting and start embracing the things that set me apart from other people, maybe I don’t have to keep running away from who I really am anymore. Maybe I can just be me.
It’s the irony that I’m afraid of being hyper-visible but am the author of my own hyper-visibility (to the point that I literally am posting my… diary… to a blog…?), for me.
Also, MARINA’s “Soft to be Strong” played in my head for the duration of writing this. I just thought you should know.
I want to start embracing “The Blog” as my safe space. I think we all struggle to find the right places to be fully ourselves. Most people struggle to do so even in the privacy of their own brain, let alone in social spaces. The internet is an extension of this, but the social spaces have become much larger.
I feel this struggle just a tiny bit more acutely than a lot of people, I think, because I have a deadly combination of being a little TOO fully myself in the privacy of my own brain, and a faulty/inconsistent barometer for what’s appropriate in different social settings.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately, because I’ve been trying to learn how to teach preschoolers, which is a very different social space than I’m used to, and I have to try and learn a whole new way of communicating, you know? Luckily, I already try and speak in a way that anyone can understand as much as possible, so it’s not as difficult as I was worried it would be… I think? I don’t know, maybe I’m doing a terrible job, on the other hand, who knows – the point is, I have a catch-22 of being a very good communicator with myself but an alternatingly uncertain or oversharing communicator with literally everyone else.
I let fear get the better of me a lot of the time, despite what it may sometimes look like. I know that I CAN be incredibly reckless as well, but to me it often feels more like I’m still trying to disappear, to hide myself away from the realities of the social world. And to be honest with you, a lot of that is probably because of trauma: one of the core struggles I have with every social interaction is worrying that I might be unsafe, or being lied to, or judged, or looked down on, but even those worries pale in comparison to the worry that someone might be seeing me as a sexual object. And it isn’t because I think I’m so attractive, in fact I think that if anything, I try to make myself ugly a lot of the time, which probably shows, according to certain commenters on my videos (thank you so much for your feedback, by the way).
But it’s been my experience in the past that people will objectify me in a sexual way regardless of what I think I look like, and regardless of whether I’m even aware that the person sees me that way. A lot of the time, I haven’t even noticed until it was too late, which by the way is very tragic. Not to sound course, but if you’re going to get to the point of assaulting someone, you definitely should have asked them out first, that just seems… anyway… See, I say that I try to communicate in a way that anyone could understand, but I really doubt how effective I am, sometimes… anyway… back on track, here… different social spaces have different rules.
That’s why I deleted facebook. The rules were incompatible with the way my brain works. Honestly, I don’t think facebook works well for anyone, right? It’s been a while, but the idea of taking people who meet by happenstance rather than by a common interest or belief system, and bringing them all together in this town hall type space where everyone’s thoughts are visible to everyone else is insane. The idea of letting strangers watch me hump a teddy bear is so much more normal to me than the idea of my coworkers commenting on my selfies. You know what I mean?
Anyway, I’ve been struggling with figuring out what spaces are still safe for me. YouTube is a big fat no, twitter is a no, but the blog. The blog might still be safe. Because only the people who actually care bother to read a blog, one assumes. Only the people who can actually read, at least, which sort of helps, to be honest with you, but beyond that, only the people who care the most will actually read this weird rambling kind of stuff, which is really great. And the other thing I’m realizing is I can bury videos in here, too, videos that might not be the kind I want just anyone to find, or that I only want certain people to see, I can plop in the blog, or on Patreon, or something, so I shouldn’t be limiting what kinds of stuff I let myself make just because of concerns about how “shareable” they are. Everything is shareable, it just has to be shared in the correct spaces.
All of that said, I still sometimes wonder what the point is. Who my audience is. But I think the truth is that I’m my own audience, and this is my sandbox. If friends want to come play in it with me, that’s awesome, but maybe that isn’t even the part that’s important. At least, it doesn’t have to be.
Shower thought time: What we are, as a species, at the core of it, is hunger. Thirst. Desire. We are our needs.
There’s a reason people go to the desert to seek enlightenment – it’s because it forces us to understand our essence, which is that we are helpless in the face of our needs for shelter, food, water, human connection, and so on.
I threw human connection in there because… I was exploring a train of thought that I visit often, about how people learn to resent and dehumanize one another, and how easy it is to do when someone has something that you desperately need.
For example, a person lost in the desert dying of thirst would be justifiably furious to learn of another person turning down tap water because of the contaminants. That doesn’t necessarily make the person turning down the tap water any less rational, from their point of view, but it makes them seem heartless or even cruel, in a twisted way, to the water-deprived person.
If you know me at all, you know that this is an analogy for sexual economics, in my head, but it works for a lot of things and is an image that often pops up in my brain.
I don’t have a bow to tie this thought up with, but I guess maybe it’s worth thinking about the times you’ve been on one or the other side of this situation, and whether you could have either been more gentle with a friend who was lost in the desert, or treated someone with valid concerns about contaminated water and/or a different take on its scarcity unfairly because you were projecting a skewed world view onto them.
Personally, I’ve been on both sides of this situation many times, in various ways, some of which I’m probably not even consciously aware of. I guess that’s why I think about it so often, I’m trying to tease out the unhealthy patterns and address them.
That said, while it can FEEL like a matter of life and death, loneliness is not a situation that can be fixed by taking out your frustrations on a person with more water on-hand than you. I do understand the impulse. It may be shocking, but sweaty creeps with deep seated emotional problems are not everyone’s cup of tea, so I have been there. But. I’ve been hurt worse in the situations where I was the one in the “position of power,” which makes you start to wonder how the situation could be made better on both sides. You dig?? You jive?? Am I vibing?? Um… sick pipe dude? I think it’s time to stop talking now. Am I making sense here, to anyone?
I’ve been neglecting the blog. What I need is a social media schedule. A weekly blog post, weekly videos, all that jazz.
It’s hard when the world’s problems just feel too big, like we’re all living our insignificant little dramas against this crazy, species-level backdrop… there are so many voices that matter, but instead of letting myself see my own as one of them, I compare myself and feel that I’m not one of them. The special ones, or whatever, like in my head they got a note from Hogwarts giving them permission to be a wizard, or something, does that make any sense at all?
Art involves an upsetting amount of freedom, is the thing. There’s no one size fits all recipe for “finding your voice,” you kind of just have to… fudge it and hope no one notices that you have no idea what you’re doing.
Right? Anyway. Same old thoughts to share, I just felt like it had been a while since I updated this.
Regarding what’s happening in the world historically right now, in case the aliens are judging my narcissism: my hope is that this is a period of purging for America and the rest of the world, and that the future has better things in store for everyone. I don’t see the point in losing hope, because hope is one of the only things we have left that can’t be commodified and hoarded by the greedy.
Hope is free, and maybe things won’t be okay for every individual, but I’m a dumb hippy who thinks we’re all connected (whatever that means, I’m not sure exactly what it means to me, but it’s a feeling, you dig?) but as a whole, I still have hope for humanity. It might be irrational, but it’s a gift that I can give myself without even doing anything.
So I guess the point of this if anyone reads it is, hey man, waddup? And also: let’s give ourselves the gifts we know we need most, and that don’t cost a thing. There are a lot of them. Hope, forgiveness, compassion, permission to be artsy weirdos, affirmations, all that dumb but important stuff – whatever it is that you’ve been denying yourself for no reason. Don’t be a dick to yourself just because it’s easier to go with the current of a toxic, shame-focused culture.
Don’t be afraid to take the side channels and get stuck in some eddies. If you’re scared of the dark, light a candle and protect it from anything that tries to put it out. Should I add another metaphor just to make this as confusing of an image as possible? Maybe the candle should be a flash light, open flames are dangerous. A
I’m not proud of this, but there was definitely a period of time where I was the pretentious kid who thought no one else understood the metaphorical significance of things in as deep of a way as I did.
I’d like to think I’m not that way anymore, I make an active effort not to assume that I “get” anything on a deeper level than anyone else does, now, at least, which is a start.
But I still have that Don Quixote-esque quality of wanting to paint my life with a romantic flair. I guess the easy word would be that I’m melodramatic.
Anyway this is another one of those times where even I can’t see the connection between the two things that I just said, so, let’s see… I just know that I’m the type of person who has, at best, one foot in reality at any given time. And usually, even that is a touch and go sort of situation.
So I guess my question is, how do you solve a problem like Cassandra? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you solve a problem like Cassandra? A will o the wisp, a flibbety gibbet, a clowwwwn…
Errrr… yeah. Supposing I’m Piglet on a blustery day, what tree do I tie my kite to? Let alone what friend, I mean Pooh clearly is liable to let go of the rope the second he sees honey, Kanga has her hands full, Owl doesn’t even have fingers, and don’t even get me started on Rabbit. Eeyore might just pop an entire bottle of painkillers at any moment, and Robin… well… he’s bound to grow up one day and then we have a toy story 3 situation on our hands.
Anyway, I’d be a lot less anxious if I was tied down to something more stable than my own… less than stable point of view. But I also don’t want to stop painting the walls of my brain in technicolor just because it makes me a quixotic nightmare of a person. Is that messed up? Probably.
Maybe nightmare is a strong word. Maybe we should just stick with flibbety gibbet or whatever they say in the song. HOW DO YOU HOOOLD A MOONBEEEEEAAAAMMM INNNNN YOUUUUURRRRRRR HANNNNDDD.
This whole time, I thought that thinking I was special was the reason I was dumb enough to have a blog/YouTube channel/whatever. But I think that maybe the thing I’m most stubbornly attached to is thinking I’m special enough to fail in ways that other people couldn’t.
How special do you have to think you are to undermine yourself as compulsively as I do?
The issue is, I might not be wrong, still. I truly might be a special snowflake of unparalleled ineptitude. It sure feels that way at times.
Unparalleled Ineptitude would be a great band name. At least my talent for accidentally creating fake band names remains. That’s not nothing lol
We think of stuff, usually, from the perspective of a consumer. But when we’re forced (by a pandemic, or inescapable, existential loneliness…) to see ourselves as creators, producers, as seen rather than just a seer… that can get wild really, really quickly.
I think our society is structured on a value system that makes us all feel constantly insecure, no matter who we are, no matter what station we hold. I believe that we all suffer as a result, and that it isn’t our fault, but a fault of our wiring, or the way we’ve been taught to function since birth.
But I believe this, ultimately, because it’s the only thing that gives me hope that we’re capable of change. That our society can be healed, maybe, and that everything humans have done up until this point isn’t just useless garbage.
To think art is objective, you’d have to think that all audiences are identical. Right? Art depends on the audience.
If I made a raunchy joke to a group of 3 year olds, that would be disturbing. But what about humping teddy bears to attempt to bring awareness to a very serious issue facing women everywhere in the world that’s so taboo, even I, the narcissistic weirdo editing hours of her own face on her own unpaid time, had to find an elaborate excuse like youtube to even MENTION it?
Sometimes the new media landscape is just too much for me, though, you know? I don’t want to accidentally swear like a sailor in front of 5 year olds, no matter how much I believe that curse words are a concept invented by fallible human beings who usually use the concept of “curse words” as a tool by which to reinforce class boundaries. You see what I’m saying?
I am at once a 3 year old and a gross, weird, old man. I just still can’t figure out how to be both of those things at once.
*yes there are wires here that didn’t get tied up, but it’s fine because they’re not electrical wires, to my knowledge, so we can pick them up some other time without burning the house down KCOOLBYE