April 2018. My wake-up call. The light-bulb moment that would crush nearly every other light-bulb moment before. It was the instant a voice further than my head–no, this one came from a place deep inside, jangling the handle of a locked door–spoke up with, “What are you doing? Why are you spending another second in a position you don’t love anymore? Allowing others to make decisions for you, to outline your own life?” The questions came so fast and so very strong, tears instantly welled my eyes. Not just any old tears, either. The unstoppable kind that cause your chest to get all tight and ruin good mascara. Tears of anger, yes, but vexation was quickly replaced by realization.
I didn’t have to live like that.
I didn’t have to keep trucking through a job that no longer served me.
Every tool I needed was right there inside of me. I just wasn’t using them.
When I tell you I jumpstarted my business then and there, well…You’ll have to take my word for it. I opened an LLC, started a website, opened a P.O. Box and signed up for a webinar geared toward beginning entrepreneurs. I had lunch with myself, began journaling and meditating. I finished a book, then started another. Scheduled a book tour, hired a personal assistant, stayed up late creating social media content, agreed to two television interviews, and, with the help of my local librarians, spearheaded a successful workshop for new and veteran writers. In short, I planned out my days around the life I envisioned for myself, not the one for which I had settled. In fact, 2018 ended with me planning out the next month like a general in a war tent.
But then the next month actually came. And with it, something shifted.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Girl, you got a case of good ol’ fashioned burnout. And you’re right. I did. But, y’all…it was so much more than that.
If it’s possible to have a second awakening, well, then, that’s what happened to me. I felt empty, unfocused, like I was lacking oxygen. Writing became hard, and let’s face it, writing is hard, but it was never thishard. What stands out the most here, now, over three-and-a-half-months into the year, is social media.
Warning: These next few lines are real and honest, you guys. Not that I haven’t always tried to be real and honest in anything I write or post, but this…This is the raw reality.
Social media drained me. Not just posting my own content and working desperately–oftentimes anxiously–to keep up and ensure I had new, fresh content every single day, but also what my eyes took in and my mind absorbed as I scrolled.
Y’all, we are obsessed with publicizing our lives.
I’m going to say that again: We are obsessed with publicizing our lives.
Selfies, check-ins, vacations, new homes, new cars, new wardrobes, new bodies, political folderol (I could write a whole blog post on this one), more selfies, and just about anything that springs to a human brain, we post it. And then, as if the obsession couldn’t get any thicker, we obsess over who liked it, loved it, laughed over it, shared it, and took the time to comment. In fact, we are so accustomed to this way of life, when a person hasn’t been “online” in a few days or weeks or, like me, months, we imagine something dreadful must’ve happened.
So, what do we do?
Send them an instant message.
On social media.
Guys, I know, okay? Pot calling the kettle black, babe. Wanna take a look in the mirror? Wasn’t that you posting every day, sometimes several times a day, on Facebook and Instagram? And now you’re waggling a finger at all of us? No, I’m not pointing a finger. You do you, okay? You. Do. You. But yes, yes, YES. All me. I’m holding my hand high in the front of the class, owning my guilt.
But here’s what I realized: I was spending too much time looking at everyone else’s lives and not enough enjoying my own. Comparison syndrome sank in. She’s thinner than me. He’s more spiritual than me. She’s got more book reviews. He’s got more money. Her house is better. He’s smarter. She’s so much prettier. I was so busy doing the mindless scrolling act, I had no time whatsoever to Be. Present.
When I backed off, faded out, I discovered some pretty cool things about me. I love nature. I love going out in the early morning as the sun is rising and staring at the delineation of clouds and sky. I love birdwatching. I love listening to my children talk about things that matter most to them. I love writing with no thought for publication. Journaling, too. And meditation! Wow, what a game-changer that’s been. I love self-development books, my Bible, having a meal by myself and starting the giant list of fiction books I’ve been putting on hold. Folks, I’ll go ahead and say this: I do not miss social media. In fact, the handful of times I’ve popped on has amounted to a message I didn’t reply to and was contacted via text or phone call.
I missed a baby shower invitation because of that.
Because a mail invite didn’t come, but a social media one did.
I’ve had people ask how I’m doing, and when I reply in genuine, heart-felt joy with, “Great! I’m just on a social media detox, hiatus, whatever you want to call it,” the very next question I’m almost always asked is, “Are you still writing?” Folks, that still hurts my heart a little. Like I said, ours is a society used to everyone putting their lives on a social media platform meant for the world to see. This is our norm. We won’t know any different, until we search for the different.
Yes. I am writing. Every single day. And with more fervor than ever. Because of the choice I’ve made to remove social media from all my devices, I’ve recaptured a love for writing I had when I was in high school–when publication was just a pipe dream. I’ve also taken back my love for me. For the development of my mind and my life and all the things that align with whom I am and who I want to be as a human being.
I encourage you to do the same, in whatever way that makes it happen for you. For me, that was cutting ties with social media for the time being. For you, that change may begin with something entirely different. Forming new habits is your starting point. What I know is that there is more to life, there is deeper meaning, an entire universe for our soul to breathe, soak in, then either keep or release. You’re on your own journey, your own path, no one else’s. Do what is right for YOU, and then don’t apologize for it.
Sometimes you just need a break. In a beautiful place. Alone. To figure everything out.– Unknown