Did you guys see this article a while ago? About why we’re all so unhappy? It’s definitely worth a read. But if, for whatever reason, you don’t click that link, the whole thing is summed up nicely in this graph:
I’ve been thinking about this article since I read it because that’s what I do. Aside from noticing all of the enviable things in your life (yeah, you…), I started looking at my own life as if it were only what I share on Facebook. That life is fairly wonderful:
I have a cool GA job at a famous, fancy school. I live with a handsome web developer who happily supports both of us. Our happy wedding pictures are everywhere, and we spend weekends exploring our trendy new city.
Those things are true and I am grateful for them, but they are not the fullness of my experiences. So I want to hand you a few stories the way I handed our church group a plate of slightly-burnt, flat chocolate chip cookies one of the first times we met with them:
“I just don’t want you guys to have a chance to think that I have it all together.”
These stories aren’t directly happy or hopeful, but they are real. I think we all need more real.
While biking to meet friends for dinner, I misjudged the timing of a stoplight and barely made it through the intersection in time for a black SUV to charge ahead. A passenger leaned out of its back window and shouted, “You have to follow the rules, too!” It was a verbal slap in the face, and I was left in a cloud of noxious exhaust and anger. We continued on our path, but every turn of my pedals filled me with more resentment. I DO follow the rules! I am SO careful! How dare someone just scream at another person like that? He should be THANKING me! I’m actively reducing traffic and pollution every time I bike anywhere! They weren’t in any danger. If anything I’M in danger whenever people get that angry in such huge trucks! By the time we reached the Georgetown Waterfront, I was so overwhelmed with rage and fear that I had to stop. I got off my bike and sobbed for several minutes in front of a lot of strangers.
People in the city like to yell. I would say they like to yell at other people, but I don’t think they see one another as people. Just obstacles. I am on my way somewhere, and you are not, you are just in my way. Every time I get yelled at during a commute, it stings. I hurt. I hardly have time to process these brutal, one-sided interactions before I have to be somewhere and look put-together. I’m not very good at it.
When strangers shout at me, I feel bombarded by my own anonymity.
No one who knows you talks to you that way. Regardless of what loud noises the shouter may be expelling, all I hear is, “You are less than human to me. Take my excess of negativity, I don’t care if you can handle it or not.” That message doesn’t always come in words. Sometimes it comes in car horns droning on at rush hour. I hear the same thing. It takes me hours to shake off that message.
I can shake it off faster when I find people who know me. There are a few at that fancy school, right? They are good people. We work together, lament over difficult projects, have great discussions on the nerdy things we like, all of that classmate stuff. But I still felt like they didn’t know me. So I shared a little. During a “talent night” party, I read aloud one of my blog posts from the World Race, and they clapped a lot.
I wrote to a friend later that the experience of turning a post into a “spoken-word piece” felt like something big and brave. Was it brave? I maintain that it was. It is a scary thing to fight to be known. We are still “new” here, so that fight feels constant. That talent night was a breakthrough. So was the night I took those mediocre cookies to small group. I have felt more whole in those moments, and I’m seeking more of them… even if I have to walk, bike, and be shouted at to get there.
How would you like to take a break from Facebook Image Management? Share a few of your real things in the comments. Or email me. I like that.