06 November 2006

innocence and experience

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"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create"

- William Blake

For a variety of reasons, it is really easy for people around my age to be hard on themselves. Many people, it seems, are wondering if what they are doing right now is the right/best/admirable/acceptable thing that they can be doing with this time, with their lives. The easiest way to create a set of criteria with which to be hard on oneself, is to look to others. And it is becoming easier and easier to do just this. I state the obvious when I note that programs like Facebook and Myspace (and of course, blogs) are becoming voyeuristic, time-eating (albeit fun) traps for many people. With a few clicks, it is possible to see everything from who did what over the weekend, to who is single or in what other kind of relationship, to what jobs people have (or want to have). It's certainly a great way to keep up with what our "friends" are doing, but I also feel like it's becoming too much about keeping up.

I'm not claiming for a second to be immune to this. Countless times I have asked myself whether I would/should rather be working, travelling more, eating less, or sitting on my couch instead of doing what I am doing. I even look to the activities of people I fuzzily remember from various places who happen to be on my list, and wonder if what they are doing, is what I could be doing instead.

I know for a fact, however, that I am not the only one who wonders while wasting her time. But while questioning ourselves holds a certain value i.e. "Yes, okay, I've seen those other options, and I am sure I want to be where I am," or "Well that other stuff looks a little more appealing; maybe I should seriously reconsider what I want to do with the next couple of months," ... I also really believe these comparisons to be harmful. If it gets to the point when other peoples' activities cause you to feel bored, jealous, or even ashamed, this is a problem.

Because life on these interfaces is not real life. We all know that. Just as blogs share tasteful, selected tidbits of real life, Facebook and Myspace break our lives into profile categories and (for the most part, though there are exceptions) shitty quality bar-life pictures. How many times have I read someone else's description of an event and thought "Hmmm, I really don't remember things happening like that at all"?

But who knows? It is someone else's memories, reality, and how they remember, or choose to show their memories to others, is not (or really should not) be my concern. Keeping up with the news feed is in nobody's best interest, and yet we are still curious. The stretch of text and photos is the new yardstick against which we measure our own worth as young adults.

I think of this point in my life as a divergence of paths. And I refuse to feel that such a cliche metaphor is dead. It seems two paths are presented: one is comfortable, guided by the expectations of others, and lit by the bright lights of conformity. The other catches my eye immediately, but still scares the hell out of me. It offers no promises, and is dark and cool, with an atmosphere thick with anticipation.

This seems to be the point in life where we are "fully cooked" as Rozlyn always says, and have to decide what to make of our shapes. Being young and foolish is no longer an excuse not to do something with ourselves, but there is a dangerous temptation to do what might ultimately be foolish.

The way I consider growing up is to learn how to handle money, while recognizing money can not buy you class. Also, to treasure the things in your life, but to not be made by, or identify yourself with those things. To accomplish something at this point is fine-tune your character, not be lured back into the hedonistic realm of what is really expired infantilism. To realize that you are defined by what you mean to those you care about, not by how you might inspire envy in strangers. To be proud of the life you lead in reality first, and then let it be reflected back here online (if it can be), instead of building a cyber facade behind which there lies a half-satisfied person filing his or her nails on the bed, waiting for comments to pop up.

I suppose I am brought to these thoughts by two things:

1) The strange contrast between lived profiles and wasted real-life potential in my younger peers, and

2) The pride I feel for so many people who, despite everything they have to be proud of, seem to be doubting themselves, yet judging themselves unfairly by rules that have no basis in reality.

Ironically, I have spent time online here instead of working on a presentation for tomorrow, but this seemed important to me tonight. And, as much as possible, and increasingly, I am trying to follow my heart rather than a sense of obligation.

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gill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gill said...

very insightful dal,

our generation is bombarded with the importance of "image" and provided with far too many ways to diplay it... ie facebook, myspace, blogs...
in a lot of ways i think they have taken away from the needed face to face genuine interaction. your post made me stop and think. it also made me appreciate your fantastic ability to capture an intersting thought and present it so well in words...

**messed up posting it the first time! hehe,

Jennie said...

Your eloquence and writing talent continue to amaze me

Tenzin N. said...

Hey Dallas, this is Tenzin. Just read your entry about blogs and those online day-by-day playbooks that so many people have (myself, included)... It's pretty coincidental that I'm doing a project on something quite similar to this for my Research Methods class and I came across this article describing exactly what you have written here. It's a pretty interesting read. check it out if you want!

The link is pretty long and hopefully you'll be able to read it cuz I think you'd enjoy it! If it doesn't work, it's from the New Scientist called "I'll have to ask my friends". Anyway... thought I'd share that lil tidbit. Talk to you some other time. byyyye!
PS Hope you're loving MTL! :D

dallas said...

Thanks ladies, and thanks a lot for the link Tenzin. I will surely check it out. Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier about Foufounes, but I can definitely recommend that place. Just make sure you go upstairs, as downstairs is kind of full of metalheads...but who knows, maybe you're into metal? I'll catch you on msn or something soon, and I should grab your number...we should hang out!