“We all need a break from people who ‘follow’ us online to ensure the appreciation of our full humanity.” – Dr. Crystal Fleming
“It was a metamorphosis. We all change. But we also have some control over the path. We choose our surroundings; we choose where we put our energy.” – Tony Sanchez
There is nothing like a good old-fashioned personal crisis to make one take stock of one’s life and ask, “How the hell did I get here? Where were my people to tell me I was fucking up? Where were the people who love and care about me to help me navigate this maze of human misery and pain? How come in books and movies, 40-something-year-old women always have a gaggle of close friends who come together to support one another in good and bad times?”
So many questions, so few answers and the ones that did become clear made me ashamed of myself.
I am going through some major life shifts and I have been for quite some time. I have occasionally alluded to such shifts in this space but because this is a public space, it isn’t the place for sharing the details of one’s personal life. Especially after I learned recently that older blog posts have found their way into an upcoming book: New Media in Black Women’s Autobiography: Intrepid Embodiment and Narrative by Tracy Curtis. The older posts that landed in this book are about my family and initially upon discovering that my personal posts served as analysis for another, I admit to feeling a bit pissed off and even violated. Yet the reality of putting oneself out for public consumption is that people will do just that…consume you.
For those who follow me on Twitter, last week I tweeted a bit about what I was facing and while I appreciate all who took the time to reach out to offer support, it was also my “come to Jesus” moment about the state of my life and my people. The sad reality is that increasingly over the years, there are few people in my offline life who are not the result of my online life. Blog readers who I end up meeting with and fellow Twitter users whom I meet. While almost all of these meetings have been fruitful, it rarely allows for an authentic connection. How can we connect authentically when I exist in one dimension for most people? How can we ever become “friends” when it seems that for most I am their go-to person on racism; an expert on otherness? How can I let myself be vulnerable and real when most people whom I meet are eager to show me how un-racist they are?
The reality is that I can’t be real with most people when I have, in essence, become something other than the deeply flawed and raggedy human that I really am. The ego is a strange bedfellow, living inside jockeying for position…and the very nature of today’s world via social media, which increasingly is our world, allows for fertile soil for the ego to play and replicate itself.
After eight years of blogging and years in social media spaces, I have seen far too many people become caricatures of themselves because the need to stay relevant and feed the machine starts to take hold, and I fear that I am on that cusp myself. A place where the near-constant validation of people who really don’t know me allows me to bask in the goodness of a false self. Those are the moments in which you need your people—the people who don’t hesitate to check you with love and gentleness and offer correction and support to keep you from falling into that abyss of the ego machine. People who without hesitation will tell you to mind the gap. I need those people; I need to find them because I don’t want to lose the essence of myself in a quest to become some false version of myself.
To paraphrase Dr. Fleming, better known on Twitter as Alwaystheself, sometimes you really do need a break from the folks who follow you and “like” you to find your humanity alongside the folks who actually know you. We live in strange times, a place where the actions of people we may never break bread with can make us, aid us, break us and even destroy us. Strange times indeed. As for me, I give thanks to my teachers and spiritual guides and the memory of lessons learned that are helping me heal and also allowing me to acknowledge my own limitations. That in this season of my life, it is time to sit in my physical space and lessen my time in digital spaces. My road ahead is rocky as I embark upon a journey with no clear destination and in order to navigate these choppy seas, I need to be fully present in my own life. I have to be intentional about where I put my energy in this season of change.