I generally walk around with two questions bouncing around in my head: Why is my shit perpetually such a mess, and how is everyone else keeping their shit so together?
In his New York Times op-ed, "Don't Let Facebook Make You Miserable," Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes about how what we choose to share about ourselves and our lives on social media presents a very different, incomplete picture from what we actually do or experience in real life. Or, in 21st century terms, how our public Facebook or Instagram posts compare with our private Google searches: there are about 2x as many tweets about golfing than doing dishes, even though Americans spend about 6x more of their time doing dishes; there are more Facebook awareness and support groups for people with migraines than for those with irritable bowel syndrome even though the two are equally prevalent; people who own luxury cars are more likely to announce their affiliation on Facebook. We know all this. I know this. And yet, I find myself participating on both sides, and I'm not quite sure why.
I expend more time and energy than I'm comfortable with scrolling through photos and announcements from people I don't particularly care about or don't know at all, like binge-watching a TV show I'm pretty sure I'm not enjoying but can't seem to stop. And then I inevitably go down the rabbit-hole of comparing how they and their lives are so much better than me and mine, running through all the things I dislike about myself and the iffy life choices I've made until I'm reduced to nothing but a big pile of regrets walking around on two (short and chunky) legs. It feels a bit like running a race that gets me nowhere and nothing except that I'm really, really tired at the end of it. And then I feel guilty about feeling sad and insecure when I'm supposed to be all thriving and empowered, and for not keeping more perspective and being less self-involved given everything else that's happening in the world. Which makes me feel even worse. So then there's that.
As my most logical self, I know that what people share is a highly curated, filtered snapshot of their lives. And yet, I can't help but believe that some people really are that infuriatingly well-adjusted and happy in real life - like unicorns, they seem impossibly, effortlessly perfect. They make me feel like I'm looking into one of those fun house mirrors - we're kind of the same general shape, except completely opposite in the dimensions that seem to matter: they have a Passion that they also excel at and can make a living off of; they tick off life milestones as straightforwardly as checking off a grocery list (and I regularly have trouble remembering to get all the things on the grocery list); they've successfully given up all the unhealthy things I love to eat, and they look and feel better for it and will probably live longer; they inexplicably don't seem to sweat as much and can buy clothes online (okay not that important but still, come on); they read books and long articles and publish thoughtful pieces in the Washington Post; they give TEDTalks; they own property and other assets; they travel; they appear well-loved and fulfilled and impervious to Facebook rabbit-holes of despair. They represent impossible standards of health, wealth, and happiness. They make me feel like shit.
I try to post - and more importantly, to make - things that highlight some of what I think is hard, messy, and confusing about life because I think that's where a lot of the real living is, or comes out of. But I also find myself posting photos that selectively represent what being me and running Kwohtations is like: promoting craft fair days with chirpy captions about how rah-rah I am to be setting up shop at 7AM on a Sunday, while in reality I'm exhausted and grumpy and demoralized because no one is buying anything? Guilty. I've posted about funny cards (yay!) and working on new projects (double yay!) when in reality I'm holding my phone in bed paralyzed with anxiety about everything and nothing all at once, because life is hard even when it's cushy. I haven't posted about all the times I've delayed or missed an order this year because I'm sick with grief or norovirus or strep or scabies or surgery. I've Amazon Prime-d myself an iPhone charger and a box of granola bars because between my full-time job and Kwohtations, I'm too exhausted to go to the store, even as I #hustlehard #shopsmall my way across Instagram.
I curate the life that I share with others on social media and in person - we all do. And yet, because I only see part of everyone else's story, that's the part that I latch onto, that I believe, that I take and compare with everything I know about my own life - and I never seem to stack up. It makes me feel like I made a wrong turn somewhere, that I missed all the boats and memos, like I'm pedaling just as hard (or harder) but only inching forward - or toppling sideways. Everyone else seems like they're fine, like they belong up on the pedestal where I've put them, instead of down in the muck where I spend a good amount of my time. Of course, I don't always share about the muck. Or I do when it's been slightly better arranged and from a good angle. And so, ironically, to others we may seem like the ones who are the unicorns.
In my heart-of-hearts, I don't think that anyone is perfect. I think we just often aren't privy to others' wobbly, weak, and downright nasty bits - those bits that we all have, and that we're all hyper aware of in ourselves. And I also don't believe that perfection is the right thing to be striving for. I think that we're all wildly beautiful and flawed and complicated. I think that we're all both good and bad, succeeding on some fronts and failing on others, and doing the best we can, which on some days is better than others.
At the end of the day, I kind of think we're all just horses wearing strap-ons, running around trying to be unicorns. And that's okay.