The Power of The ‘Book
The clouds have parted and a heatwave has now hit Squamish. But, hey, we’ll take that over the rain.
We’ve lost a lot of good folks the past week due to the sub-optimal weather conditions and it simply being the “time to go.” There’s a small contingent of us left, but the season for tent villages in the Chief campground is over. I think most of us have stopped checking the weather report- we now understand we are living in a temperate rainforest and the rain gods will do what they please, without warning and for-better-or-worse.
I’ve been on Facebook more frequently than usual the past couple weeks due to the rainstorm dubbed the Squamish Rainpocalypse 2013 (coined by one of the recently-departed SF crew). It’s certainly a usual rest day activity for me, but last week was a different on The ‘Book: the planning for my 10-year high school reunion had officially begun.
Day-um! I think everyone says the same thing when this life-landmark rolls around: I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years! I started thinking back on what I thought my life would be like when I was graduating high school a decade ago. I can confidently say, my dreams at that time are far away from my current reality. After finishing this post, I can also say that I’m proud of that.
Like many, I’ve lost touch with most people from my graduating class. Sure, I’m Facebook friends with many, but I don’t keep tabs on what they are up to. So, I decided to take a peek… just because I can (thanks, Facebook).
I should mention that I went to an affluent public high school in Southern California: La Jolla High School. It’s the public high school you want all other public high schools to be like, at least when it comes to the numbers. Through my cursory scan on Facebook profiles, I found many to be married, some with children, others clearly working for their parents. And a few doing very unexpected things…
There are also a few that are likely too busy to be constantly posting exciting Facebook page updates:
Facebook is amazing self-advertisement, isn’t it?
How does Facebook affect what we think our potential should be?
Our parents, cultural pressure, and Facebook end up telling us what we should be doing. This brings me back to a topic I’ve written about before: with all the constant white-noise pressure, how are all of us confused 20-, 30-, or whatever-somethings supposed to figure out what the heck we should be doing?
I think I’ve come up with the answer: we shouldn’t be doing anything.
There are those of us who started on the path to medical school due to cultural pressure, before finding out what exactly that entailed. Some of us have parents telling us what we should be like rather than what we are like. And then, Facebook…suggesting that everyone around you is living a way better life than you are. Dr. Meg Jay, a psychologist and expert on twentysomethings, points out that we end up scrambling after ideals, becoming alienated from what is true about ourselves and the world.
“Part of realizing our potential is recognizing how our particular gifts and limitations fit with the world around us,” instead of dreaming too small, or too big.
When a person ends up being plagued by what is ideal rather than by what is real, their search for self-actualization becomes a hopeless search for glory, propelled by what Karen Horney (a renowned German psychoananalyst) refers to as the tyranny of the should.
“Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgements from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations.”†
This pits us against our own best interests.
How can you tell if you’re striving towards your potential, or if you been set off-course on a search for glory? Per Dr. Jay, it’s simple: when you talk about your life, are you sentences filled with “should’s” and “supposed to’s”?
It’s time to get real. What are your friends’ lives actually like?
In high school & college (or uni as the Canuks say), life for me was more black and white. It was easy to measure myself against those around me. Grades, internships, relationships. Now, it’s on me to figure out what I want to do.
Back to Facebook. Is it so bad that our lives look better on Facebook?
As I sat at camp under our large protective coniferous tree, I asked this question aloud. The dirtbagger-extraordinaire, Jeremy Rush, answered,
It’s good that life looks ‘better’ on Facebook. It pushes people to do cool stuff.
Hmm…I like the way you think, Mr. Rush. In simple terms, it’s also what our road trip is about. Hopefully, we inspire someone to do what they want to do, or to continue on the rough-road to accomplishing it.
There are friends doing truly incredible things, in my high school graduating class and beyond. Some choose to post on Facebook… Others don’t.
It’s time to stop worrying about how life is supposed to look. To stop feeling like you’re not doing any good just because it isn’t the best thing you see people doing.
“If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always more difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” – Charles de Montesquieu, writer/philosopher.
This quote reassures me that, despite Facebook, the obsessive way we compare ourselves to others is nothing new (Monsiuer de Montesquieu died in 1775). Bottom line, I like Facebook. Sure, I despise myself (not Facebook) when I realize I’ve just spent half an hour lost in the wormhole and somehow ended up on a friend-of-a-friend’s birthday album for their dog. But, that’s on me.
Life isn’t supposed to be pretty.
…or maybe it is. Point is, it’s for you to decide.