a modern ratrace

We live in a world no one has ever dreamed of. The cardinal thing for survival is embracing our individuality!

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As I’m writing this I am strikingly connected. I’m obviously writing online (who the hell still writes locally only to publish later?), while 8tracks is blaring some random platinum playlist through the TV all while I am still casually drifting off to Facebook or Instagram on my mobile.

Everything we do is dominated by an everlasting (God forbid) connection to some mystical beast we call the Interwebs. This is also exactly where my demons found their roots. They’re savagely attacking my already brittle psyche and, truth be told, I’m feeding them. My highs and lows are a near perfect sine wave and the most recent fueling low is quite simple really.

An old friend from school posted a screenshot of his ticket to London in August. “Contiki here I come” he says while he is supposed to be at work, doing engineer-y things just like the rest of us. But no, Mister here is flaunting that he gets to go on a holiday. I just had to ask myself why it upsets me this much.

Is it because I am deathly frustrated with work being incredibly tedious? Is it because I don’t believe Mister here deserves the opportunity? Or is it because I’m jealous of him being able to go? Or am I maybe even angry at the factors in my life preventing me from doing something similar?

I think there’s truth in all of these statements. I think we’re ever so connected that we constantly compare ourselves to the people we follow, even if they’re average people no different from us. There is constantly someone in a seemingly better position than us. A friend living the dream teaching English in South Korea. Another one flying Boeings in Belgium. I’m not even going to mention those who get to study at highly acclaimed universities on the other side of the globe.

We’re bombarded with all the good things in other peoples’ lives and we forget that this is a perfect example of the iceberg phenomena. Social media sure as hell doesn’t show the darkness. It conveniently skips the loneliness of everyday life. It forgets about things and people we really care about. The ratrace migrated from the tangible and manifested itself as an omnipotent deity.

Apparently up to 30% of millennials identify as being not-religious. They consciously choose to not believe in some form of supernatural being(s), yet most (if not all) of them worship this social media god, me included.

This begs me to start some introspection. Am I really going to allow myself to be constantly unhappy because the phenomenal parts of someone else’s life overshadow the daily parts of mine? Or am I going to do what I do best and continue building my designer life?

It’s a tough choice and I’m not convinced it’s one we can make easily, since we’ve obliterated individuality. I think we’re approaching an inflection point, but that’s a topic for another day. The bottom line is I honestly believe we must reclaim our individuality.

We need to choose to have people and things which make us happy in our lives. We need to accept that other people will have different opportunities in theirs. We need to focus on the beautiful around us. We need to be thankful for the things we don’t even notice.

I’m not trying to sound like a motivational guru or anything – I’m merely trying to make sense of how to get out of my lows not if, but when they inevitably do happen. For me it’s really quite simple. Pouring my words out into the infinity of ones and zeros helps. Spending time completely disconnected reading a book (INFP FTW) helps. Having clear and quantifiable realistic goals helps. Accepting my imperfections is crucial.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we are all individuals. Yes, we live in a world where we constantly compare ourselves to other people, but we shouldn’t define our self-worth at hand of that. We need to embrace our uniqueness and enjoy our own phenomenal highs when they do come around. We should grant other people their wins and be happy for them.

Nothing beats the satisfaction gained by wishing others well.

Wordporn

If we all had the strength to read more I swear we could save the world.

I am unashamedly stealing the title of this post from the Facebook group which at least half of humanity seems to follow. That being said, and me not being an ardent social media follower, I recently stumbled upon something which has irrevocably changed my everyday life. The gist of it was:

If we keep in mind that the average person reads five books a year, the average person has 300 books left to read.

I was one of the lucky few, born into a family of avid readers. Bred into a person who has a deep appreciation for the literary masters. Yet, somehow, I ended 2016 without finishing a single book. It’s not that I didn’t read at all, I just never got around to finish any of the books I started. Somehow it seems as if life just keeps on happening. In the technological age we’re living in there is always some other media available with which we consume our time (I just reran a season of Dexter in a weekend-long binge).

There is always something else we can do to pass the time. Something which doesn’t require us to use our own imaginations to visualise the wonders of some of our literary greats. Surfing the net is so easy we don’t even think about the requirements (even in SA). The world has changed completely over the past decade. We have uninterrupted access to social media and information. The age of data overload is upon us and we waste so much time. Some days we happen to stumble across something profound enough to make us think about the concept of internet addiction for a split second, but that soon passes too. Yet I find myself constantly yearning for something more, for deeper relaxation. For disconnectedness.

I often find myself daydreaming that I was still caught in a simpler time. For me, a simpler time was when I had the luxury of not having any financial obligations while cruising through high school in autopilot. In these daydreams I am usually in an English lit class, led by the wondrous Mrs. Van Rooyen. It’s been 6 years, but I can still hear her voice as she used to read poetry and Shakespeare. She introduced me to art such as Dulce et Decorum est, The Millennium Trilogy and Wuthering Heights. She paved the road to fully appreciating an art form so few people ever get to truly experience.

People like her are few and far between. They have the power to light everlasting fires within the souls of the curious. They have a certain magic about them, able to change our lives forever. Unfortunately for us, they fight a losing battle against the data overload we’ve grown so accustomed to. Nonetheless, in this new year I will strive to not become another fallen victim. I would rather be a martyr for literature than a slave to social media. I honestly believe there lies greatness in each book written with conviction – each book written for the purpose of the author having an insatiable need to write that book has an everlasting right to be read. I believe every person has the duty to appreciate the art some people are destined to create.

I just celebrated my 24th birthday a week ago. Honestly, it is difficult to grow accustomed to the idea that I too am growing older. Yes, I am still in the prime of my youth, but mortality is becoming a given which I cannot keep ignoring. The thought of only having 300 books left to read in my life scares me shitless. Of all the deserving and beautiful work out there, I will only have the great privilege of reading 300 of them. This begs me to ask the question: “How do I choose?”

I was lucky enough that one of these was chosen for me. I was gifted The Spy by Paulo Coelho. A tale based upon the life and times of Mata Hari, a liberal and independent woman who died too young. The book is masterly translated from the original Portuguese and provides a glimpse into the disgusting selfish nature of humanity. I’d go so far as to say the book is profound in nature, conveying thoughts and themes far more complex than the simplicity with which it is told.

There are two things which struck me most about this book.

  1. The loose retelling of the myth of Psyche and Eros. The disturbing realisation that love is an act of faith in another person whose face should be covered in mystery.
  2. The book deeply excited me. I got home after a grueling day at work, but when I picked The Spy up, I was transported to 18th century Paris where people had far more troubling woes that I do currently. This book was mesmerising and it really got me thinking about the meaning of life and the external influences we allow.

In conclusion, I am excited about the coming year. I’ve read my first book and January hasn’t even passed yet. I am managing to retain hope and light in a world full of darkness. I have found that these small things make everything worth it. The small joys enable us to really live. I’m lucky enough to not have any physical addictions, but I am willingly working to create a powerful addiction to what I’d like to refer to as wordporn.