"What the hell IS IT?!"
A few years ago my sister and I spent some time chasing a beacon of light.
No. Not a metaphorical beacon of light.
An ACTUAL beacon of light.
I don't even remember how we first noticed it. It might have just been on one of our late night drives we sometimes take together. Or maybe we were coming or going from the Southern Lights around the holidays, which would have been in that general area. The point is we noticed a strange light beaming into the sky from the middle of nowhere. It became our mission in life to find it.
Now this was not just one ill-fated trip. This was multiple plunges into the inky, black KY back roads trying to find the source of this damned light. Because that was the strange thing. It was like the closer you tried to get to it, the further away it got. It was the world's biggest, most obnoxious will-o'-the-wisp and it was seated somewhere between Iron Works Pike and Elkhorn Creek. The closest we ever got was stumbling on a massive gate bordered in two stone towers and Celtic spiral ironwork. Clearly a giant lived there, and the beacon was his night light, because as we all know giants are afraid of the dark.
Over a period of months, maybe even a year, we looked for the light. Then one day I got a text from Carrie with a link.
The Castleton Farm Tower.
That's what we'd been chasing. A 125' tower in the dead ass center of a horse farm. Just there for decoration. I asked Carrie if she was disappointed. She said she was.
I was too.
I haven't blogged on Make Me A Day in two years, and I quit when this blog's traffic was at an all time high. I was getting hate mail weekly for my posts about gay marriage. I had a crazed person writing about me and then setting up a satirical site in my name (No, no link. This person is not well, and I won't enable her.). So, I was already getting worn down. You really can only be told you're going to burn in hell with all your fag friends so many times before it starts to get on your nerves.
Then I wrote a post about not outsourcing your social media to an outside company. Spam comments poured in, and I took it as an opportunity to respond to them as though they were real. It was quite funny.
Until it wasn't.
I can't quite put my finger on what flipped the switch. Have you ever been in a screaming match with someone who is not getting it, and then all of sudden you just stop mid-sentence and realize you're simply done? This blog stopped mid-sentence.
In the last two years a lot has happened. I got rid of some toxic friends. I quit a job that was going nowhere and replaced it with a really competitive one. I ended my relationship of 7 years, and have embarked on my new journey as a single mom. I finished writing a novel and am wrapping up the editing process. And there were many times I wanted to write about those things. But then I didn't.
I suffer from a condition. I have battled it my entire life, even since childhood. I don't like labels, but I will say that people who have my condition struggle with black and white thinking. Something is either the greatest thing that has ever happened, or will surely be the death of us all. The goal for us, always, is to get to the gray. There is an entire spectrum of perspective on just about everything in life that allows us not to succumb to extremes. Not to polarize ourselves, and inevitably people in our lives. But if you live in the gray...
The Internet is hunting you.
All one need do is click on the comments section of any local news outlet Facebook post to know with certainty that our world has abandoned the gray.
It's not just that I don't agree with you...it's that you are the reason our country is a horrible place to live.
It's not just that our perspectives on a matter differ in some key ways...it's that I hope your kids die in a car fire, so they won't have to be raised by a horrible parent like you.
I don't just think that you are wrong on this one issue...I actually think you should just do us all a favor and go kill yourself.
In a world with this level of vitriol, visible with nearly every click and swipe, it is frightening, though not surprising, that 1 out of every 4 people with my condition ultimately do decide to do everyone a favor.
Suicide is not exclusive to creative minded people like Robin Williams, but when you have an audience-oriented job or calling you are going to have to deal with far more criticism, all with far less emotional resources to handle it. Today's criticism reads less like, "That wasn't my favorite work of yours, and let me tell you why..." and more like, "You didn't make me feel the way I wanted to while you were doing that thing you did and for that reason I'm going to make it my personal mission to make you not matter anymore."
The truth is the "critics" typically don't have too far to go. No one has ever said anything to me or about me that I haven't said or thought ten times worse about myself already. And, yet, I had to be born a writer. To have an intrinsic desire to have my voice heard living in a body that chemically doesn't believe it deserves to be heard at all. And I had to be born at a time where there are 3 billion Internet users ready to confirm that fear.
My very long break from blogging and dramatic scaling back of social media use has been very therapeutic. It gave me the time and the perspective to make decisions about my REAL life that needed to be made. To tackle goals that are important to me. If you are sitting there obsessing over that person who defriended you or that shitty comment someone left you or just sick of hearing about whatever the hashtag du jour is today, by all means STOP. Unplug. Take stock of what the room smells like, what the weather's doing, and who is physically near you in the room. Take a walk. Get thee to the gray.
But back to that beacon of light. I know the journey is what mattered. The time spent laughing with my sister, drinking Starbucks, and freaking ourselves out driving around the country. I get that. My life is more open than it has ever been. I'm more financially secure, my children are healthy, I'm single, many of my dreams are in the process of coming true. I found the light.
So then why does it hurt so bad?