My life is not as good as yours. But it is perfectly good.

Band of Horses at Forecastle
Band of Horses at Forecastle

This past weekend I was able to do one of the things that I really enjoy. I attended a music festival. I love music and it makes me happy. I enjoy being around people having fun, without the normal restrictions of common cultural inhibitions. This doesn’t mean that festivals are full of hedonism and misfits, in fact, at the Forecastle Festival this past weekend I was a little surprised at how calm it truly was. It was full of people willing to enjoy music and be happy in the process, without having to be too concerned about other people’s perceptions. That is what I like about music festivals.

This post is not about the music festival. It is about a couple realities I have observed about social media and the impact it has upon how I interpret my own life’s status. One of the things that caused me to start thinking about this was the very first time I pulled out my iPhone to take a photo. I was considering if I should post it to Facebook or Instagram, maybe even Twitter? It was Saturday evening and Tyson and I had just shown up to the Great Lawn, taking in all the different vendors and stages. In a true moment of inspiration, we were looking for a local craft beer distributor. It turned out that Sierra Nevada and PBR were the main beers of choice. The desire to take out my phone was not limited to my impulses, as photo collecting was one of the main events of the weekend. I even saw a guy at the Nickel Creek, then Ray LaMontagne shows keep his camera attached to one of those long single pole sticks that allow for good pictures, but mainly for taking a better selfy. I’m thankful that I haven’t perfected that photographic skill to this point.

The truth is that when we are having a lot of fun, enjoying ourselves and experiencing something worth sharing with friends, we get to do that in a lot of ways today. It is simple to document those moments with a photograph we upload, a video we post to youtube or writing a blog post we share. I have been sharing my thoughts online for a long time. In 2003, I put up ditschfitness.com, which just a website I created using basic html. Each time I wanted to share a story, I wrote the story then created the new html page. I got tired of writing the html, so in 2004 I learned CSS and php to create the site. And then blogger came out and it changed my life. The content mattered and not the mess of building pages. I eventually transferred to various WordPress sites that I’ve self hosted, but my personal blog is built upon WordPress.com.

Social media changed everything again, which I don’t need to explain to anyone. It’s incredibly obvious. From 2003 through 2005 (maybe even longer), I remember people asking why I would want to share things online – what’s the point. And now everyone shares their lives through Facebook status updates, with 140 characters via Twitter, images on Instagram and videos on all the platforms. It’s incredibly easy to do, as there is almost no technology barrier to overcome.

The interesting observation, that I’m very aware of, is that the lives that are shared through the various channels are highly curated representations of who we are. We make choices on what we want the world to see and what we chose they don’t see. I know that for myself, I’ve heavily curated my online life to represent my desire to help people be healthier and more fit. I’ve specifically tried to create a brand around myself that is a living example on how endurance activities can be a tool to lead someone to that better life. This has not been something I’ve done for a few months, I’ve spent 11 years curating my content and output to create this reality. It is not surprising to me that when old friends meet me in person, one of the things they ask is about my running.

At the festival, we got into a conversation with one couple that shared how they disabled their Facebook accounts. They felt that the constant input of other peoples lives, made it a consistent reminder for them on what they needed to be happy. The old saying, “keeping up with the Jones’” can be exponentially overwhelming today, because you don’t only have to keep up with the Jones family next door, but the one across the country too.

Something else that has happened over the past 10 years, is that my circle of close friends has grown smaller – while the number of people I consider friends has grown larger. I actually made this observation some time ago and made a goal of 2014 to hand write 50 cards to close friends, because I mostly rely on social media to stay in touch which rarely adds depth to a relationship. So far I’ve sent zero cards, but ironically received a handwritten card from a friend that read the post and liked the idea. (Serious guilt when others beat you to your own personal goals… but also motivation, because I enjoyed it much more than a Facebook message). I saw a friend at Forecastle that I’ve seen in person probably 3 or 4 times over the past 8 years, each time was just in passing and included brief catching up. Ironically, I felt like I knew how she had been doing because of social media. The truth is that I get to see a curated view. She shared with us that she was doing well and life has changed for her some, as she has a new baby (which I’ve seen a dozen times or so on Instagram). It’s just really hard to know, if perception and reality are the same thing when trying to maintain friendships in this way.

I do not know the impact of social media on other people, but I know that in my personal use, it can be good and bad. There are days that I really enjoy seeing all the exciting things that people I know are doing. It inspires me to go try something new, reach out and say hi or just know what a family member or friend is up to. Then there are days that I read through my feed and ask myself, what the fuck I did wrong to not be as successful as I should be or have the life I thought I could have.

It is easy to start finding myself having the “grass is greener” type of mindset. Then when I’m able to pull away from the updates and think logically, I realize that I am a very fortunate person. The extent of my advantages and blessings is easy to lose at times in a sea of social media montages.

If everyone’s life is truly and fully represented on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then I will admit that my life is not as good as my average friend. But, even if that is true, it is perfectly good enough for me.

Advertisements

I am happy when – I am writing

There are many days that I wish I was artistic. I believe that I would be happy if I could play the guitar, but my feeble attempts at learning were ultimately squashed when my younger brother got a guitar and was playing more in 3 hours then I had been able to in 3 years. When I look at people who can draw out emotion in others through painting or design, I am easily impressed because bringing ideas to life through visual creations is something I can not do.

I have wanted to be Donavon Frankenreiter for the past ten years. The idea of having a soulful voice, a spirited and passionate presence that allows me to inspire others, just doing what I love to do. And to be in a place that is not “super star” celebrity, where maybe walking done the street doesn’t require getting stopped by fans or paparazzi when I want some ice cream, or a beer. I believe some of these ideas and thoughts on what a life would be like as an artist are inspired by the documentary, Thicker than Water. I have watched it too many times to count, but it definitely created the illusion that life can be all about living passionately.

Somewhere along the way, most likely at the moment of conception, because I always recall being this way, I developed an analytical mind. It does not carry me through life to a musical soundtrack, it pulls me through the day to day structured in excel rows and evaluation charts. Emotions are generated based upon how “on track” life is. I often worry that I am not analytical enough, I am a faker, an impostor that wants to be logical. I know many others that would shudder at the lack of analytical ability I possess. That is my perception.

The tendency to over think, over analyze and the need to keep the train on a well constructed track which leads to a place that I believe I want to go, does not lend itself well to encouraging artist. I do not think it does anyway, because I have never really known what it means to be an artist, so let’s just say it is not ideal to inspire creativity. The numbers and planning requires a different side of the brain, compared to what it takes to paint a landscape or play a piece of bluegrass on the banjo.

Despite my natural tendency, or maybe because of it, there is always a longing to find ways to be more creative. It just seems like a wonderful way to increase the senses and experience life in general.

For me, this has always been writing. I have wanted to sit down and write something, for as long as I can remember. There is part of me that loves to write because it allows me to express things that I couldn’t in any other way. I believe that I am a good communicator. I know that I enjoy speaking to groups and teaching others. But, I often find myself stuck when it comes to communicating things that involve anything emotionally charged.
There is a general perception of being a man, where I grew up, that expressing emotion is not exactly done publicly. This could be a perception I created myself as I looked at those men I viewed as models of ideal behavior. They worked hard. They fixed things when broken. They competed in business and in sport. They helped teach younger men how to do all these things. They did not sit down and indulge themselves for hours writing a story or poem. If they were painting, it was either to paint a house or done in their spare time, which they didn’t have. They did not cry in public. And the idea seemed to be that emotion was best dampened, so as to never have too many highs or lows. The one exception might be expressing anger, which was ok at times, especially if it involved sports and specifically the Huskers.

This perception I had, made me mostly hide the writing I did. I remember being outside at a young age and not running, but taking a notepad and writing. I do not recall what types of things I wrote, but when I got home I would often throw it in the trash. My personality is one that trends to lots of emotion, with plenty of crying. I learned at a fairly young age, that being emotional on paper was easier to do and much easier to hide.
We had a burn barrel outside our house and it was often a chore of mine to take out the garbage. Once I was old enough, I would also be asked to start the fire. I can not imagine the amount of papers, journals and notes that lay in ashes at the bottom of that barrel. By now, those ashes have probably blown all across the central plains and Sandhills of Nebraska. I guess, in a way, it has allowed me to share all my fears, dreams, sadness and happiness I had as a young person. Those things are best left there then sitting in a basement or closet somewhere.

The first time I learned that writing and communicating through writing had power was my Junior year of high
school. My parents were moving to a new town to keep a business growing. While only a few hours away, as a person getting ready for their senior year of high school, it might as well been across the world. After a period of time, it was a letter I wrote that prompted change. It was a letter to my parents that ultimately gave me the ability to choose for myself what I would do. Initially, I chose to stay and lived with a great family and friend. That summer I decided it was best to move and I spent my senior year, in a new school, trying to make new friends. It was a great decision for my long term development. But, it was that letter that enabled me to go from having no input into the decision, to being given a choice. It was the first experience I had that provided an example that writing could be powerful enough to change other’s decisions and perceptions. To change reality.

It was during my senior year that I was exposed to Dylan Thomas. He was the focus of a project I did for English class. The project probably was not done well and I likely didn’t get a good grade, as by comparison to my new classmates, I was not a great student. Though, I remember reading most of Thomas’ writings that year and somehow related to his message. Most people remember Thomas as the author of “Do not go gentle into that good night”, as it is performed by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. I read about his life and saw a young man that struggled with life in general and in so many way, whom died a death too young. It was Dylan Thomas that inspired me to increase the amount of poetry I wrote.

At some point, the art of writing stopped for me. It was less about being creative and more about getting eyeballs. It was less aligned with a desire to be like Donavon Frankenreiter and more of an effort to increase the number of coaching clients I had. It was less expression and more business. It became about numbers.
In a very similar way that I allowed running to be something I did for others, I allowed writing to become less personal and all about production. It was no longer an outlet for creativity. It was no longer a way to put in the daily effort to establish some use of my brain that is not numbers and charts. For the most part, I lost the desire to write.

Over the past year, I have started to find that desire to create again. I first read James Altucher’s book and his implementation of the “daily practice”. He also discusses the need to practice regularly to get any impact and development of your writing. It sounded very similar to what I tell runners. Sometimes the best advice is that you just need to do it and forget the rules, forget the details and just do something. I then read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, with a very similar message. Although he very specifically identifies the writer’s nemesis as “Resistance”.

So I have been following their lead. I know I love to write. I am happy when I’m writing. Therefore on a nearly daily basis (there are days I don’t, but I do have a good daily routine currently) I sit down at my laptop, turn on Scrivener and start typing. There are days I have a purpose.

Then there are other days, such as today that I sit down and write and realize that I’m writing just because it makes me happy.