New year, better problems

(Since I don’t listen, let me reframe.)

It’s a dangerous trap, the comfort of misery. You can spend a lifetime on the same problem; getting used to it, becoming addicted even- the complaining, the exasperated sighs, the misery. People let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.” But the devil you know, and it is true.

Because it shouldn’t be that difficult right- if I say I don’t want to spend too much time online, it’s a waste of my time, it’s lonely, isolating, boring- to get offline? But it’s easier to complain about the problems of Tinder from the comfort of my couch than to get dressed, go out, and awkwardly flirt with someone who didn’t show initial interest by swiping left/right. It’s a lot of work; this reality of ours. You are safe online; your ego is safe, and plenty of fish to fill up on. A lot can go wrong in real life. After all the effort it took to show up, you might not find a single person to try your luck with- you don’t run out of people on dating apps, but a venue can hold only so many people. Reality is unpredictable; indifferent to your efforts. Which brings me back to an important consideration, so what?

Choose better problems in 2023. Ask yourself, what problems do I want to have this year? You will be surprised by how much better you will feel this way. You can choose the problem of app-induced loneliness or socializing; the grass is greener where you water it. You can choose to escape yourself scrolling endlessly or face yourself in the deafening silence of stillness, to learn a thing or two, to try your luck at redemption; you’re not getting out alive either way.

Upgrade your problems.

It genuinely surprises me when people say to me I’m a very social person. I’m naturally prone to self-isolation and loneliness. When did it happen? Over the years for sure. I had no choice. It’s less appealing to avoid the crowd when people don’t live safely and neatly tucked in your phone. The appeal of social media, in part, is the safety of consuming others from a safe distance; you can always turn them off.

You can’t turn people off in real life. They can’t turn you off either. You learn to be polite. Patient. Gently reassure yourself when you feel out of place, out of space. But at first it sucks. You feel unnatural, awkward; you wish you had something to do on your phone so you can appear busy and unbothered. Then you learn, by getting out of your own way first, that people are just people. You don’t remember when it got so easy; to walk into a room and enjoy talking to a bunch of people, to exchange numbers and reach out to make plans, invite people to do things with, and be okay when some of them flake- it’s usually not about you, and this too is hard to accept. You almost wish it was about you, so you can see what you can do.

And so, being social isn’t all fun and games, it comes with its own set of problems. But it beats the self-loathing that emerges from wasted time/life on the screens; consumed with consumption. Its problems have better outcomes. An hour spent in someone’s company feels infinitely better than the many hours of consuming strangers’ takes online, and real life has better possibilities for stories you can tell years later. No good story starts with, ‘so I was on Twitter all night last night and…’ Oh, and you can’t substitute swipes for love.

Yet, my natural inclination is still to self-isolate, retreat back to my tried-and-true loneliness- natural, safe, comfortable. It remains lurking in the background, patiently waiting to pounce on the slightest excuse I dare utter- “ugh, it’s been such a long day”- and so we cancel plans and turn to the internet for company. I rarely give in to the deceptive allure of a night with the internet anymore. It’s miserable every time it’s just me and the internet. As soon as I’m out the door, on the way, I know I want this problem, that it is better for me and I will choose it every time.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

I’m also naturally inclined to escape myself. There are worse drugs than social media, but the psyche pays similar price. Where do you run to away from yourself? It’s a losing game. We’re all stuck in what my friend poetically calls “this meat prison.”

(Interlude: Your 20’s are for running away, as fast, as far away, as breathlessly and selfishly, attempting to destroy all parts of you that threaten to consume you whole, and anyone who dares get in your way. But who wants to run away their whole life?)

Lately, I’m curious about myself. It terrifies me, to stay still, face myself and get drowned in questions I do not have the answers to (yet). Why? Why? Why? In the meantime, tears make a good substitute for answers. The sadness won’t kill you and you will undoubtedly feel better afterwards. There is strength in feeling your feelings, paying attention to every corner of your soul, inviting your pain to come out and play. It will surprise you; the level of hell you can surely handle, how strong the human spirit is, how resilient, how much the gods watch out for you, cheer on you, love on you unconditionally.

The internet doesn’t care about any of this. It only asks, do you want to escape? And it is much easier to say, yes please and, scroll until the questions, fear, doubt, pain, misery get drowned in the endless digital noise. More, please. It surely is easier to keep running away, but I’m tired of running away, running out of time too, and these cheap thrills are too costly. I want a better, at the very least different, problem this year. What about the problem of stillness? The terror of stillness, to be frank. What would happen if I stopped running away? I’m curious. What would I find out if I were to give up the problems of escaping? What if I were to give up typing http://www.gmai whenever the present engulfs me with uneasiness? How much of this moment am I willing to handle? How badly would it hurt? Would it kill me?

Until next time,

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