Every once in awhile I have an overwhelming urge to go turtle, completely withdraw from the spheres I'm in and just putter about by myself. I keep careful watch on this tendency... it sometimes strikes at unhealthy times when I'm avoiding something I ought to confront. But often it's an instinct that guarantees I focus on creating rather than consuming and a pulling back from things in the world that seem to hurt me, intentionally or not.
I read this interesting piece on the weekend. There were parts I was extremely skeptical about, but I took to heart the part about our decisions influencing how our brain continues to transform. I feel daily how the choices I make (both micro and macro) and even those things that I seem to choose without choosing affect the course I'm on, but also my very nature, my deeper self.
When I left academia, one of the reasons I did so (that I sometimes lose sight of these days as I've been known to voice regrets about that decision)... was because I felt like I wasn't actually creating anything from within that structure. Philosophers actually adding NEW arguments were few and far between. There were lots of clever debates, beautifully-constructed arguments aplenty. But it often left me feeling hopeless about what I might contribute. Nowadays, I often feel the same way about journalism (minus the clever and beautiful part).
The internet too leaves me feeling the same overwhelmed insignificance. The truth is that when I think about myself as part of something larger, no matter what kind of thing that is, the point of it all evades me. Some people feel better, stronger and more significant when they're part of a community. I feel less so. But the internet does let me be alone too. I get to have my autonomous blog and do my thing and I can choose not to run with the pack. The degree to which I seek out and participate in the community is very much within my control.
I've been doing a lot of freelance writing lately. Some of the assignments have made me reflect more deeply on my understanding of myself. The fact is, I'm so often "shoulding" myself to be the opposite of what I really am, that I set myself up to be working against my very nature. I've been going back to basics, trying to better understand what I am, what I need and what I really want. I think I've been exasperated by some of my own recent confusion and indecisiveness because I'm not really addressing more basic questions with more elusive answers, because I'm trying to figure out what I ought to do instead of what I want to. Even when I'm rebelling in some way, I appeal to a paradigm that's largely my own negative construct of how I should be.
When I wrote this post about hanging back and fiddling with my camera, I hit a vein of gold in my understanding of myself. If that moment could be a metaphor for how I live and the role I happily play in groups, I believe I could find my happy medium. The visual of it even makes me happy. I'm not alone, but I'm acting alone. There's nothing scrappy or rebellious in that moment, in fact the mood is benign... everybody's secure in themselves. Others are there, but they aren't defining or crowding.
I want and need other people around me, I believe we all do. But I don't actively thrive in company. When I'm happiest is those moments when I extricate myself from company without disowning everybody. The thing is I'd rather be a bad creator than a commenter. I'd rather be fiddling with my camera and taking my crummy shots or puttering about with words by myself than sharing and discussing what I've created with a community. And I can "should" myself all I want about how I ought to feel otherwise, but I really don't think I'll ever make it so...