Turning Things Down
Here’s a bit of truth.
Time is limited. The things we want to do require time, and that time is not infinite. Our bad habits take time. Moving from place to place takes time. Sleep takes time. Eating. Sulking. Living. Ambition. It all takes time.
Aspirations, however. They don’t take a lot of time. They just require an active mind. Aspirations lead to great things. Aspirations lead to groundbreaking projects and pure joy and unbridled excitement.
Aspirations are timeless.
Putting them into reality, though. That takes time.
The value of those aspirations, the quality of our eating and sulking and living, the strength of our ambition – these things are all varied. They can all be debated and fought over. But time is limited. That much is truth.
I’ll go on.
Over the past decade, I’ve seen a pattern in the people I respect.
They look for good. They admit when they’re wrong. They challenge things, and they further great causes – and when they can’t, they support those who can. They get less prolific, but they get more focused. Quality over quantity. Signal vs. noise.
They don’t feel the need to be everywhere at once. They admit when they’re overwhelmed. They balance their life. They make time for the right things.
They know when to disengage.
Me, however? I was having a hard time disengaging. I was part of the mid-00s blogosphere. I found a voice before I had learned moderation, and I loved being a part of something so big that I couldn’t bear to lose it. I was too afraid to disengage.
I wanted to connect with everyone. In doing so, I never formed a real connection with anyone. I pinned things in maps.
Some of those pins were valuable. They became friendships.
Some of those pins were redundant. They were my existing support, and they’d have been there without the map.
Some of those pins angered me. They angered me with their assumptions. With their transparent lousiness. With their pretentiousness. Things you can’t comment about on the internet, because even the most well meaning grapes seem sour when spelled out in 140 characters.
But the pins that angered me stayed on my board out of obligation. If you ask me what I’m most embarrassed about in the past five years, it’s that I kept my friends close, but I kept my unrelated annoyances even closer.
I have aspirations, and those aspirations require action, and that action requires time, and I was spending too much time was spent wondering how in the hell that person has the nerve to be so transparently arrogant and why is this person actively channeling what seems like an overly sexist and naive line of thinking and oh my god I can see through the mindlessness and carelessness of this messaging so why can’t anyone else.
My aspirations were taken hostage by people who I thought I needed to care about. There was so much noise.
And then I had a weird and obvious moment of clarity, when everything came together – a few minutes after a rant about someone I barely know on a social network I barely liked. That’s when my friend Eileen asked a simple question.
“Why don’t you stop following that person?”
So I did.
I unfollowed one. And then another.
Every time someone would raise my ire, I would examine that ire. Is this a one-time disagreement? Or is this just another in a long line of things that I’m irrationally angry about, another drop in the bucket of a relationship that, while beneficial or important in some superficial way, is ultimately bound for failure.
If I found myself getting frustrated over and over again? I unfollowed them.
I left Facebook altogether, which meant I left Foursquare. I left Timehop. I left everything that was tied to Facebook, and with that noise cancelled I began looking further out. I stopped worrying about everyone else.
I started worrying about me. Not selfishly, but practically.
And, with the support and backing of my friends and family, I have transformed that worrying into productivity. No longer comparing, fuming, fighting fights that weren’t worth winning. So much more time to do the things I love. So much more peace.
Change came not from new insights, but from the absence of some old ones.
I have started writing again. I have started booking speaking engagements. I was on a year hiatus that, in some part, was fueled by the frustration of being a part of a toxic rat race of being The Most Right.
I am thankful that I am still an unknown entity, because I can use Twitter to my own specifications, unencumbered by random responses and thread-jacking.
Most of all, I’m thankful that I can somehow balance being both unapologetic and deliberate. That I can let go of someone and not care. That I can give myself space. That I can turn things down without guilt.
I have aspirations, and I am turning those aspirations into action. Because time is limited. Because my attention deserves more. Because I don’t need to be a part of everything.