"How silent the forest would be if no birds sang except those that sang best". I've intended to sit down and write several times in the last month--each time, I've stopped before I even got started. I've wondered if what I wanted to say was "interesting". Was it "blog-worthy"? Did I have enough to say? Should I say it? I've always imagined any blog I would write would be more of a funny blog (intentionally, I mean--the 'we're laughing WITH you', not the laughing at me, heh). Unfortunately, the best laid plans have pretty much guaranteed I haven't found much to laugh at lately. Everything that's happened in the last couple weeks...how do I make it all work together? Typically, I just wait until I feel like I HAVE to get it all out--it seems to all come out coherently ( I hope). Then today, while I was churning internally over events of late and out running, hoping it would work it's magic and straighten me out, I realized if I waited until I felt "good enough", I might never write anything at all. After all, there's likely nothing I could possibly write about that not only has been written about before, but written a million times better than I could anyway. The above quote immediately sprang to mind, and I realized I would never want my children to sit out and not take a chance because they were afraid of not being "good enough", and maybe I should walk the talk. I said in the beginning I couldn't promise anything here except drivel, and I'm writing really to satisfy my own need to see my thoughts on paper instead of jumbled about in this crazy head anyway. So where to begin with the last month....how about honesty and what we choose to reveal about ourselves?
The Internet. How it has changed our lives. We can now buy everything one would need to survive and have it delivered. We can view anything past or present on YouTube. We can travel to places we've always wanted to visit via GoogleEarth. We can even make and develop friendships thanks to Social Networking. Ahhhhh......Social Networking. The double-edged sword. Some love it, some hate it, most fall somewhere in between. There is most definitely good to be had; I have made some very real friends, that I feel lucky to have and hope some day I can meet them in person. I've met some friends I've made on-line, and they were exactly what I thought they were. And we felt like friends, because, well, because we were. I've learned so much about running from my internet friends--practical, hard-won experience that I can apply to my own life. There are dangers and pitfalls also to be had, though: especially if you're a teen. I will forever be grateful that the computer age, while there, was NOT what it is today. My mistakes will forever be confined to my own memory and that of my friends. There was no record people could return to, enabling them to laugh and point and remind me of how idiotic, or how immature, or silly I was. Teens are just that--teens. Maturity only comes with time. One of my favorite sayings, (one I repeat often to my own teens) is Wisdom comes from Experience and Experience comes from bad decisions. When I think back to my own teenage years, while I was a good kid, I would venture to say that most of my decisions were not necessarily 'good'. They were learning decisions. I seemed to like to learn the hard way. Sometimes it took more than one lesson, heh. Unfortunately, a teen today who utilizes a social network, such as Facebook, may very well learn the hard way about leaving evidence of those bad decisions. It has in no way helped ease the peer pressure--rather, it's increased it ten-fold. Now there are "standards" to live up to--if you don't post pictures of yourself doing something fabulous, with fabulous people, in fabulous cars, you might be branded a boring loser. People, kids especially, can basically choose to showcase select bits and pieces of themselves at just the right moments, implying a perfect life. Don't you wish you were as cool and popular as me? So much so, that kids will "fake" posts. Yes, they will lie to make themselves sound "cooler". Now, this is not a new phenomenon, but whereas in the "old days", kids just bragged verbally, and with time things were forgotten (much to the relief of those same kids later), now things can be captured forever with a screenshot. Their mistakes, true or manufactured, are there for everyone to see. Forever. Their only hope lies in the fact that new ones, with new victims, are taking place every second, and a new escapade likely will eclipse theirs in a matter of hours. As the parent of three teenagers, I'm finding myself having to deal with things all parents have, but in an entirely different way than my parents did. It is difficult to try to help your child embrace their singularity, to help them be who they want to be, who they are, while at the same time trying to explain the need for some individual privacy as well. To try to explain which parts of their lives to keep private. After all, we constantly tell them mistakes are ok if they learn from them, that everyone makes them, that even if they fall, they just need to get up. Most of the time they don't even know who they are yet anyway--this is the life and purpose of a teen anyhow, right? To grow, to change, to learn who they really are. And learning by mistakes is practically the standard for teens. But mistakes are something we want other people's kids to make, not our own, right? Not there in public view for all to see, even the manufactured-for-coolness ones!
Drama on the 'net is hardly restricted to teens, however. As people learn to navigate the online world, it becomes painfully clear that it's extremely easy for people to misinterpret even the most innocent of posts. "Vaguebooking" is a pointed insult, yet many people choose to do it, because they'd rather risk that label than risk having people misunderstand, or worse yet, berate them. It isn't restricted to anonymous "friends", either. It can happen with people in your actual, real, day-to-day life. The one thing the 'net lacks, is tone. And facial expression. Without it, it's easy for people's own agendas or thoughts, or little purple dragons sitting on their shoulders to convey meanings that don't exist in one's posts. It doesn't matter if you didn't intend for it to be taken that way, people remain convinced this is how you meant it. But does that mean you should only post "safe" things? Only sunshine and unicorns pooping rainbows out of their butts? What about the poignancy of real life? I have actually lost friends to this. Now, some may argue, were they real friends in the first place? I thought so. I suspect it was only the convenient avenue by which to end it. There's a propensity to believe as an adult, you're immune to the trappings of friendship drama and hurt of high school--but are we really? After all, relationships do run their course. People can and do change. I think it hurts just as much as it did then, because as adults, we typically invest more time in developing friendships that are close. We tend to gravitate towards people that have similar interests as us, or at least similar schedules--we make friendships with people we see a lot. But do we have to have exactly the same interests? Exactly the same views? Do we have to make the same choices? Can friendships survive different lifestyles? I always thought so. Of course it's fun to engage in activities together--but it's also ok to me that friends of mine love swimming more than running. Or couch-surfing more than hiking. Whatever. My main requirement of friendship, I guess, is in feeling like I have a hand to reach out to when I need it. To be supported when things get tough--because it does get tough. To laugh with--to enjoy good food and drink with--for me, it's how I survive the daily dose of crap I find deposited in my lap. In return, I feel good supporting my friends. Who doesn't feel good helping someone else? It's not about judging their choices--god knows we all feel judged enough today. What do you drive? Where do you work? You're letting your kid do what? You're hitting the drive-through again? You bought/did not buy them what? Please. It's tough enough navigating this instant gratification world, this world where everyone's life seems to be perfect on Facebook but your own--but doing it without the support of friends is excruciating. It's enough to tempt one to just shut up and stop taking risks in revealing who you are; what you're happy about; even the most innocent posts or thoughts may be spun into who-knows-what. You might lose a friend. And there's few things worse than actually reaching out for that hand and feeling only the cold, lonely dark. With the possible exception of then grieving said hand, and realizing that you're likely the only one doing any grieving.
I heard of someone today who is deathly ill, who was afraid of finding out what a lump in their breast was. Their friend urged them to investigate--who pleaded, offered their support, but was turned away. Now this individual is facing a dark battle but has their friend withdrawn their support, hurting and unwilling to be hurt more? Of course not. The risk of hurting because they may lose their friend is incomparable to the risk of hurting their friend by not offering them the unconditional love of friendship when they need it most. They are not judging their choice--they are standing steadfast by their side in spite of it. It would be easier to turn away, to abandon their friend--no friend, no risk of hurt. Easy enough for all of us. No Facebook (or social network of your choice), no opinions, no risk. Everyone's happy and content, right? But then I think of the little bird we lost last week: my daughter's parakeet. Two years old, and according to that wealth of information called Google, I missed the signs of his illness until too late. A happy, gregarious little bird who was not afraid to sing; who chattered and talked and filled our lives with a joy I didn't realize until it was too late. Who has taught me with his death that a silent forest is not where I want to live. Even if my rambling isn't the best--even if my posts are misinterpreted--even if my life is judged by others. That I too will venture out, if for no reason other than because a little bird told me to. And I hope it's to a forest filled with the songs of my friends.