I am at a bonfire for young adults at my church. Minutes before, I drove down McNichols, speaking to God as if he were somehow chilling in the passenger seat with 80 degrees of sunshine pouring on his face. I pleaded that he would help me to conquer anxiety and be myself.
I am sitting in my green lawn chair with a cup holder that was made too shallow. Deep in my thoughts, I wonder if my prayer was inadequate. My eyes are brown magnifying glasses. They see the glitches, the imperfections on the surface of my skin and inside the substance of what I have to offer. Beyond me, everyone else looks like more – the sum of adequacy: cool, unawkward, funny, enough.
My hands are trembling. Eating while anxious is an art. I learned that on my first date ever. I am sitting here, lifting my fork slowly to eat seasoned side-dishes of rice and green beans. I don’t look at my phone. I’ve never been good at hiding my anxiety at social events by gazing at a screen. Besides, I’m not on social media anyway. Though I am sitting here, I am exhausted from running miles in my mind. Does anyone notice?
It turns out that you do. You help me.
I drink a sip of water and I turn my head. I open my mouth and I speak. I ask the people near me genuine questions. I offer a bit of honesty about myself. I smile. I speak some more. I play. I observe. I listen. I survive.
I leave the bonfire, grateful that you, my Dad, will never leave me cold. That you’ll help an anxious, people-loving introvert, like me, through any situation.
You notice me and choose to know me. That is sufficient. It turns out that everything is going to be okay.
In a panic, I deactivated my Instagram account and logged out of Facebook. Just a few hours earlier, I had shared photos from a successful day with my kids at work. I was so proud to help them write poetry and share their experiences. One of my students also surprised me after researching my name and finding a humorous, heartwarming definition.
Overwhelmed with happiness, I spent a few minutes crafting a meaningful Instagram caption and uploading my Android-quality pics. Pure as my Instagram post may have seemed, it was an incomplete story. While I was excited about my kids, I was equally hungry to be validated. To earn more likes than I received. To read affirming comments about the work that I am choosing to do. I was eager to grasp fulfillment from moments I didn’t know how to celebrate without digital praise.
To intensify things, I imagined that some scrollers saw my photos and rolled their eyes. “Why is she bragging?”, they must have thought. Fear and insecurity-ridden, I ultimately deleted my post and anxiously resolved to peace out of social media, yet again.
It has been two weeks since I “unplugged” after doing so multiple times before. In retrospect, my boundaries with social media were still unhealthy. I realized that I was choosing to use my sacred, unpromised time unwisely. More than I seeked God, I seeked approval from people. More than I meditated on my blessings and passions, I compared myself. I consumed “likes” like they were my daily bread, even though they were just empty calories.
Sometimes, I fear that I am missing out on so many inspirational posts, funny memes, milestone announcements, news updates, and of course, opportunities to showcase glimpses of my life. Presently though, my mental, emotional, and spiritual health take precedence over all those possibilities. I am being intentional about writing more, especially in my gratitude journal, embracing vulnerability while facing some fears, and learning to truly center my relationship with God. With time, I will prayerfully consider how to best re-engage social media. For now, I’ll miss out.