I think we need to take a break. For a few days or a few weeks — I have not decided yet, but I feel that I need a breath of fresh air and time to think. I do hope you won’t come back biting me in the ass for this, like showing my pictures to 0.5% of my followers and saying: “But we were on a breeeeeak!” afterwards. Ask Ross, it didn’t work well.
There were times when you made me happy, inspired, and excited, but gone are the days. Lately, all I feel when I am with you is frustration, anxiety, and self-hatred. How did it come to this? How did I allow an app, a tiny icon on the screen of my phone, make me feel bad about myself?
It is only now, in writing this post, that I used the word “self-hatred” and realized how precise it is to what I am feeling. Also, how strong a word it is. The contrast between what I wish to create and what I am forced to create is so stark, that I don’t seem to find balance no matter how hard I try.
As a writer, photographer, blogger, simply human being, I’d like to think that I am unique and I’d like my work to be a reflection of that uniqueness. Yet, you don’t seem to need or appreciate my uniqueness. As stupid as it is to measure one’s self worth in likes and followers, that is exactly the currency you offer. Believing that my work is important and makes a difference is hard when no one gets to see something I put my heart and soul into.
I have 9450 followers and on average I get 200 likes per picture. Do the math. I get around 250-300 likes when the picture features myself, preferably in a popular Instagram spot, wearing a pretty dress, looking away from the camera. I get 100 likes when I post a picture of food, which is ridiculous given that food is the primary focus of my work.
The self-hatred stems here, in the compromise between my creativity and success. In order to be successful in your world I have to conform, stop doing what I believe in and what brings me joy to drown in the sameness of girls holding on to their straw hats on a windless day.
I want to post a picture of that man in rural Sri Lanka wearing sarong and breaking king coconuts with a few hits of a machete-like knife; a picture of two Texan cowboys who I shared biscuits and gravy with on a cold morning in Alpine, a picture of my breakfast tacos at a hole-in-the-wall joint in Austin. I look at these pictures, tell myself they are too different, they are not going to receive enough likes, and bury them somewhere deep on my hard drive. Then I pull up a picture of me on a beach swing in southern Sri Lanka and post it. Take that, creativity! Swallow your pride and produce mediocre, yet easily liked result.
I am not sure you know it, but we are not exclusive. I also have a blog which is my love and the source of my pride. You see, my blog is there when I need to cry about your shortcomings (like right now) and it is there to take all the rejected pictures you didn’t find good enough. I don’t have to follow a color scheme with my blog and plan out my articles to match each other in advance. I write about things that matter to me, be it pelmeni, sustainability or hot Brazilian men and add pictures that I love without worrying about the likes. Because there are no likes. I do my best work and put it out there. Can our relationship be more like this?
For too long I’ve been feeling resentment to myself for giving in to your demands, for doing work I am not proud of. That’s a slippery slope. I need some time to think and reassess my approach.
There’s an old anecdote in Russia. Scientists decided to conduct an experiment. They let a monkey into the room where a banana is tied to the ceiling. The monkey starts jumping up, but can’t reach the banana. The scientists say: “Think, monkey!” The monkey thinks, sees a chair nearby, climbs on the chair, and gets the banana. Next the scientist let Vasya into a room where a bottle of vodka is tied to the ceiling. Vasya jumps up, but can’t reach the bottle. The scientists say: “Think, Vasya!” Vasya looks at them and replies: “What the hell is there to think about? I need to jump!”
In an unlikely turn of events, I want to be more like the monkey. I have to find a way to success without sacrificing a piece of my soul to you. It’s a strange relationship we have. I’d love to say bye once and for all, but you seem too important if I want to turn this food obsession of mine into a business. I can’t be with you, but I can’t be without you either. So I say we take a break and see where it takes us. Enough with the jumping.