Now that we have the good old internet, we have, at our fingertips, a guide to how we could be.
Instagram, for instance, throws out the sort of look and feel we could apply to our own life. It’s a sort of cheat sheet for what we might like to spend our time doing, how it might look and which parts of it we could document and share and style.
It’s an often-too-good-to-be-true visual template to help us form our own best – often algorithm-controlled – selves.
Facebook is helpful too, providing a highlights and lowlights reel – teaching us how to celebrate, eat, drink, speak, shout from a soapbox – and how to complain excellently too.
It all acts as a kind of short-cut to being – and seeming like we know what we’re doing.
In an instant, we can see what an expert looks like in our chosen niche, and from the comfort of our own home, we can incorporate some of those expert-looking or sounding things into our own life. Hurrah!
It’s a bit like learning French except instead of tricky tenses, we’re talking perfectly pretty lives or grey-dotted minimalism or yarn-strewn retreats or plate riddled table tops sprinkled with peppercorns and sprigs of herbs. (There are heaps of other expert looks and surrounds to choose from!)
To feel a bit more expert-y, we can simply skim the things that Google or social media serves up to us – and then combine them into a way of being that we call- ‘our own’!
We can hashtag search our way through other people’s lives – to help form ‘our own’ – and appear accomplished without much effort at all, simply by joining the dots and slipping into the shape someone/s else created.
Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to make ourselves fit, and the more we skim and squish – the easier the belonging feels. Before you know it, we know how to plate like the others, make like the others, speak like the others, capture our lives like the others, fancy stuff the heck up like the others. Huzzah!
Eventually, we can fit within the shape we chose without noticing the lines that created it, quite so much. We are ‘our own’ version of our chosen life! At last!
But what about what we LOSE when we match the model we’ve admired?
Where is the kooky colouring outside the lines?
The NOT joining the dots?
What happened to the loose ends and happy creative accidents that surprised us in unexpected ways and spurred us on?
What happened to the thrill of finding our own way?
The templates and shapes and models created by others – or a mashup of many others – offer a comforting fit if you wiggle a bit – but they don’t really encourage us to discover our own cleverness or explore new ideas and life affirming things.
Following the leader saves time and effort for sure. There’s also a sense of belonging, from the fitting in and being like the others. But, in our heart of hearts, there’s also a sense of appropriated accomplishment. Frustration, even. Perhaps a lack of growth? I think so. Soz.
Rather than ponder and problem solve and risk-take – the templates, the prescribed approaches, the algorithms, the shared aesthetics encourage us to think less and tag along passively, much much more.
The following-along kind of life might even stop us thinking deeply, researching broadly or having ace adventures in our own heads and beyond. Shudder.
Slotting in is not as ace as trickily wandering through our own lives and letting a mishmash of variously gleaned curiosity delight us, and spur us on.
I’m voting for tricky wanders and mishmashes, as often as I can.
Of course, I am not one for talking about a problem without thinking about a solution, so here are some ideas on avoiding the prescribed path or template and making a life that looks heaps like YOU!
13 ways to start making your own-shaped life
- Research interesting things via library books or second hand bookshops – this can help to avoid being swept up in fads and marketing – and provide ideas for further research online or in new book bookshops
- Comb galleries – online or off – for things that inspire you. Then follow those threads with some deeper research.
- Capture your life in ways that make sense to you – if you’re photographing your life for posterity, think about capturing the mood and experience – not just the things that fit into frame.
- Obsess over things – go deep into things that interest you, rather than skimming the surface and trying to know a tiny bit about a lot of things.
- Give yourself time to think and daydream without noise or digital devices – maybe going for a walk or having a think-y shower or a long wondering bath?
- Be a non-creepy spy – wherever you go, people are interacting with their surrounds in interesting ways. A quiet word, a furtive movement, a snazzy scarf or a gentle dog pat might be some of the everyday clues that spark bigger ideas and ponderings on how people exist and (maybe) thrive out in the world.
- Record sparks of ideas or things that interest you using the voice record option on your phone – then come back to them and dive deeper.
- Avoid the scroll – at least some of the time! Mindless scrolling is often super relaxing, but don’t let it get in the way of slowing down, noticing life’s little joys and excellent exchanges.
- Read more books – let language seep into your life in non-digital ways, let stories remind you that the world is full of big and tiny tales just waiting to be noticed, of words strung together in important, heartfelt or interesting ways.
- Especially read biographies and follow the names and places within them to further research – they are glimmering threads to other good and life altering things, if you grab hold of them.
- Track sounds, colours and patterns and shapes and lines – look all around the things you see. Notice how colour brings things to life. Spot patterns hiding everywhere. Listen closely. See the light. Note things down. Or record them on your phone – literally or via your own audio commentary/notes.
- Watch lots of old movies or documentaries. Again. Buck the fad trend. Dive into YouTube or the like and be led by your own head and heart as you explore the world and the lives of others via film.
- Forget fads of fancy or perfect or expert-sounding – and spend time on people, places, causes and things that are meaningful and heartfelt and compelling TO YOU! Even if it seems weird to other people!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, peaches!
Love to youse.