I sat on the bench and marveled at the birds splashing in the puddle in front of me. Sitting high on a hill overlooking Kiev, Ukraine, I reveled in the warmth of the midday sun. Winter was fast approaching, but one last Indian Summer (or Baba Leta as it’s known in Russian) pushed off the impending cold, filling the sky with that warm fall glow that sits nicely inside your soul.
It was the fall of 1998, and I had been in Kiev for just a few weeks. I’d finally learned my way around the city enough that I felt confident exploring on my own, and I’d stumbled upon a lovely little grassy area on the hill overlooking the Dnieper River. On this particular day, I struggled with a serious bout of homesickness, and I just needed to sit in the warm sun and remember why I’d chosen to take this adventure.
This was back before Twitter and Facebook let you remain active in the lives of your loved ones far away. I had just learned how to use email, but I had to track down a smokey internet cafe to sign on, and even then the connection was slow and unstable. Calling internationally was expensive, so I had to rely on once a week phone calls to my parents that were short and sweet.
Basically I was living in the dark ages. HOW DID WE EVEN SURVIVE BACK THEN?!
No one knew who I was during those four months in Kiev. I didn’t have a “platform” on which to share my adventures, or my stupidity depending on who you ask.
(It truly is a miracle that I survived some of the situations I put myself in. God’s grace is real, my friends, and it is sufficient even for a 20 year old who chooses to traverse the world on her own without fear of consequence.)
I lived that semester in relative anonymity, choosing to relish life not for the stories that I could chronicle, but simply because life is short and we must live while we’re here.
Blogging and social media have changed the way we live our lives. In some ways this is a good change. We can see one another and remain connected like never before. My parents are living abroad now, and yet I can still send daily texts through an app on my phone, which kind of weirds me out a little bit.
I hit send on a text and the words float through the air, ACROSS THE OCEAN and land on their phone in a split second. WHAT?!
We are officially living in the future.
In other ways, however, this social media thing has had a negative impact. Instead of simply living for the sake of the adventure, we get caught up in living for the sake of the next great post.
We don’t share the messy as much as we should, but instead life has become a perfectly edited, overly filtered Instagram shot. We share the happy moments, which can almost make it seem as though our lives are filled with rainbows and puppies and all things nice.
I don’t have a problem with this, by the way. There is a lot of talk about “honest blogging,” and “being real” online. I agree with those sentiments, but I think we should be careful that our honesty isn’t at the expense of the ones closest to us.
The platform building aspect of social media has become a bit of a rat race to the top. It’s a necessary evil for those of us who are working toward publication, and who are making a career out of our creative pursuits. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t exhausting.
There are days when I long for the anonymity of that Ukrainian hilltop. I want to do a better job of living to live, rather than living to be seen. There was nothing significant about that moment in the sun. No one around knew who I was, nor did they really care. It was just a moment of peace that I didn’t share with anyone but a few birds splashing in a puddle.
May we all strive for those quiet moments whenever we can.
Do any of you get exhausted with the perceived need to build a platform? For those of you who, like me, need to have platform in order to best do your job, do you seek out quiet moments that are yours alone, not to be shared with the online world? How do you strike this balance?
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I was struggling hard with this because after a year of having uber-cool content to blog about I felt the tug to keep it up and make a smooth slide to the new platform and hopefully retain a few readers. But God had other ideas. In fact, I am fairly certain He shut us down because He knew I could not handle this well. And if ever I’ve needed to just focus on what is right in front of me and not be so caught up in how to present it to the world, it would be now. I keep reminding myself Mother Teresa never made any effort to market what she was doing. She just did it. The world found her on their own.
Not that I am anywhere near Mother Teresa…. Seriously.
But I do need real prayer here. My role with EMI will be to create visual and written content that helps spread the word. It is going to have to be all God and no me.