It’s all a tradeoff

tradeoff

Ingi says, “everything in life is a tradeoff.”

Every moment spent fighting is a moment you could spend loving, every day spent working a job you abhor is one you could spend cultivating your passion, and for every swipe of your phone’s touchscreen and immersion into a virtual reality, you miss the good stuff happening here in the real world, as I was reminded this afternoon by this essay by Andrew Sullivan. All fears, doubts and excuses aside, it’s the truth.

Yes, everything is a tradeoff, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the life that’s unfolding in front of me.

As a journalist, I spend a lot – I mean a LOT – of time scouring the internet, connecting to others via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and text, compiling information, putting it out there and then obsessively checking to see how many people it has reached, who has liked it, and whether there is any thoughtful commentary on what I’ve written.

At first I ate it all up, loving the process of it, loving the gratification I received when my work was recognized and appreciated, loving the knowledge that something I had done had touched someone else, affected them.

But something changed – maybe a realization that I became a writer to share human stories with human beings, not to watch the numbers – and keeping up with how many people have given whatever I put out there the disembodied thumbs-up of approval just doesn’t seem to matter.

Because everything in life is a tradeoff, and the time I spend seeking out virtual approval in any area of my online existence could be spent face-to-face with a good friend. Or puddle jumping. Or lying in a pile of yellow leaves, grinning, breathing in that leafy smell. All things I make a habit of (come on, imagine me in the leaves – you know that’s something I do). All things I enjoy. All things that trump watching my internet popularity fluctuate as it inevitably will.

These days I just want to be immersed in real life, in my own world, experiencing all the tangible things that are there for me to experience. I don’t want to give up the sense of connection social media gives me with friends and family across the country and the world, but I want to spend more time being present – and not ‘sitting beside you but looking at my phone’ present. Actual, eye-contact, real, intense, deep-connection-with-whatever-is-in-front-of-me present.

And as much as I want that deep connection with other people and the world around me, maybe I want it with myself, too. Maybe that’s what I’m searching for.

Ingi has asked me over and over how I’ll fare in the solitude of the woods for two months.

“You, the social butterfly!” he exclaims, half matter-of-fact, half disdainful, like he might be envious but doesn’t want it to show. “How do you think you’ll cope? How will you do without your Facebook and e-mail?”

The truth is, I don’t know. I love people. I love connecting. And I LOVE laughing. I thrive off a balance of happy company and alone time devoid of obligations. But I want to try the relative quiet of the forest. I want to revel in it. I want to see if my other senses become heightened – if I really see more, really hear my own thoughts.

There are less than two weeks until I leave, now, and the closer that day comes, the busier and more distracted I seem to get. If everything in life is a tradeoff, for now I’ll be the first to take the quiet over the chaos.

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