I turned 30 this week.
The week prior, and the beginning of this week was uncomfortable - because of the incremental realisation that I am simultaneously exhausted and bored. Exhausted because I feel like there is a disproportionate amount of attention and drama given to things that don't at all warrant it, and nowhere near enough focus on things of actual consequence. Bored because I feel like there's so little around me that actually inspires me in a way that nourishes my soul. Melbourne feels tedious - though this is much more a reflection of my headspace than what's actually going on around me.
I'm sick of people who treat seeming to be doing good work as as important as actually doing it. More activity than action.
I'm sick of people who are so concerned with looking a certain way, rather than being how they are. More appearances than substance.
And I'm petrified that I'm one of them.
There seems so little work of consequence, that when I do stumble across something that resonates I'm overwhelmed with enthusiasm, but I rarely give myself time to absorb all the subtleties and nuances of it - to really learn from it and let it nourish me - before I'm off searching for the next one to inspire me and make me feel like there is something worthwhile to be found amongst the mess and noise. It's like I'm bingeing on all the sugary-sweet information I can get my hands on without even tasting it on the way down.
The problems is I'm consuming so much - critique, opinion, armchair journalism that barely skims the surface - that I'm not getting to the good stuff. Doubly problematic is that instead of inspiring me and focusing my thoughts, this information is creating paralysing doubt.
I'm craving the time and space to do the work, rather than just thinking and talking about it and second guessing it.
15 or so months ago, I had a lovely chat with the extraordinary Ming-zhu Hii which prompted (for better or worse) some kind of shift for her in the way she approached her work as an artist and activist. She wrote about it here. (Seriously read it.) About giving up talking about her work, and instead letting the work do the talking. I'm belatedly having a similar feeling.
We know about Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours principle. But what about when all your time and energy is spent on thinking about it, rather than actually developing your practice. Well, it will certainly take you a lot longer to get to mastery that way I imagine...
When Ming-zhu wrote about her own realisation, there was a strong sense of responsibility and obligation. As I've finally realised that this same sense has been stopping me from letting go too. As people who advocate for change, I think many of us have a feeling of responsibility to bring others along with us - and I don't say this to be sanctimonious. But as Ming-zhu realised all those months ago, I now see that as long as we're just talking about it - rather than diving headlong into it - we're really just playing on the fringes. Perhaps the only real way to create change is by example and let your work speak for itself.
So what to do? 30 seems too early to pull up stumps and just settle in to a life of simultaneous overwhelm and underwhelm - a life of mediocre change making. (What a funny contradiction in terms - but an all too common occurrence in my opinion.)
Though it feels quite trivial, my first step is to cull the information I'm exposed to and become far more selective about my media diet. This means deactivating my Facebook account, giving up social media and online news, getting rid of the tv, and severely limiting the amount of time I spend online - reserving the internet for creating rather than mindlessly consuming. This represents quite a fundamental lifestyle shift for me - someone who spends 10+ hours a day staring at a screen poking around the internet.
It means being very mindful of the quality of information I'm still allowing into my life. That goes for everything - writing, films, music, events, people and conversations.
Short of going on an epic wild global adventure that takes me entirely out of my comfort zone and reminds me how very small our problems are, I'm striving to find something real - something I can tangibly contribute to. Quieting the noise, taking small steps to achieve small goals - after all it is better than no steps toward big goals I think...