A scowl violently gripped my face as I stared at my phone. I turned it off, slid it into my bag, and stared out the bus window. It seemed like fatigue and frustration were settling on me like the dust from the dirty transit vents. Social media was exhausting me. I’d hit a saturation point of sharing and consuming content.
“What’s the point?” I thought to myself while I watched the Manhattan skyline unfurl itself as we passed down the road. “I’m tired of sharing my stories and art with people. The more time I spend online, the more lost I feel. It’s an endless sea of videos and images that robs me of my time and confidence. I don’t care anymore.” And at that moment, I decided to work exclusively in analog.
I retrieved my phone from my bag and deactivated all of my accounts. I deleted every app, turned the phone off again, and walked off the bus. As I climbed the stairs to my apartment, the scowl lifted from my face. In fact, a smile took its place. My notebooks and paint greeted me like we had never skipped a beat. I sat at my table and drew for hours while listening to music.
There were no distractions. No buzzing notifications. No hours lost to endless scrolling through videos and pictures. No emotional hangovers from comparing myself to other people’s perfectly edited pages.
There was only the paint and me.
Apathy weaved its threads around me like a cocoon. Night after night I wrote, painted, and took photos. The idea of sharing any of them made me angry. “I’m not doing this for approval or acceptance” I’d hiss to myself while priming my masonite boards. My breath quickened. The angrier I got, the more paint flew through the room. The emotion just flowed through me and into my work. “Enough”, I said to myself as I sat dejected on my living room floor, covered in black latex paint.
I cleaned the mess and returned to my work the next week. The idea of a diamond had been in my mind during this period. I had done several studies over a 7 month period. It was very different from any of my other work. It required more concentration and precision.
As I worked on it, I realized where my apathy came from. Self-promotion was taking me away from what I loved most – creating. It was also subtly altering the definition of success in my mind. It became an unwinnable popularity contest that left me uninspired and sad.
By stepping away, I was able to realize that success is a feeling and not an accomplishment. I’ve made so many things that I am proud of – but the feeling of success has ebbed and flowed. When I seek approval and attention in the abyss of the internet, I feel an acute sense of failure. The highs and lows are akin to a freebase comedown. Yet when I define success for myself, it is a feeling I can consistently maintain.
As I hung the finished painting, The Diamond, I smiled. The style was so new and different. It was something I did for myself, and no one else. To me, it was a total success. And right now, that’s all that matters.
“Remember diamonds are created under pressure so hold on, it will be your time to shine soon.” ― Sope Agbelusi