Last night, I had a dream that I was a student. Fairly typical, classroom-style setting. There were about 20 students in the class and the teacher was calling students up one by one to speak about a topic they were passionate about. I was sitting in a chair, dreading the moment I would be singled out to speak. I was finally called up and all eyes were on me. I stood in front of the class and turned toward my fellow classmates, their expectant, eager faces looking up at me.
And I had nothing to say.
I had zero ideas. There were no words that I could summon. Nothing.
And slowly, the teacher’s face turned to a look of disappointment. The students were mocking me. They all had great ideas and opinions. And I had nothing.
I usually slowly wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off each morning, but today the low tones from my phone were jarring.
I had only one thought as I rolled out of bed to take the dog on her walk.
I need to find my voice.
I think it’s becoming easier than ever to fall into this rut of complacency and predictability. Social media makes it so easy to connect that we don’t even need to come up with our own ideas. We can discover new ways to create, build and cook from Pinterest. We can form outlandish opinions based on our connections on Facebook. We can agree with the public via retweet on Twitter. We have (supposedly) heard all sides of the argument and we’ve read the stories and we know the details. We can draw up the headlines in a conversation, and we look like we know what we’re talking about, and we seem so worldly.
But I’m starting to feel like fewer people have original ideas. It’s harder to feel like you’ve created something all your own, without first hearing or seeing it somewhere else.
It’s easier to see what has come first and agree or disagree than it is to form our own opinions.
I will be the first to admit that I am completely addicted to social media. Not even the social aspect of it as much as the need and ability to stay abreast of what’s going on, to feel like I’m in-the-know. I want to feel connected, without actually doing much connecting.
I’m trying to break myself of that habit. Unfortunately I can’t just delete all of my social media accounts because I kind of need to be the social expert for my job. But I did consolidate the apps into a folder on my phone and I tucked that folder into the third swipe screen. I did pretty good for one day, until I realized I could swipe right once and the apps popped right up in the “Siri App Suggestions.” Damn Siri.
What I want to do – need to do – is stop wasting so much time on social media and spend it productively instead. I want to write more. I want to get outside. I want to call my friends. I need to clean my kitchen. And I want to find my voice.
I have gotten used to this mode of constant distractions. In fact, I stopped typing that last sentence and only paused for a moment. But before I started typing again, I almost habitually clicked a new tab to open up Facebook. I can’t focus on a task for more than 5 minutes without immediately wondering what else is going on and what else is being updated that I’m not seeing.
I almost did it again.
I think my dream was some kind of sign. My dreams are always quite detailed and I remember them surprisingly well, but I can usually just trace them back to something I was thinking about that day. Old friends from high school or projects at work. My family often makes an appearance. But this dream doesn’t seem to have any connections. (I guess I was talking about MBA programs with a co-worker a few days ago; I have been thinking about how I need to write more but I’m not sure what to write about.) But I’m going to take it as a sign.
I really do need to find my voice. I need to stop worrying about what other people think and figure out what I think. I need to build the space and time in my life to be creative. I need to find a way to say all of the things that I have to say.