Hi, I’m Rachel and I was single for 6 years.
(This is the part where you say, this sounds like a post you wrote about four years ago. Not ringing a bell? Go read it! It’s called, Single. I can wait …)
Seriously. I. CAN. WAIT.
Maybe not well, but I can wait. Being single is not torture … unless your deepest desire is to be married and have a family. In that case, it’s a bit … uncomfortable. Singleness, just like marriage, is a blessing. Neither are qualifiers of our value or worth and yet, we sort of do that to ourselves and each other.
Let me give you an example.
I have been single for six years. In that timeframe I have: completed grad school where I obtained a Masters in Counseling Psychology with a focus in Expressive Arts Therapy and began the quest for 3,000 hours so I could sit for my licensing exam, developed a counseling program at a K-8 school in San Francisco, went on 5 missions trips and visited 6 countries, helped my friends grow their non-profit by helping design curriculum and implement the program at different sites, designated Fridays for four of those years to spending time with my God daughter and invest in her life, worked a full and part time job for 6 of those months while I took 3 extra online classes, moved every month or so to a new living situation for 4 of those years, uprooted my life in San Francisco to move to the Philippines to then return unexpectedly two months later to rebuild from the ground up, and I studied for and passed my state licensing exam and am now a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
Sprinkled in those 6 years were times of incredible pain, heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal, joy, celebration, accomplishments, victories, surprises of all kinds, lessons learned, coffee, boba, and I did some cool things with my hair.
In all that time I posted on Instagram. I blogged (very little, far less than I should have. Forgive me?) I bring up social media because it is the stage for this example. I’ve done some pretty amazing things I am so proud of and I’ve posted about them. I’ve gone through some rough times which I tried to be as transparent and vulnerable as possible to an online community. I’ve gotten likes and comments, some people sent DM’s or personally reached out through text or phone calls. But in these past six years, nothing (emphasis on NOTHING) has received as many “likes”, comments, or DM’s like one of my latest posts, January 26, 2019, to be exact. (Weird time to invite you to follow me on Instagram? The link can be found in the upper right hand corner. Shameless, I know.)
Back in 2014 I met a boy. He was very sweet and kind and he became the perfect friend. We enjoyed conversations with one another and loved going out for coffee. He quickly became one of the most reliable people in my life. I did not have a place to live and so I was blessed by the kindness of people letting me couch surf or looked forward to the house sitting gigs that would allow me some privacy. For the majority of these moves, this boy would help me pack all my stuff in my car and unpack at the next spot.
We shared a lot with each other. He would tell me about his past and the miracle his life had become and I would tell him my pain and the hope I had for my future. He became my best friend. I think he has officially seen me cry more than any other human being and he’s seen ALL the cries. You know how moms can hear their baby and say, “Oh, she’s hungry” or, “He needs his diaper changed”? Well, he can basically tell you what I need based on the type of cry I have. He knows me.
Over the last several years we have established a very solid friendship. It’s been through a lot. We’ve both grown as individuals and have seen miracles and healing happen in our lives spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. We have grown more into the people we were created to be, and eventually, we grew together.
He wouldn’t mind me sharing this with you, but over the years he would tell me he had feelings for me, more than “friend” feelings. I would hear him out and then let him know it wasn’t like that and if it was too difficult for him to be friends with me, we could stop hanging out. It’s another blog for another time, but I was really skeptical and I was untrusting. Not necessarily of him, but of people, especially those who professed to have those kind of feelings for me.
Seriously, another blog for another time and I’ll tell you the details of the unraveling of my feelings and the walls that I chose to have eliminated from my life and the events and conversations that led to me expressing that I had the same feelings, but I was only comfortable sharing them and I wasn’t ready to do anything about them. *insert monkey covering face emoji*
Fast forward >>>
We were on the phone one night and in an unplanned conversation we started to discuss the difficulty it was becoming to rightfully describe who he is to me and who I am to him. I always talked about him and said “my friend”, but that led people to ask me if I was dating “so and so” or asking if I was excited to be in a new city where I could meet new people.
He said, “Ok, do you want to be my girlfriend?” I laughed because at 36 years old the word “girlfriend” sounded hilarious, but I said, “OK”. So there it was, January 12 I became a girlfriend for the first time in 6 years. Again, another blog for another time, but it was literally 6 years to the day since I had ended my last relationship and began this new one.
Seeing as I hadn’t been a girlfriend in so long I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next. These days there seems to be a big “to do” about a lot of life events. Like most of us regularly do, I consulted with Google to see if there was some “relationship reveal” party that was trending. Alas, it came to social media. Having abandoned Facebook for the cesspool of unwanted opinions it had become, I couldn’t simply click “in a relationship” as a status update.
I opened Instagram. It’s not really anything special, I do that everyday, probably more than I should. I like scrolling and I really enjoy makeup and hair tutorials that I will never try … another blog for another day.
He had already posted a picture of us and it had gotten “likes” and comments, but that’s pretty normal for his account. He’s a likable guy. He could post that he’s drinking coffee and it would get more “likes” than 10 of mine combined could in a week.
I found a picture of the two of us, slapped on a witty caption and hit publish like always.
But then ….
The “likes” came flowing in, people who were ghost followers were manifesting into actual people engaging with my content, the comments and DM’s kept popping up on the navigation bar on the bottom of the screen. People were excited, they offered emojis, the “I knew its” that I knew were coming, congratulations, and genuine interest in this social media announcement. Rachel was no longer single, and the interesting thing was, a lot more people cared and took notice than they had through anything else over the past 6 years.
You could talk to me about algorithms and the way Instagram is set up, but I would stop listening as soon as you started talking. This post isn’t me bashing people either. I’m also not suggesting that people haven’t taken interest in my life or haven’t been supportive with any of the other life events I listed in the beginning of this post.
This is simply an observation of the stark contrast of the attention received for this event. It’s all over social media. People get married, have kids, even get an adorable pet, and the “likes” increase. People will engage more with posts of that nature. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But here’s my question … what about the people who post other parts of their life that matter to them? What about those who don’t or won’t have a relationship or kids to add to their feed? How about the people who have relationships or children and don’t want to make that the focal point of their platform? How about the people who don’t take pictures well or don’t have a witty comment or inspirational quote to accompany their photos? Are we to believe that becoming “we” is greater than if it is just me?
These things are not to define us, or declare that we have made it to a certain level or value in life, but social media suggests otherwise and the truth of that is, we are social media. It seems the more we put out what people want to see, the more engagement we receive and who doesn’t want to have human interaction, especially on social media where the entire premise is based off being connected with community?
If we become obedient or dependent on only posting what people will take active interest in through double taps, comments or shares, will we become less interested in things we actually enjoy because they don’t seem to draw interest of the people we are connected with? Will we become so focused on the social media attention that we curate our lives to fit the interests of others?
My challenge is this, instead of solely looking for people to post the content we want or prefer to see from them, let’s stop, and see the content they are putting out for their followers to see. Sometimes the picture is blurry or random, but it’s the caption they want us to take time to read. Our posts are an indication of what is important to us, it is a window into what we might need or be asking our social media community for. It may be the only way some people know how to be seen in a world that otherwise doesn’t pay any mind to the things that individual values. It may be that our lack of engagement with their content is because we see it as less than because it’s not one of the shiny, bright life achievements we say don’t define us, but like I said,
My last post has proven otherwise. All I’m asking is for all of us to move forward and prove me wrong.