Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

Don't Instagram the Fucking Trees: Advice from So Sad Today

Sometimes you just need to flee humanity and get yourself to the nearest woods, desert, pond, river, or lake. While there, avoid the urge to log on.

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Jan 4 2018, 4:22pm

Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

Dear So Sad Today,

How do we survive amidst the mainstream trash of generation K (K for Kardashian), the age of pointless affectations, excessive navel-gazing, and existing only for looks?

Thanks,

Kaught

Dear Kaught,

I know. The Ks are everywhere. And it only seems to be getting worse. They’re proliferating! How many more of them are there going to be? Their breeding seems infinite.

For years, I did a good job of escaping the Kardashians. I didn’t watch the show or fall into clickholes. I remained dispassionate. Then one day I found myself in a three-hour google vortex involving the true substance of Kylie’s lips and who Scott Disick was fucking. Occasionally, we all fall in the hole. Have compassion for yourself if you do.

But as you pointed out, it’s not just the Kardashianization of it all, but the proliferation of superficial corporate signifiers—particularly in headline jargon—that’s a real creeper. The other day, a friend of mine (who is neither stupid nor superficial) referred to an online clothing chain as EVERYTHING, as in, “that store is EVERYTHING.” At first, I wanted to say, “No! Look what they’ve done to you! The universe is everything! Love is everything! The mystery is everything! That’s just a fucking boutique.” But we must have compassion for others who have drank the elixir. When we’re all swimming in it, it seems impossible not to.

So what do we do? In attempting to parse himself from the social meganarratives of conformity that bled from the 50s into the 60s, Timothy Leary said, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out.” For me, nowadays, I’d say it’s more a question of: “Go Away, Go In, Create.”

In terms of “Go Away,” I do mean flee humanity. Get yourself to the nearest woods, desert, pond, river, lake, or field where there are very few people. If you live in a city and transportation out of the city is impossible, find an abandoned stairwell. Just sit there. Take in the glory of silence, of emptiness, the way there is no media fingerprint on anything. Feel yourself miss, and even crave, that media. Fight the urge to tweet about silence. Don’t Instagram the fucking trees. But have compassion for that instinct.

In terms of “Go In,” it’s time to start meditating. Despite what some Silicon Valley bros will tell you, meditation is free, requires no equipment, and any human being can do it. I’ve been meditating for many years, the first ten of which I used no instruction other than a few free classes, podcasts, and YouTube videos, and can truly say that inner space is the one place on Earth that’s actually your own. It’s where we can have an infinite quantity of something (nothingness) that won’t hurt us. It’s where we get to be truly free.

Of course, we don’t always feel free in innerspace. Some days it’s bliss and some days Khloe Kardashian’s baby bump sneaks in there and we think about that. It’s fine. We are thinking creatures. If you can’t stop thinking it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. You’re probably doing it right. Trust that those thoughts need to be purged.

As for “Create,” it doesn’t matter whether you are an artist, writer or musician, or not. The point is that you are making something that is your own brainchild and not consuming someone else’s. Anyone can make something—be it a long, handwritten letter to a friend, a giant stack of sandwiches for the unhoused in your neighborhood, or something craftier. The point is that it’s you dictating the narrative, not the Kardashians.

xo

So Sad Today

Dear So Sad Today,

You say in your book, “I know I have an ocean of sadness and I have been damming it my whole life. I always imagined that something was supposed to rescue me from the ocean. But maybe the ocean is its own rescue—a reprieve from the linear mind and into the world of feeling. Shouldn’t someone have told me this at birth? Shouldn’t someone have said, ‘Enjoy your ocean of sadness, there is nothing to fear in it,’ so I didn’t have to build all those dams?”

How do I enjoy my “ocean of sadness”? Feeling sad things so much just makes me unhappier. Feeling anything so much in fact. I feel the same as you do about how people like us spend so much time building dams, but could we even avoid it? The ocean of sadness sometimes comes in waves but many other times comes as a whole ocean and it’s quite terrifying not knowing what is gonna happen the next time.

Thanks,

Swimmer

Dear Swimmer,

I find that I have to take things one day at a time, or one feeling at a time. It’s important for me to remember that everything is always changing. Feelings are scarier to me when they seem permanent, like an eternal state that is going to suffocate me. I can perceive one wave as an entire ocean, forgetting that it will always break—even if there is another, similar wave behind it.

I’ve also discovered that many of the things that felt like “the way” out of sadness ended up being bad for me. So I guess what I am saying most of all is beware of what seems to be “the cure” for overwhelming feelings, for being human, and focus more on incremental changes. Don’t buy into anything that says it can dam the bad feelings permanently. Don’t let our society’s focus on selling you happiness make you feel like there is something wrong with you.

Of course, it is human to seek to escape negative feelings just as it is human to have them. There are moments in my life where I am grateful for being such a sensitive person, but it’s usually after I’ve gone through something—not during. Everyone seeks refuge in things that might not benefit us, to some extent. But to totally eradicate that sadness is to eradicate one’s own humanity.

On the @sosadtoday Twitter account, I appear to be sad all the time. That’s because it’s only conveying one side of me—the side I don’t feel like I can express in waking life. It’s my outlet for feelings I’ve had to “dress up” IRL. Before I found a way to express these feelings via the account, my attempts to eliminate them almost killed me. Sadness seeks to be felt. It will always come out in one way or another. And the less we strive to feel good all the time, or present ourselves as “all good” (inhuman), the more fully integrated we are.

xo

So Sad Today


Buy So Sad Today: Personal Essays on Amazon, and follow her on Twitter.

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