…Or, my existential crisis, for those of you who were curious WTF was going on.
About two months ago, something just began feeling off. And before I knew it, I was in the middle of a full-blown existential crisis. This is where I am going to give myself some credit and self-compassion. In the last two years: I got divorced, moved to a new country for what I thought would be a short stint and ended up leaving everything behind to make a real go of it in México, started a new job, a close family member was diagnosed with a serious illness, and I had to make a completely new professional and personal reality for myself while I was at it. After barely pausing to stop and look around a bit, it hit me like a ton of fucking bricks, all at once. I didn’t understand where the panic and dread was coming from at first, but once I took a little step back and allowed myself to begin to mourn what I had lost and left behind both figuratively and literally in the United States, it finally dawned on me (with the aid of a lot of therapy) to “cut yourself some slack, girl.” This shit is not easy.
Now, here I am, still deep in the quagmire of existential uncertainty, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say existential dread, not anymore at least. Now I am confronting some important questions like Who am I and how did I get here? How do I move forward from this point with some of the new information I have about myself? These are pretty big questions, and I don’t know if I will ever have a final answer. But as Carl Jung, venerable father of existential psychology, once said, “who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” I would rather continue to live my life wide awake than in some dream directed mercilessly by my subconscious. And so my journey into life wide-awake begins.
And how does this circle back to Facebook? Seems a pretty banal topic after dealing with the weightier existential questions of life. In the middle of my crisis, possibly the worst of it, I decided that I needed to get out of the city and completely disconnect. No cell signal, no internet, no nothing. I took the next flight to southern Mexico and went horseback riding at a remote ranch for a week. Stuff of epic self-discovery movies, I know. I spent a lot of time by myself and with a whole lot of horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and cows who just let me be. After a week of not having access to instant messaging and the lives of friends and colleagues constantly passing in front of my eyes on social media, I decided that leaving Facebook was probably inevitable in the near future.
We work hard to present ourselves one way on a platform like Facebook: happy, living the good life, successful. Nothing to see here, move along. It’s like the equivalent to dreaming awake, if we want to tie it back to Jung. For me, I just didn’t feel like sharing only one part of myself anymore, a nicely curated version of Natalie appropriate for mass consumption. Walt Whitman once wrote in Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Just like Whitman, I want to live all of my contradictions out loud and in real time, and that can only be done in real life. The life where remote ranches in southern Mexico exist for the soul weary traveler to gather up the pieces and begin anew. The life you spend with friends and loved ones, making eye contact, laughing, crying, and holding on tightly to one another. The life you live and share with others who lend a hand and help you dig yourself out of a lonely existential crisis.
Two weeks ago I said my preemptive goodbyes on the FB, and then I pulled the plug. Feel free to look me up in real life.