I am not one who usually writes about a piece of popular “here today, gone tomorrow” news in social media. In today’s society there are enough ups and downs, shocking scandals and blanket statements that show up on my Facebook news feed or my (nonexistent, but for the sake of this post) Twitter feed to make my head spin. And, there are plenty of opinionated twenty-something year olds with something to say, and plenty of people who want to hear what they have to, that it feels as though my time would be wasted on trying to jump on the “pop-culture bandwagon.” I stick to serious topics, and with this blog in particular, I shy away from writing about “just anything.” Like many things in my life, I take my writing incredibly seriously. But, I feel like this needs to be said, so to hell with my self imposed rule.
This post is about one of those particular twenty year olds with an opinion, someone that I have come to respect, whose recent confession of his fears about the world made me stop and think.
His name is Charlie McDonnell, and he lives in London, England. He is a YouTube blogger, and I have been following his videos for the past two and a half years. I absolutely adore Charlie; he’s funny, he’s smart, he’s got that nerdy, yet cool thing about him that makes him rather enjoyable to watch. Most importantly, he’s down to earth and honest. Which is interesting to note considering that he is one of the top YouTube vloggers in the world, with over a million subscribers to date. He’s a seemingly average English dude in his early twenties, yet he has managed to reach more people with his videos than most people would even dare to dream about. He vlogs about everything from science to music. He takes “challenges” from his viewers such as attempting The “Hoedown Throwdown” to hitting every major landmark in London in under two hours. My personal favorite video, titled “Everything Is Fine, is about his in between stage living in his mother’s house while waiting to move into his own. It made me laugh so hard that I fell off my chair at work and made a huge fool of myself. I go back and watch it every time I am in a bad mood. He’s not necessarily serious, and his topics aren’t “informative” but he’s hilarious. And it’s easy to connect to him and his life. Even his seemingly sad, gloomy videos are filled with jokes.
Which is why his latest vlog entry came as a bit of a surprise to me.
Titled I’m Scared, the video shows a very overwhelmed, slightly disconnected Charlie (in black and white no less), confessing his fears to the greater world of the inter-web. He goes on to discuss his now somewhat lost ambitions of film making, his lack of decent YouTube videos in the recent past, and how he can’t help but feel as though he is failing. Poor Charlie is in a rut, and he just needs someone to hear him out. It was strange to watch someone who is usually in control and on top of things (he’s English for crying out loud) share his emotions in such an open manner. But, I guess sharing every aspect of your life with over a million people every day for several years can bring out that kind of exposure in a person.
Here is a man who has achieved worldwide stardom (on a smaller scale than say, Brad Pitt, but he’s getting there), whose popularity has reached every corner of the earth, and yet he has the bravery to bare his soul and tell anyone willing to listening that he is scared to wits end. It was comforting to watch him do something that I am sure must have made him feel worse rather than comfort him. There are those who would argue that putting himself in such vulnerable position would not help him in the long run, but rather hurt is pride, and his career. I’m still deciding my take on it. I tend to be very emotional and open about who I am and what I love to do, which does put me in a state of vulnerability that can cause problems (recently, an author that declined my request for a review emailed me to let me know that he had read my blog and he felt that while I was a fairly good writer, I should, for the sake of myself and every other author in the world, stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, as it will only cause me anguish in the future). So, I find myself siding with Charlie’s bravery and applaud his decision to speak his mind.
But, on the other hand, I find the video a bit dumb. How dare he complain about how horribly uninspired he is lately! He should just take a look back at all of the work he has done in the past years and regain inspiration from that. But, it’s not that simple, is it?
Watching that video was like looking in a mirror and seeing my face on the other side. I know how he feels. Okay, so I don’t know exactly how he feels, but I can relate on a certain level. I am yet to release Shattered Illusions and face the fate of the success (G-d Willing) or failure (G-d forbid) of the novel. It feels like I am standing on a plank, overlooking shark infested waters, just waiting for someone to give me a kick in the back and send me off flying into a black abyss. I have not yet reached the point of no return, but the thought of it makes me sick. I am scared of the world. I am scared of the reactions, good or bad, that may come. I am terrified of the world at large, and all I want to do is hide under my bed. Is that no longer a socially acceptable thing for me to do at the age of twenty?
In the little less than a year since I began my journey to publication, I have been incredibly blessed. I was lucky enough to work with an incredible editor, a fantastic publisher, and I have come out of my shell in ways that I never thought possible. I have begun to blog again. I have allowed myself to express pride and excitement over my work and the great achievement that is within my reach. Yet, I find myself complaining all the time, about everything. I catch myself in moments of stress or overwhelming tasks throwing caution to the wind and pouting like a small, foolish child. I sob hysterically about my failure to keep up with editing. Every time I am asked about the release date, I feel like I want to puke. I feel like I have let myself down, that I should be working harder than I am, and that I am doomed to fail unless I pick up pace and get a move on.
I must note that no one is putting pressure on me. I am putting pressure on myself. But is the pressure of the self-inflicting kind that I find the most harmful these days.
The video sent my mental machinery into overtime. How could someone with as much success and worldwide recognition as Charlie still feel so scared, so empty? And how can I apply this to myself? How can I apply it to the things I have learned, to the wisdom that I have been training myself to take on, the meditations that I have worked so hard to focus on?
It all comes back to happiness. Like every major life event I have come across, everything comes back to whether or not I am truly happy with myself. Where does happiness come from? I have asked myself this question hundreds of times in the past, and I am sure I will ask it again at least a thousand more times before Shattered Illusions hits the shelves. What causes happiness?
A million followers on a YouTube channel and worldwide recognition could certainly jump start one’s self confidence and ego, but I would hardly consider those things the cause of someones happiness.
Hundreds of copies of Shattered Illusions sold will make me feel satisfied, but will it fulfil me? Will thousands of copies sold do the trick, or millions? An external act can aid you in your quest for true happiness, but it is not the source of happiness and should never been considered the source of happiness.
Happiness comes from within. Allowing yourself to believe that other people, or other things can bring you ultimate happiness is like putting a cloth over your eyes and hindering your ability to see the world from your view. By taking in others opinions of happiness and self worth, aren’t you, in a sense, numbing your opinion and taking on theirs?
Charlie’s video was a reminder of this notion, if nothing else.
So, this post turned out to be more “serious” than I expected. But the point was reached. Be who you are, learn to cultivate your happiness from within, not from without, and your ride down the stormy sea of life may turn out to be a bit less bumpy.
I heard from someone recently that if a writer can map out their “game plan” from start to finish, and end exactly as they had planned without making changes to the plot, theme or characters, then the book must be a bunch of baloney and a waist of time. Can the same be said of blog posts?