"The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. "
"There's too much to do, I'll just do nothing."
Or.. more recently.
"There's too much to do I have to do everything."
I quit facebook this week. I immediately felt liberated, inspired and ready to conquer the world. Leave it to me to take a simple action and blow it up into a explosively dramatic, romantic challenge for myself.
Ever since I can remember, I have always day dreamed about how much there was in this world to learn and how that very fact completely paralyses me. I can still remember the moment I realized, at about age 10, that there were so many books in the world that there was no possible way I could read them all in my lifetime. Even if I wanted to, I could not by any means study everything there was to know. The knowledge in this world was simply too vast for my tiny brain. "But I want to read every book in the world!" I thought. "How can I live knowing that I will not learn everything there is to know?" Of course my thoughts drifted and life went on... But I never really let go of that fear of never being able to learn everything.
In high school our final project for Grade 12 English Class titled the "Independent Study Unit" a small crash-course on essay writing intended to prepare us for University ( because of course that is where we all were headed... Which one are you going to? Which program?) ... Left me completely overwhelmed. If I remember correctly we had to pick an author and read 1 or 2 of their books, and pull the themes and plot into a sort of study of their work and present it as a meticulously edited 5 page essay. All the reading, notes and preparation and drafts were allowed to be done ahead of time, but the writing of the final paper was to be done 'exam style' in class. I read the books. I studied the themes. I decided on my ideas and wrote my draft but when it came down to writing the paper, I just couldn't do it. I panicked, and didn't show up to write the paper which was worth 20% of my mark. My friends didn't understand, and neither did my teacher. They cornered me in the hallway.They offered to let me take extra time to write it, to tutor me after school. But it was the prospect of not being able to start a seemingly ( to me) epic task that I was battling with. I failed the class. I took it as an online course over the following year. More books, more essays, but I wrote them on my own time and somehow didn't experience the stage fright again.
But I still struggle with the balance of feeling overwhelmed by the things there are to study or do, so much that I decide to do nothing at all ...... For example, although living in downtown Toronto to prospect of the Toronto International Film Festival simply overwhelms me and turns me completely off films for 2 weeks. OR finding myself obsessively doing too much...Last year I was working 45 hours a week and doing 4 hour classes at GeorgeBrown College 3 nights a week. It's all or nothing for me, and I am so far not growing out of it.
Leaving facebook came not out of nowhere, but as a slow brewing climax. I was spending too much time on it. It was sending me ridiculous messages about limiting who I could add as friends. I 'woke-up' from surfing it to look at the clock and realize I had spent 45 minutes of my life staring at other people's mindless banter and photos of themselves squinting at the camera with pursed lips.In other words, it was a disgusting waste of time. And it was disgusting me.
Last weekend I went to my first symphony at Roy Thomson Hall. On my way I kept thinking to myself "I hope I don't fall asleep." "Oh this really isn't for me. I hate sitting still" "What if it's really boring?"
It was a colossal blast. A symphony! I know knew what that word really meant. Witnessing the live orchestra is something I will never forget. It really re inspired in me a hope in human 'culture'. And, it fortified my desire to leave facebook forever. And so, after weeks of humming and hah'ing I finally deleted it.
I initially felt a sense of relief. But now, a few days later I am going a little bit insane.
What should I do with my free time? I have to go out! I have to see concerts. I have to see art! I have to take out 6 cookbooks from the library and study them all. I have to update my blog! I have to fold all my laundry. I have to a scour the city for culture.
So here I am. After a day of torment over doing too much or nothing at all, venting my observations about my own behaviour as a sort of distilling of my own scrambled thoughts.
Who knew quitting facebook would elicit such a withdrawal?
To quote a character from Julia Robert's new chickflick Eat Pray Love: (speaking as an Italian living the life of luxury...Naps, 4 small delicious meals a day, wine at lunch, cheese for dessert.. "You North Americans don't know how to enjoy life! You work work work work.. and then! All weekend you spend on the couch like zombie in pyjamas infront of the television!!"
Am I just a product of my surroundings? Or am I an individual clinging to my early fears of all or nothing.
My question for today is... How do I find a balance between being paralyzed by too many options, and being run down by acting on all of them.
Better get started on that stack of cookbooks...
Just kidding. That's the world's largest library. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.