changing the channel: I’m a bit done with this “curated life” bullshit

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I’m an addict. If I fall in love with something or someone long enough, I tend to become obsessive to the point where the object of my affection becomes my inevitable ruin. That avocado once craved rots, and the passion I once had for someone becomes a tick, a drone, a dull sustained murmur I’m desperate to snuff out. Over the years I’ve gotten remarkably better at being present and self-aware, in spotting a burgeoning addiction as it starts to harvest and breed, and finding ways to lay my pitchfork down, stop, and change course. It sometimes feels like stopping a hurricane with a paperweight, but it’s in this diligence, this constant observance, that allows me to enjoy small things like chickpeas without becoming fixated on them. (I had to issue a chickpea fatwa, and get off the stuff for two weeks to re-learn how to consume it in moderation, and on it goes).

Some addictions can’t be controlled, and I’ve learned to live a life without certain things (alcohol, drugs), but what I’ve witnessed is this: what I’ve gained from leaving those two afflictions behind is so much greater than the cold comfort I experienced in succumbing to them. Perhaps it’s the difference in understanding that it’s okay to rip off the bandaid and feel that tear, that very immediate hurt, versus inching off the tape. We take a sip of this or a snort of that to ease the pain of the ripping, but it’s only a delay, because in the end there will always be the hurt. It’s just a matter of understanding our timeline of when we’re ready to experience it. Do you want to face or prolong it? These days I take my pain as it comes and breathe through it to get beyond it. I’m ripping all the bandaids off, even on the days when I really, really don’t want to deal with the pain.

There’s a point to all of this, I promise.

Lately, I’ve been feeling adrift in all aspects of my life. I’ve completed a creative project that’s out in the world and I haven’t started something new. I move from business project to business project, and then go through the motions of pitching again. I find recipes to post on this space and then glance at the blog a week later and cringe at it. I feel stuck in a lot of ways, and it occurred to me the other night that this space isn’t exactly what I want it to be. Because, for a while, I became addicted to a thing called traffic. I don’t even know where this came from, but I remember being in Spain, spending hours taking and editing these beautiful photos, finding a way to marry image and type that was purposeful to me, to have people unfollow me on Instagram and scores of people not knocking on this virtual door as often. I was puzzled. I gave so much of myself into something I created and 1. I was basing that worth and art on how many people read it–no bueno 2. Some people really just care more about recipes, and that’s cool.

So much as I’d read articles on growing your reader base and followers (part of my other life is to read such articles), I couldn’t help but feel the advice was pat, mechanical, cold. Someone I clearly wasn’t or couldn’t be. If I see one more carefully composed image of a suggestion of a life (requisite sunglasses, macbook air and monogrammed mug–honestly, is this how you live because my living room table right now is a fucking mess. Exhibit A, below)–I might just torch the joint (kidding).

Yes, I like floss (new addiction in the works). Yes, those are birth control pills (how else am I going to remember to take them if they’re not in front of me?). And yes, that was my morning smoothie. That is my real life, and I’ve come to realize I want to share more of this rather than something cultivated.

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I don’t want to optimize my blog post titles for search. I don’t want to leave comments on other people’s sites simply for the sake that they’ll come to my space; I leave comments because I have something thoughtful to say, although most times I’ll tweet out a post I like or share it on Facebook. I asked myself this: If I never plan on making this space commercial, if I’ll never accept ads or sponsored posts or any of that jazz, why do I care about how many people come to this space? Right? I should care that what I create will resonate with a certain kind of reader and the rest will find other sites to suit their tastes and needs. All of this happened this morning (as that’s when I tend to do a lot of my thinking, or obsessing) after reading this piece. Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but this remained with me:

But Carol doesn’t dig much for money anymore. Now she is an organizer at the community development institute she helped establish in an old schoolhouse down the road, working to reconnect people in her community, especially young ones, with their place. It’s what she calls the task of “merging people and landscape back together.” She says that central Appalachia has suffered “erosion—the slow leakage of its people,” and wants to find ways for people to reinhabit the mountains. Root digging is one of them. “Where people are trying to live with the land, there’s always a need of interaction with it. Root digging’s a way to train and educate people to quest, ask questions, be aware of their environment, find empowerment.”

I realize my writing doesn’t only color outside of the lines, it’s a whole other fucking coloring book. I’ve never really been popular. I prefer a small, quiet life instead of a large one. I get anxious over compliments, but I’m getting better at accepting them. It took me years to publish my email address on my site, and I still think about deleting it. I guess what I’m saying is that I write and think about the things people sometimes don’t want to talk about, out loud. I wrote a book that can be construed as too dark, which makes me shake my head because my book is about children desperately trying to climb out of the darkness, but the need for us to skirt the dark remains. I write long, sometimes dramatic, posts here because the only way I’m able to make sense of anything in my life is to write about it, sometimes here, mostly privately. There is a need for me to get things down, commit things to paper as it were, and I’m finding that we live in world of TL;DR.

People don’t have time, nor do they often care about reading something long or winded. They don’t want to excavate the mess of a middle; they prefer their posts neat and packaged and pretty.

Well, I’m not pretty. Maybe not in the conventional sense of the word and much like how I had to quit the chickpea nonsense, I’ve stopped being consumed with this need for traffic, of weighing the value of what I create against the volume of people who choose to read it.

Going forward, I’m going to try my best to be Carol, that root-digger, to find ways in which I can merge my life, what I love, and art in a more complicated and interesting way. Practically, this means that I won’t have a recipe and pretty photograph every day — I plan to dial the recipes down to 2 times a week and make them SPECIAL. Other times, you’ll find longer posts here. A merger of type, photographs, and handwritten words related to what’s going on in my life right now. In this way, I’m trying to be braver, bolder, more honest with myself, while challenging myself in my work.

Because I want to be 80 and seeing something new every single day. I want to create until the clock stops ticking. I don’t want to post a pretty picture just for the sake of posting. I want this space to be a record of another kind of art I want to create.

And I hope you’ll stick around for the journey along the way…

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32 thoughts on “changing the channel: I’m a bit done with this “curated life” bullshit

  1. “I realize my writing doesn’t only color outside of the lines, it’s a whole other fucking coloring book. I’ve never really been popular. I prefer a small, quiet life instead of a large one.” This. It’s nice when I get great feedback on a post or something I wrote, but I feel like I enjoy it better when it’s really me. For me, by me.

    Good luck. Sounds like you’re aiming for the right things. Just don’t get carried away and become a hermit or something. 😉

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  2. Felicia, I absolutely adore your writing! Please don’t stop!! You always offer so much to think about and your style of writing is compelling, something I can only aspire to. I look forward to your posts…

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  3. I so, so relate to this. All these articles talk about being authentic but also presenting a beautifully packaged, well curated (ugh) version of oneself on the blog. Of course, I don’t really like those highly curated blogs, and I don’t think many big/popular blogs are particularly authentic — even those that started out that way tend to lose the realness over time.
    I really like the idea of being “braver, bolder, more honest with myself” and doing challenging and interesting work instead of something bland and SEO-y to bring in the traffic.

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    1. Oh, Jen! What breaks my heart is that there are so. many. blogs. I used to love, and they always, ALWAYS, fall to blight as soon as they get a taste of “fame” or they set out to blog full time. Because it’s no longer a hobby, it’s their livelihood, and sometimes work isn’t as fun anymore.

      I hope for a braver wave to come.

      Warmly, f.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. THIS POST IS SO GOOD

    Seriously… this really resonated with me. I’m a relatively new blogger, and have been feeling so discouraged that all the advice I’ve been finding seems to encourage being phony above all else… exactly the opposite of why I wanted to start blogging in the first place.

    (This is the first post of yours I’ve read, and I am definitely sticking around!)

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    1. Angela,

      Thank you for coming by and I am SO GLAD you are a new reader. I can’t wait to check out your space. Welcome to this strange virtual world. 🙂

      You know, some people put great advice out there. However, it’s hard to attack them because what they’re saying, sadly, works. If you want to be the next big personal style blogger, preen, court brands, develop media kits, network, focus on your “brand” and all that bullshit will often work. But it’s mass market to me. Everyone looks the SAME. Every site looks the SAME. The intention of being authentic is the SAME.

      Because like the reason we read magazines and watch tv shows is to be transported, to be quietly taken away to another beautiful place where our life, and all the bullshit we have to deal with, doesn’t exist. That’s why the advice works–we’re buying into a kind of life. One that we want but maybe can’t exist for us so we can keep reading and pining and copying in hopes that we’ll get there.

      But I’ll tell you. I’m not 25. I no longer keep up with the handbag jones’s (frankly, I can’t afford to and that’s just not my scene anymore), and the idea of networking gives me an anxiety attack. My messy desk? That’s where my work gets done, and I value that life over a perfect “insta” any day of the week.

      Warmly, Felicia

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      1. “That’s why the advice works–we’re buying into a kind of life. One that we want but maybe can’t exist for us so we can keep reading and pining and copying in hopes that we’ll get there.”

        Yes yes yes! This is exactly it. You have articulated exactly what I’ve been struggling with. There’s so much pressure to make your blog inspirational/aspirational/profitable… and all I want to do is have a space to share my photos & recipes & general everyday reality. I feel successful if ten people read my posts and enjoy them. Heck, if even five people do.

        Thanks for your terrific reply.

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  5. I found your blog after I had, what I like to call, a Kinfolk meltdown. I had recently learned about Kinfolk even though I live near Portland where it’s published, and realized my life was not beautifully curated with tea lights and genetically gifted, oddly Scandinavian-looking friends. Your blog post about Kinfolk prevented me from going to a really dark place. It made me appreciate what I have and realize Kinfolk is not real I could never live up to those ideals. I love your blog and your recipes. You are an honest blogger when many are just superficial “content creators”. Please continue to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anna,

      I had no idea. Wow, thank you for this. You know, I’ll be honest about something. Part of me really wanted that Kinfolk life. If you take away the odd beards and homogenous nature of the lot, I craved something simple and bucolic. I wanted to get down to something base in order to create, but as I received issue after issue, I realize the Kinfolk life was yet another way of creating an illusion instead of creating art. They were too busy building a life of fiction versus actually living life, and that’s the kind of expensive bullshit I don’t know. You don’t either 🙂

      I honestly never know how, what I put on this space, affects people. I tend to think it doesn’t because, who am I, right? Who am I that has all this influence and power, and that put me to thinking that it’s not about influence, it’s about going through something real and murky and dark and having the courage to share it.

      A lot of people DID NOT like what I wrote about Kinfolk, but a lot, A LOT, of people did. But what mattered most was that I knew what was real and the people who suspected bullshit felt cool with seeing the artifice in the Kinfolk life and trying to design a life of their own making.

      Warmly, Felicia

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  6. One thing for sure, I check on your blog close to a daily basis. Not only, I’m so thankful to know that people like you exist in the world. Courageous, bold and authentic, please keep going because you really stand out among the other blogs that I’ve chanced upon. & I really appreciate every post on your blog, it’s inspiring! Thank you Felicia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Airin,

      Wow! Thank you so much. It really means a lot to see this. Sometimes I write in a vacuum and wonder who’s reading, or if I’m only writing for myself. And while I do write for ME, it’s really wonderful to see that people care about what I put out there.

      Cheers, f.

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  7. I love this. Thank you. There are only a few blogs I read now (yours is one) because I want to hear the honest, the untidy, the loose ends and leftovers of everyday life. It’s why I live in a 70-year old Cape Cod home that always needs something done, in a neighborhood where every house is different and sidewalks aren’t always straight and garden beds are colorful but not always weeded–lives are lived here. I have a love/hate relationship with those new subdivisions where everything is neat and tidy and clean–one relative calls them “soulless subdivisions.” Beautiful but empty. Many blogs are this way. Thank you for not authoring a blog like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Really really enjoyed reading this post! I feel the exact same way.

    “I don’t want to optimize my blog post titles for search. I don’t want to leave comments on other people’s sites simply for the sake that they’ll come to my space; I leave comments because I have something thoughtful to say, although most times I’ll tweet out a post I like or share it on Facebook”

    This in particular struck a cord with me. I’ve been blogging for 4 or 5 years. I moved blog just over a year ago because although my previous blog was successful I was sick of all the fakery that goes into a “successful” blog. Whilst I too want readers to share my thoughts and ideas with I don’t want it at the expense of forced writing and over analysed posts.

    I’m trying to be more brave with what I post and get a bit more of me back into my blog but its hard as the internet has always been an anonymous space for me.

    I hope I can take some of your advice and get back to why I started blogging in the first place.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more. Once my hobby feels like chore, like work, that’s when I know I have to hit the reset button. I check in with myself every few months and ask myself: do I like what I put on this space? Am I proud of it? Am I challenging myself? Have I grown as an artist as a result of what I put here? I want to be deliberate on what I post and what I say so that it MEANS something, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. I’ve always been quite good at keeping my hobbies true hobbies and not letting them feel like work but for some reason I struggle when it comes to blogging. Perhaps its all the stats, the analytics and the schedules. I’m glad I saw your post though, its definitely prompted me to hit reset!

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  9. I could not agree more with this post, and it’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about lately too. I am so tired of how fake blogging and the like has become, and the staged photos everywhere. I’m in several blogging groups where people stress about their blog stats and complain about blogging wondering if they should quit. My philosophy has always been that I will continue blogging until I don’t want to do it anymore. My blog has always been for me. It’s a place where I can write and share stories, photos, recipes, etc. I know it’s tempting to get caught up in stats and stuff. But I’ve always felt that as long as it’s a safe place for me, I don’t care who is reading it.

    It’s disappointing that people unfollow you because they’d rather read one thing and not another. But I guess it’s like life — when you are true to yourself, you see how your friends (or followers) are. I’m excited to keep reading your blog and see where it goes!

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    1. Leah,

      I see these complaints EVERYWHERE. People want to know how they can make $ off their blog and how fast. How they can get free stuff, take trips and all that jazz, and maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in the internet age and I see this as a hobby, an outlet, or as a means to go to another creative place, but I never assume I should get anything free because I occupy a virtual space. In fact, that’s the reason why I STOPPED getting stuff from publicists, etc, because I felt beholden to them. I felt the work in having accepted something for free, that it isn’t actually free. There is a cost and I didn’t want that cost to be the integrity of this space–a space I’ve always considered an outlet, a hobby.

      Warmly, Felicia

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  10. Thank you for being so honest! I can relate so much to ths post. I recently started blog and struggle with trying to make my pictures “perfect” and appeal to that cultivated life crowd of women who live seemingly perfect lives. I want to be honest and real but at the same time I do think about traffic and who is reading my posts. This has inspired me to worry a little less on the image I’m trying to create and more about finding my real voice. I look forward to reading more from you!

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    1. Ah, no one lives a perfect life. I’ve met some of those people behind the blogs and their lives are far from perfect and that humanness, frailty, is what makes them more interesting to me and sometimes I wish they’d show that side on their blogs. Thank you, thank you, for coming by. Warmly, Felicia

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sure, I follow your blog for the pretty photos and recipes – but even more importantly – it’s for your writing and deep insights! I think you have a very unique story to tell, and I love reading about whatever parts of your life you choose to share 🙂

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  12. I just wanted to tell you that I also love your posts, and I could honestly care less about the recipes most of the time (although they are lovely too).

    Your writing is beautiful. I have hundreds and hundreds of blogs in my Feedly, many of which I only skim through, but I ALWAYS read yours fully. Yours truly make me FEEL. Sometimes I even let your posts build up for a little bit because I like to be able to read a whole bunch of your deep insights all at once.

    So please know that even though a lot of us may not comment often, your words mean a lot to us. I hope you keep writing, both in this space and in works you get published. I’ve read your memoir and will gladly read anything you write!

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    1. Nicole,

      Thank you, thank you. I honestly had no idea. I used to think that my long stories were a soliloquy. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, and I’m excited about refocusing my energy in creating longer, deeper experiences here, and on a podcast idea I have in the works.

      This comment meant so much to me, so thank you for sharing it.

      Warmly, Felicia

      Like

  13. I read your memoir. Loved it. It brought me back to NYC. I was born & raised in the BX. I love your writing and enjoy your travels, pics and food ideas. Keep rocking you’ve come a long way!!!

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  14. amen. I love this post. I wrote about something similar a few weeks ago. I am sick and tired of short and perfectly curated too. of follow backs on instagram or twitter. of all this superficial happiness. that’s not life. not for anyone.

    I love your blog. and I don’t care how long your blog posts are. I don’t mind digging for what’s in there. and I love your way of thinking around things instead of taking them head-on. I think we are somewhat similar in that respect. keep going. I’d miss you if you’d go away xo

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  15. I think, like friends in life, you find your tribe. In real life and on the web, my tribe is quite small, but they are the people that get me, and if people don’t get it, then they probably have their own place elsewhere. Don’t. Stop. Being. Yourself…. Worth is about wanting to click a like button on the better bits of your own life and ignoring things like a messy table in favour of having the life that suits you, not a bunch of bored pintresters. For the record, my table is completely unusable at present. It has a broken macbook and it may well have the pair of sunglasses I lost a while back, but given it has so much else on it I just CAN’T find them.

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  16. I read this piece after spending 10 minutes taking/editing/instagram posting a picture of 1/50 of my bed, consisting of a floral cup of tea and a sleeping mask over a book. Meanwhile the other 49/50 of my bed was covered in clothes and electronic devices.

    I feel guilty of trying to curate life from time to time, but I can’t help how good it makes you feel for a quick moment, as if you’ve successfully published your second post of the day at your blog.

    I don’t know how and when we can all embrace what real life should be – 100 billion different ways, but it would put a much needed end to all the pressure we feel every single day about every single thing in our lives.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece!

    Like

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