The White Elephant in the Room

There’s an ongoing debate concerning the online world so many of us spend so much of our time in. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or blogging … some ask, “What’s the point of it all?”.

I have two answers:

1) You get out of it what you put in, so perhaps if you see no return the problem is not the medium – but the user.

2) Community. Perceived or real, these mediums we spend time involved in online can be a community. Different, yes – than the people in our towns we meet for coffee, drinks or golf. However, a community just the same.

Whereas the people I went to high school and college with were friends often by default, through circumstance – the people I befriend on Twitter and Tumblr are people I CHOOSE to know because I WANT to know them. There’s a consciousness to the choices I make online that cannot always exist in face-to-face interaction. It’s become the “white elephant in the room” when I see people now who don’t twitter, aren’t bloggers and don’t have a Tumblr. If they speak up and question how I spend my time [most seem quietly judgmental] I find myself explaining over and over why I do what I do for a living. Over and over, I’m misunderstood and over time it’s helped me to make my peace with being misunderstood and accept my new life because it’s one of my choosing!!!

Now, some of my best friends on this earth are people I first met – online. And … there’s a particular blogger-turned-author who has changed me – and my world – in a huge way, for the better.

The White Elephant in the Room, in this case, is a person. Also, a Tumblr. And a story, that has impacted me in such a profound way – I’ll never look at grief and loss the same way ever again. I’ll probably also never delete my Tumblr even though that’s the one medium I have the least patience for. If I stop participating in Tumblr, to a certain extent – I’d stop being a part of the community that surrounds The White Elephant in the Room. Since Tre is someone I’ve gotten to know outside the high walls of our Tumblr streams, that would break my heart.

I joined Tumblr just over a year ago, in March 2010. My first post was a video of Suzanne Santo singing “honeyhoney, don’t know how“. I didn’t think about my voice before I joined. Or even after I joined. I just knew I wanted an outlet online where I could be somewhat private and a bit anonymous most of the time, share things that inspired me and sometimes vent about the reality of my life which wasn’t always beautiful. My divorce had just been finalized. Some days were good. Some, not. Mostly, I swam in an ocean of grief and dreamed of traveling the world like Elizabeth Gilbert but knowing I didn’t want to do it like she did. Some days I cursed travel for bringing people into my life, who hurt me deeper even … than my ex-husband ever had.

Then in May, I found Tre’s Tumblr. It was then I learned what grief really is. What it’s not. What it can do. What it can’t.

Featured photo of Tré and Alberto courtesy Tré Miller Rodríguez.

Suddenly, I felt less alone. Less sorry for myself. Less hopeless. I don’t have the same story as Tre. However, we both have stories of loss. We’re both women. We’re both driving down the highway of life not always knowing what our next pitstop will be or even, sometimes, what the end destination is. We have good days and bad days, still. Yet, we keep driving. We know that forward motion is the key.

I should say, that I know that – because of Tre.

She taught me to put one foot in front of the other. Not to know that’s a good idea [cause let’s be honest, I already knew that] – but to actually put it into practice. She also taught me to hope for the kind of love she had with Alberto – however brief. It’s the kind of love that makes all the difference. These days I’m usually putting one foot in front of the other onto a plane or off it, into some unknown country or city but…

either way, I keep living and believing real love is out there because Tre inspired me to understand that the presence of grief in my past [or my present] doesn’t have to stop me or define me.

  • April 28, 2011

    Lovely and touching, as always. You are such a deep writer, K. Love the stories.

  • April 28, 2011

    I love the point about “choosing your circle of friends” that you want to associate yourself with. So many, dare I say it, “old folks” and just plain old arrogant neanderthals think that we just chat to random strangers online… it couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Even though we may not have met them, we share similar life goals, pasts, joys and woes… that makes them… “not” strangers.

    I have a tight, creative and inspiring circle of friends online, and I’m glad that your part of it 🙂
    Steve Elmer recently posted…Tim Michelle Sunshine Coast Wedding Photographer

  • April 28, 2011

    Hey Kirsten

    Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise that you’re “odd” for being socially involved with new media. If they can’t understand that there’s a world outside their own (and I don’t mean virtually speaking), and sometimes you have to venture out there by “unconventional” means like Twitter, or blogging. These are are some of the ways some people connect with like minded people and communicate their thoughts. Otherwise you’re just limited to what is around you.

  • April 28, 2011

    Kirsten, I am most grateful to Twitter and blogging and social media because they brought me to you and have truly provided me with a community I lean on, am inspired by and value immensely.

    I love your story with Tre and know that in moments of loss and grief, I too have found great solace and comfort on the internet.
    Thank you for sharing it – and for reminding me of both my own Elizabeth Gilbert-ish aspirations and my online dreaming and wandering.

  • April 28, 2011

    We are always stronger than we think we are! Tre is an inspiration to us all.

    I feel blessed to have discovered social media. It’s transformed my life in so many literally unbelievable ways.

  • April 28, 2011

    Me too I found in blogging what I did not find at the time out there. I started blogging after spending 7 months in Switzerland, which I shared with a good friend and my back then boyfriend. Both of them moved to Hong Kong, and I felt lonely. If it wasn’t for the lovely comments and tweets I don’t even know if I would have stayed. But blogging gave me the strength to try out something new, and taught me that solo can be fun, too.
    Don’t let anyone tell you your odd because your use of social media. It’s the 21st century – doesn’t anyone choose how they want to create their own community?
    Katherina recently posted…One Year of 100 Miles Highway- 12 Photos – 12 Places

  • April 29, 2011

    I think with online friends we remove our walls and go past the bullsh*t so much faster than we would meeting face to face. So many of the travel bloggers have enriched my life and helped me do the impossible.

    Do your own thing lady.
    Erica recently posted…Fitting In – Guadalajara- Mexico

  • April 30, 2011

    It’s all about balance. Offline relationships mean more to me but when you’re traveling, your online friends can be an invaluable support network
    Roy | cruisesurfingz recently posted…What Would You Do If You Had 6 Months To Live

  • April 30, 2011

    I’ve read about Tre’s story and it truly is heartbreaking. It’s so true that we do find online what we sometimes can’t in life. Not only does it take us away from the realities of the world we have to face but we find people who listen because they want to, not because they feel as though they have to. A lovely, touching post, Kirsten.
    Ceri recently posted…Who knew

  • May 02, 2011

    I love this post! I also love the freedom of choosing who to follow, how they are a positive influence on me and make me aspire to be better, stronger, more self confident. I love meeting new people online and then, hopefully, meeting them in real life. Knowing that if something goes wrong, I can post about it on Twitter and then within seconds, I have advice, comfort or humor. I love that. I’m so happy I *found you online! 🙂 And can’t wait to meet up soon.

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