On Silence

In 2013, I decided to stop writing my blog, which I had been posting to daily since 2009 when I graduated college. I dreamed of being a writer, so I would write every day. And I did. I wrote when I didn't want to write, when I wasn't inspired. I got in trouble for my writing, upset people, embarassed myself (and probably others). But mostly, I wrote about stuff I wanted to write about and others found interesting, and occasionally helpful and inspiring.

I developed my audience, built a following, wrote a book over the course of a year compiling everything I knew about fitness, started ebook collabs with fitness and wellness authors. I guest posted on big name fitness blogs, made about $1000 on my book when I launched it, and even started making YouTube videos.

Then, in 2013 I stopped abruptly. The reason I gave was that the blog was taking my attention away from my relationship with my now-wife. In the years following, I wrote an occasional essay, toying with getting back into writing regularly, but eventually it petered out. Not for lack of a desire to write, nor a lack of an audience or even a lack of things to write about. I had as many opinions as ever. But, I suddenly found the act of expressing my opinions offensive, like using the toilet: everyone does it, but it's not something you should do in public. At the height of my writing, I felt like I had a lot to share. I was mostly a self-esteem author, which bled over into fitness, but I was combatting the tendencey of people to see themselves as weak or ineffectual. I wanted to help people feel good about themselves, authentically and honestly, so that they could pursue their dreams and goals with confidence. I am not very activist-minded, but the one injustice I cannot tolerate is that of depriving people of an education and indoctrinating kids in their own weakness.

And I had a lot of good ideas on the topic. I had struggled with depression and a general feeling of self-oppression in high school and got myself out of it by studying Buddhism and psychology, taking up meditation and self-analysis as a way of life. I studied psychology in college, then tackled my social ineffectiveness and physical weakness, which all contributed to my self-image as basically useless. As I took up teaching and coaching, I learned how to motivate others, and more importantly, how to give them actual tools for overcoming their self-imposed shortcomings, as well as a few for helping them deal with (if not overcome) externally-imposed ones.

But nobody was asking me for this. I was writing because I wanted to write. Even my readers mostly expressed "thank you for sharing," comments, but nobody asked me for help or specific topics. The one person who had directly asked me for advice on fitness, inspiring me to write my book, never followed up. I never felt like there was really any audience engagement: nothing I wrote led to any interesting conversations, online or offline. It was, as my high school philosophy teacher called his subject, intellectual masturbation. At best, I was mostly just externally processing my emotions and doing self-therapy in public.

Despite the energy I was putting into sharing, it felt like a mostly selfish endeavor. In the end, I began to feel like sharing all these ideas unsolicited was presumptuous. Not that it was bothering anyone, because I wasn't taking up that much space on the internet, but it was cultivating an attitude in me that my ideas were worth sharing, regardless of whether anyone wanted to hear them or not. And THAT was influencing my life and relationships in ways I didn't like.

So I stopped. Nobody cared except my mom.

On reading this, yeah it almost sounds sad, but saying nobody cared is actually quite liberating. I can stop trying to be successful. I always loved the feeling of being "in-between" I would experience on airplanes. Nobody could reach me, and I was totally anonymous, lost in the airline system, just another ticket in a seat in a random metal cylinder hurtling through the empty sky. I didn't have to do anything or be anything at all.

So, being unmissed wasn't actually a bad thing. It made me feel unburdened, the sort of inhuman beauty of a mountain range that doesn't have any space or concern for the meanings we attach to our lives. That was liberating for me. And in a way, it still is. I always wanted to be useful or to help, but not because it was fulfilling to me. I wanted to be useful because I thought I should be useful, so that I wouldn't be forgotten, like while I had the responsibility of being alive, I ought to do something with it by improving the world and "leaving my mark." Whether that meant doing something noteworthy or just doing something that improved the lives of others without reference to myself didn't really matter.

But when I was already forgotten, it didn't matter. I could let go of that struggle and just rest. And that is what I've sought all along: the freedom to die, or maybe the freedom of having already died. Not literally, though sometimes I wonder. Mostly die in the sense of "not matter," not be in memory or in people's thoughts. I love being unmissed and forgotten, more than I like being noticed. The middle of a journey or a road trip, when others are waiting and you can't really do anything, and you've sort of fallen through the cracks of life for a while is my favorite time.

Maybe it's because I've always felt that I needed to be important to live a good life, which I owed to my parents and my loved ones. But you know, I don't really want to live at all. I never asked to be alive or have all the expectations thrust upon me. I promised I wouldn't kill myself because I felt I owed it to my parents and my family, not because I actually wanted to live. Now that I'm not suicidal, I still feel like I owe my respectable life to those who love me.

My life is not, nor has it ever been, my own. I don't know if I believe a life ought to be someone's own life, which to me feels specifically Western-individualism. I'm not saying it's bad, just not that I am willing to concede it is definitely a good thing.

On the other hand, I don't actually have to live that way.

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