I’ve had the discussion before, that if it weren’t for the internet, blogging, and social networking, I surely wouldn’t have turned out the same. Always an introvert, where others found ease expressing themselves with others, I was taken by fear and anxiety. The internet, writing, and connecting to others online was a welcome haven for developing an identity for myself, for expressing myself. Take from it what you will, I would never say that this is the healthiest way to raise a developing mind. I’m sure my social skills could have used with a little more time in the playground or on the basketball court, and I wish sometimes that I would have found the courage to just be me a little earlier in my life… but that’s another story all together.
After listening to a talk this morning from A Course in Miracles teacher, Ken Wapnick, I was inspired to think of my earliest memories. He mentioned that more often than not, our earliest memory is based on an experience of victimization. In the rare case where it is a happy memory, it’s often because this is the first happy experience that a person has felt. Then from here, we seem to build our lives up around this memory, and often times many of our defining traits as an adult are based around our reaction to this early trauma.
I don’t dare to call myself an expert on the human mind. Psychology has played little to no influence in my education, but I can tell you one thing – as troubled as my mind and mental health has been at times, I’ve come to be an expert in the patterns and the defining characteristics that I base my decisions around: namely fear, and the desire to please others at all costs. But my early memories are blurry. I feel at times like my memories have actually been told to me in stories and seen in pictures from photo albums. I often question which of my memories are actually genuine recollections of experience and which are just my mind recalling an image or conversation.
But whether fable or photograph, I can pull a few things up about my early years:
- I felt rejection from my peers. Being pushed to the outskirts and excluded from my peer groups is a reoccurring theme.
- I felt comfort in acceptance. This seems obvious, but the times I felt most happy and at peace were with the family and friends that accepted me completely and had patience, intrigue and interest in participating in the games and imaginings that others saw as odd, as feminine, or as peculiar to what a boy ought to be thinking and doing.
- I felt a desire to please others. I never wanted to disappoint, I always wanted to win and to be seen as perfect by my family and friends. Winning and being seen as a winner was more important to me than doing the things that really made me happy.
So, how does this bring me to the internet? How does the online world play into the life of a man, who like many others felt mistreated? Because these things are not the rantings and ravings of someone who truly feels victimized, but I can see as clear as day that I have fixated on the memories that would have me think that I suffered more than others around me. The internet became a coping mechanism for these feelings. When I felt excluded and shamed by my peers, I became ever-increasingly more introverted. I felt like the world inside of my head was the only world that I could control. The outcomes and scenarios that were playing themselves out in the external world were painful and though I wished for a sense of belonging and understanding, this never seemed to be the case.
The internet was a playground of expression and connection. Blogging, communicating, and sharing with a community that couldn’t see or reject me became a comfort. I felt brave enough to share there the writings and ramblings that I couldn’t imagine sharing with my kin. I was writing from a very early age and the escape I found in the pages of my journals, translated easily to the blogging world, except it came with a somewhat anonymous audience. I started getting applause and attention because of my writing, and I started feeling even more comfortable sharing my deep thoughts. When social media became prevalent, I found more and more platforms for which I could express myself and not feel the same sting of rejection that I felt in person.
Being online became increasingly comfortable, being offline became increasingly uncomfortable. I am thankful for the ability to escape as a teenager, the ability to connect with others in the LGBTQ community, to find a spiritual community of other A Course in Miracles students. If it weren’t for the internet, I would have likely not come to know ACIM, and still be struggling with the religious roots that helped raise me. I wouldn’t have met the first man that I fell in love with, I wouldn’t have entered into the career that I’m in today, and I likely would have not traveled the world as extensively. But I like to believe that I would have. Even though I am thankful that we can find a community of like-minded peers online wherever we go, I am beginning to see the damaging effects that these technologies have had on my mental health and my ability to successfully operate in one-on-one relationships.
I’m not setting out to change the world. I’m not ready to throw away my electronics and head to a secluded cabin in the woods, but the prospect of being completely cut off from the buzzing wires and the neurotically humming screens is getting more and more appealing in my middle age. I only wonder about the growing and the healing that I otherwise would have had to commit myself too, if I didn’t have an escape. I can’t help but wonder if I would have dealt with my fear differently, if I would have shared my writing and my innermost thoughts with my family earlier, and if I would have perhaps followed my heart a little earlier.
But I am not here to wonder. I am not here to be the victim of my own self-abuse. I am here to reveal the dreamer, the writer, the healer, and the spiritual soul that has been underneath all along.
Trevor Ellestad is a writer, an herbalist, and an ex-yoga teacher who spends his days creating plant-based magic at Vega. Trevor keeps a tidy home with his partner and their as of yet un-named spider monkey of a kitty cat in Vancouver, BC. At night, Trevor likes to surround himself with plants and obsess over the seemingly simple lives of cats and robots.