I’m not really sure the day that I noticed it. It came on pretty gradually. But if I had to guess, I would say that I noticed it the day that the rose fell.
It was just an ordinary rose– that is, if any rose is “just ordinary.” The rose is a wonder– each petal so delicately formed, cocooning around its center and unveiling itself slowly and perfectly to reveal the finished masterpiece. The rose smells different at all stages of development– the buds have a faint, almost “unripe” smell. The first opening of the bud is a little more developed– a little more “rosey” on the nose. The fully open rose is the purest rose scent– it begs you to bury your nose in it and inhale– to fully appreciate the beauty of it. The rose a day past its prime is slightly muted in color and smells similar to potpourri– a last sunny smile before the petals fall. If the spent center is not snipped off the finished rose begins to form a “rose hip,” which looks rather like a tiny crabapple and can be used in tea.
Roses require a lot of work– regular feeding, pruning, staking, training, spraying. In the summer I water them constantly, spray them weekly, feed them regularly, and constantly deadhead them (snip off the spent blooms), as well as spray for pests. I work on my roses every single day, and with each beautiful bloom I know that each moment spent is worth it.
But on that particular day, the rose fell. It wasn’t anything crazy– roses “fall” all the time, especially in the hot summer months. The blooms become exhausted by the heat, get semi-dried on the vine, and then fall– in a shower of petals– to the ground.
But I didn’t see it happen. The rose bloomed, cast its intoxicating scent into the world, and fell without my ever seeing it. I was sitting there working on social media, and I missed the rose. I missed it. I missed smelling it, missed appreciating it. I missed that rose’s whole life, because I was too busy to . . . well, stop and smell the roses. For some reason that hurt.
We have become a society more dependent on social media than ever before. We have school on the computer now. We have meetings and work on the computer. We talk to Grandma on the computer. We order groceries and go to church and visit with friends on the computer. We don’t see the faces of those we interact with when we go into public. Kids sit playing on tablets, their faces illuminated by glowing screens, instead of going outside.
The arrival of all this technology is supposed to be great for us. More technology is supposed to equal better lives for us. But I’m not sure if that’s the case. In the old days you would get in the car and go visit your grandma. You would sit on her couch and watch The Price is Right. You would stroke the couch one way to feel it soft, and one way to feel it rough. You would remember that you aren’t allowed to eat in the living room. You would lean in and kiss her cheek, soft and wrinkled. You would look into her eyes and smile. You would show her where you lost a tooth or proudly present a good report card.
Technology might be great, but it can’t replace hugging your grandma and smelling her rose scented lotion. It can’t replace the smell of cookies baking in the oven, to reward you for good grades. It can’t replace riding your bike with your friends and feeling the wind in your hair, so freely flying that you barely touch the earth. It can’t replace smiling at someone when you pass or laughing with friends and sharing a meal. The “upgrade” of a completely technological based society has taken away everything that made us human, and I’m not sure we are the richer for it.
When I started this blog, I did what most new bloggers do– I dedicated time to my social media. I spent sometimes hours a day on social media, marketing myself, getting the word out there that I existed. I gained a lot of followers. I got a lot of requests for sponsored posts. I became obsessed with getting more followers, more readers, more comments, more . . . more, more, MORE!!!
That particular day I was sitting on the porch, working on social media, yet again– that voracious beast which never seems to have enough or be satisfied, no matter how much time you dedicate to it. And I heard that rose fall. I looked up. My shoulders and eyes hurt. How long had I been sitting here? I rubbed my neck. Soft pink rose petals lay on the ground, splayed like a broken angel. I was suddenly very sad. Here I was, sitting on a beautiful porch surrounded by fragrant, perfect roses that I had worked tirelessly to cultivate. The sun was golden and perfect. The sky was blue perfection. The birds were singing for the very joy of being alive. The butterflies were fluttering in a beautiful symphony over the flowers. And there I was, missing it all, so intent on building my social media that I was missing the very life I was marketing. The painful irony went through me like a knife.
Right there, at that moment, I decided that something had to change. Yes, I was getting lots of free products and sponsored post requests, but they were for weird products I would never buy in real life (radish chips, anyone?). Did simply “more” of everything equal success? Or was there more to it? I started thinking differently about everything. I listened to other food bloggers laughing at the fact that they had never actually made any of the recipes they blogged about. They took the photos beautifully and got the page views, but they didn’t care if the recipes were good or not. They laughed when people clicked on the beautiful photos and gave them a page view (cha-ching!!!), knowing the recipes weren’t any good. One blogger bragged that “How much I like a recipe depends on how much they pay me!” The others laughed: “Been there, done that!” That didn’t sit right with me.
I saw larger bloggers make fun of smaller ones who maybe didn’t have as many page views or as professional of photos, but whose recipes were family ones that were delicious. I found the “mean girl club” sickening. Instead of helping others to learn, these larger bloggers became a club of bullies trying to intimidate and make fun of the little guy. I realized that they probably had made fun of me when I was a small blog, but now of course I was included in their clique because I was big enough. Join the big girls’ club and let’s squash the little guy! I felt nauseous. I didn’t want to be part of it.
I decided that it wasn’t worth it– spending my life on social media to become “an influencer” or some such nonsense. Here was life, occurring all around me in splendid, dizzying beauty, and I was missing it because I was too busy trying to convince people I was enjoying it. Nope. That life was not for me.
At that moment, I did something radical. I basically stopped doing social media. I posted less often– only when I had something good to say, rather than “because a post is due” or because someone important would *maybe* see it and send me free products or ask me to do a sponsored post. I started turning down weird products that no one had ever heard of (and that no one ever wanted to hear of). When asked “why I would turn down free money,” my answer was always the same: “I am not going to recommend products that I don’t personally like and use.” Usually they faded into the woodwork after that.
Yes, I lost some social media followers– not many, but some. Yes, I had people reach out to me and ask why I wasn’t doing as much with social media anymore. One of my former blog friends who had been aggressively posting daily (and sometimes multiple times a day) told me that she was wasting food constantly, making recipes only for photos, and then throwing her recipes in the trash. She told me, “But LOOK AT ALL MY FOLLOWERS!” I smiled and wished her luck. But it wasn’t for me.
Nowadays, instead of focusing on social media so much, I focus on the memories that mean something to me– the recipes that bring me back to childhood. I focus on telling the stories that are bred in my bones– I tell the stories of the people, places, and beautiful memories that mean something to me. Whether anyone reads it or not doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I do it for myself. I find it therapeutic to close my eyes and remember those amazing people, times, and places. It takes effort to call those details forth– to plumb the depths of my mind and remember each little piece of the memory to put it on paper. The people swim to life again before my eyes when I do that. Sometimes it’s difficult or bittersweet to remember those things and think about those loved ones I have lost. Writing it out is a sacrifice– a beautiful one, for sure, but a sacrifice nonetheless.
The recipes are ones I remember from my childhood. I remember Gram’s green melamine plates and the scuffed aluminum tumblers filled to the brim with icy spring water, making the sides of the glass frosty and wet in the summer heat. Those mealtimes meant something to me– not just because the food was good, but because of the loved ones I shared those memories with. Of course I hope that others enjoy them and maybe remember beautiful times from their own childhoods, their minds triggered by a remembrance. But those memories are beautiful to me, whether anyone else reads them or not.
Social media takes all the humanity out of life. It says, “If you don’t have x amount of pageviews, then you are a failure.” It forces people to pump out new content at such frenetic speeds that they burn out, only to be quickly replaced by eager newcomers. It is building a make believe house of cards– pretending to have a picture perfect life while the beautiful roses fall, unnoticed. What a sad thing that is– spending so much time pretending you have a beautiful life that you forget to live.
Since I’ve cut back on social media, I’ve noticed I’ve been happier– more relaxed. I can sit there and enjoy the day instead of trying to stress about working on my Instagram. I can put down a beautiful meal and sit down and eat it hot, instead of fiddling with the photo for so long that it’s cold before I get a chance to taste it. Yes, sometimes I do capture beautiful moments and write about them, but not at the expensive of living. Maybe there aren’t as many people doing things this way, but that’s ok. I’ve always preferred the road less traveled anyway.
The other day someone wrote to me. He said, “I feel like there are a million food blogs out there, and they are all the same. But yours grabbed my attention. Yours is different. Yours has heart.” That made me smile.
Maybe it’s not the way most people go. Maybe I won’t be “famous” or rich doing it this way. Maybe I won’t get as many followers, or as many page views, or as many sponsored posts. In fact, I can guarantee you that I probably won’t.
But at the end of the day I can sit there, enjoying the scent of the roses on my porch. I can admire the intricacy of their beauty. I can appreciate them long before they fall. I can smell each one with appreciation. I can live in the moment, savoring it in real time, instead of living my life through a screen.
I can be alive. I’m happier that way.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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