Category Archives: Twitter

Winning at AntiSocial Media the Steff Way

There’s a social media camp happening over on Vancouver Island, and someone’s first quote was, “Social media isn’t about you.”

Really? Ahem.

Every person I follow or engage with is because they’re offering something unique to them. If it wasn’t about them, I wouldn’t give a shit. If they’re just spouting links with no personal interjection, I don’t care.

T-Shirt design from Despair.com: http://www.despair.com/somevedi.html

If social media isn’t about YOU, then don’t bother.

I could pretend to care more about the people who followed me. I could engage more without provocation. I could follow more people. I could do the “shout-out-by-name” bullshit I so loathe.

And yet… I don’t.

And YET… I’m followed by people in every sector of the industries I’m interested in — and from lofty, lofty places. Editors, publishers, and media magnates follow me.

Largely, I guess, because I’m just “myself” online.

I don’t kiss ass, engage my powerful followers directly, “use” them as contacts, ask anything of them. I don’t do shout-outs or any of the things people will tell you are “good” Twitter.

And it works for me.

Because it’s all me, all day, all the time. I’m consistent, I’m constant, I’m myself, and I’m interesting. I diversify my stuff, I don’t apologize, and I am what I am. Loudly.

Maybe I could have even MORE followers than I do. But if I have to dumb myself down and be “nice” more, then I don’t wanna!

That’s what social media SHOULD be. It should be people being themselves — for better or worse — and putting it out there without apologies, as long as they’re respecting others and not being dicks.

I disagree with people, often, and disagree loudly. Every now and then my passion gets the better of me and I disagree a bit disrespectfully — and that’s not cool. Generally, though, I manage to toe the line pretty well. I still isolate people, but that’s life when you’re bold.

Anyone who follows me because they like my piss-and-vinegar style of sardonic tweeting, but then unfollows me because we one day disagree on a topic, is clearly the sort of person who probably needs more hand-holding in friendship or debates than I’m given to provide. Or, they just plain don’t like diversity in people.

So, y’know, buh-bye.

Do you seriously WANT everyone to like you?

Have you SEEN what “everyone” entails?

These are the people who keep Jersey Shore on the air, who wear Ed Hardy, who slam Brittney Spears in one breath then buy her music in another… People who don’t know what they like, but change their tune once YOU do. People who kept King of Queens on TV for years, who think Tracey Morgan actually IS funny… People who celebrate mediocrity.

You want THEM to like you? What the fuck FOR?

“Hi! I’m mediocre! I’m not really different. But lotsa people follow me!”

Seriously. Maybe this makes me a bitch. Maybe I’m “classist” for thinking there could be better cultural diversity out there.

Shit, I’ll buy that for a dollar, Pat.

Yes, I think my tastes put me in a select group as far as appeal goes, but that’s what branding of any kind should do. I’ll admit, my online presence is a sort of “branding.”

Isn’t yours? It should be. It ain’t selling out — it’s smarting-up, man.

There are those who suggest every person who follows you rates a follow-back. Why? WHY?

In life, does every person who wants to be your friend get to be your friend? NO.

Why? Because not everyone has something to offer you. Often, what they seek from you is what they can’t provide you.

Just because a guy’s interested in me in the Real World doesn’t mean I return that interest — usually because they don’t have anything to teach me, or don’t inspire me in any way, or just don’t make me think I’ll grow from our relationship.

Why should Twitter or Facebook be any different? Because you fuckin’ smell a dollar at the other end? Get real, you likely won’t make a penny off that extra follower, you’ll spread your focus thin, know less about everyone in general, and that’s that. Way to be “social”.

When we stop worrying about winning EVERYONE over to our side, we’ll start having more honest interactions.

And that brings us to the other topic I disagree with from Victoria’s Social Media Camp. “Social media means being social in real life too.”

Yes, to an extent, sure. But you have much to lose from being too visible. One can greatly control their image online. The more you’re social, the less intrigue you create. The more you’re social, the more you have to try to live up to that highly edited, highly opportunistic way of communicating online — and the more you can put your foot in it, so to speak.

Online, I’m funny and edgy and brash. It plays all right in person, too. But there’s some kind of intrigue I’ve created, accidentally, from not attending events often. As a result, I’m now less likely to attend events because I know there’s more buzz from going to them rarely than there is from being omnipresent, and, also, I know the people I do conspire to meet with feel more “special” because I don’t make myself available to everyone all the time.

Seriously, it’s working for me.

A few of my thoughts?

  • Pick your events wisely.
  • Ensure you have people on your side that’ll be there when you do attend.
  • Always know your “safe port in a storm” — a person you sidle up to when things feel they’re slipping away.
  • Make sure you have connections worth making by attending those events, that it’s not just the usual suspects you’ve befriended time and again — that’s not networking, that’s “hanging out”.
  • Shut your mouth until you’re confident your thoughts are relevant and you know what’s honestly being spoken about and even what the going opinions in the discussion are.
  • Don’t steal thunder from presenters at events by hogging questions or diva-ing it up with your resume before you ask a question, because other attendees will resent you. Resentment breeds distrust; way to shoot yourself in the foot. If your question is awesome, that’s ALL the introduction you need.
  • Know the limits of your appeal. Don’t oversell yourself.
  • Less is more.
  • Be interested in others — you’re not as important as you think you are, and showing that interest can be compelling to them.

You can’t undo bad appearances. You can’t take back a first impression. If you’re not feeling like you’re “on”, then don’t risk the damage that can come from appearing at a non-essential event when you’re not on your game.

Networking takes mojo. Being different takes actually operating differently and even taking risks.

And when you play the game, think about the long-term, not just the one event. Will it really help you obtain new ground? Or is it just another networking event where everyone who’s hungry for clients are all out competing for the same piece of meat — like a pack of hyenas on a single little fox’s corpse?

Because that’s most likely the case.

Networking with other entrepreneurs is useful occasionally, but don’t kid yourself that it’s a surefire way to pay the rent. Pick your battles and pick them strategically. In so doing, be yourself, ‘cos no one else has what makes you “you”.

Question is: Do you know what that “uniquely you” thing is? Time to find out, if you don’t.

You should follow me on Twitter, you know. Click Here.

Closet Skeleton Pioneers

A friend of mine laughed at me the other day when I suggested that I was an “oversharer” on the internet.

“Hah! You? Oversharing?”

Yes, I know. Just a smidge. The thing is, I’m pretty good at toeing a line these days. I don’t tell you what I don’t want you to know. Pretty simple.

Learning how to toe that line, though, WHOO. I done fucked up on more than just a few occasions, s o much so that I jokingly referred to myself and those like me, who’ve been oversharing for years, as “Closet Skeleton Pioneers”.

By that I mean that everyone’s got skeletons in their closets — some lover they treated like shit, a job they stole office supplies from, a friend they betrayed, a speeding ticket, you name it.

EVERYONE has been a dick at one point or another. Dig deep enough and you’ll find dirt. (If not, you’re boring, live a little.)

Luckily for me, I hit the age of 21 before the internet got invented.

And my record’s been expunged. Hardy-har, right.

The point is, despite what you think you know about me, I consider myself a really ethical person and there are things I’ve done and said that I hope never see the light of day because I don’t want them taken out of context, since we all know context is EVERYTHING.

And that’s the problem. When you see a photo on the web or a snippet of a conversational exchange, context gets lost and objectivity goes right out the window with it.

We all know that’s true of many events in our lives.

Don’t we?

So who the fuck is doing all the judging?

Are you? Are employers? Is your lover?

Who’s doing the judging when my friend on Twitter reacted yesterday morning after he received an email after a husband found his wife “Facebook cheating” and sent the entire exchange out to their kids’ school’s parents mailing list? Ain’t just the hubby judging now, is it?

What were employers digging up that led Germany to introduce a new law that will make it illegal for them to do job-applicant background searches on Facebook? Probably they were digging up a lot of skeletons, right?

It goes without question: Things you say or do on Facebook, Twitter, and in other areas of the web can absolutely destroy your life.

But who is doing the judging?

There’s a reason it’s so damn hard to become a Saint in the Catholic Church, you know — perfection’s pretty fucking difficult to come by.

When I was a kid in Bible school, I was told a story about Jesus intervening in a stoning, saying to the angry crowd of sanctimonious rock-chuckers “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”, or somethin’ thereabouts.

Really: In 2010, who’s without sin?

I mean, the Catholic Church outlawed SPEEDING, for crying out loud. Everything’s a sin. The Pet Shop Boys had it right.

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

Was Neil looking back at his life on the web? Woulda if he coulda then, I bet.

So, let’s just accept that everyone’s imperfect, and, instead, (like this guy here and his “degrees of evil” guide to killers), get ourselves a handy cheat-sheet of just what level of assoholic or just plain edgy social behaviour one is guilty of and how it ranks them on the Good Versus Dick scale, okay?

Such as:

  • Never emails or messages you back, but pathologically lurks and knows Everything That Happens every time you talk in person. Creepy but not mean.
  • Likes kinky sex and lets everyone know it.
  • Thinks “cleavage” and “profile pic” are synonymous.
  • Considers social media his personal dick-dipping pool and has more numbers in his contacts than the CIA does.
  • Just LOVES drinking wine and doing so liberally. While telling you all about it. Every single night.
  • Keeps getting caught in masturbatory lies that make them sound great, but you know through the grapevine that they’re barely making rent and are shopping at Thrift Stores, while judging others for doing the same kinda “posing”.
  • Has, like the majority of people over 21, tried marijuana or something else questionable at a party at least once.
  • Speaks frankly about their disgust for political figures or employers.
  • Has a spouse yet endlessly flirts with others, without boundaries, and in public.
  • Has a pulse.

I mean, seriously. Half the things I do on a daily basis would probably get me fired from most jobs, because I’d never keep my mouth shut about what I hate and why. My old employers got a giggle out of it, but I assure you — it’s an acquired taste.

Despite what you may think of my loudmouthed, in-your-face, drinks-too-much, full-of-innuendo online persona (and, yes, it somewhat exists offline, and without a backspace key), I’m a good person.

I’m a really, really good person.

I hold the door open for men and little old ladies. I say “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry.” I look people in the eye. I pay my taxes. I’m honest, I don’t steal. I’m a quiet neighbour, a good daughter, a great friend. I bake muffins for lovers. I pay back my debts.

So, if you want to jump to conclusions about me based on the image I portray on the web — knowing I’m a creative person with a gift for fiction — then you’re entirely entitled to do so, and I’m entirely entitled to think you’re a narrow-minded presumptive dick who’s not worthy of my time.

Or maybe I just see you as someone who needs to think outside the box a little more.

Who I am online might have hurt me in the past but it helps me now. I have something to gain from keeping this persona/point-of-view alive. There’ll always be a price I pay as a result of it, but I’m hoping that’s just the cost of doing business.

I’m not the only web-user with a persona, or with skeletons; I’m just hyper-honest about it.

As time goes on, though, all of us will have our skeletons exposed. Then, with more to compare and contrast, we’ll know who the real assholes are — unless, of course, none of it’s true.

And that’s the problem with reaching any conclusions based on the web.

How do you know it’s true? When everyone can enter information and nothing’s necessarily vetted on the web, how do you know it’s true?

Simple: You don’t.

Here’s how I operate.

I watch for how people actually are with each other, online and otherwise: How they argue, how they’ll never let up, how they want the last word, how they judge others, how they talk about others, how they scheme or gossip. Because it’s in their everyday words and behaviour that we really see who people are — special events, like parties with hijinks, are too out-of-context to really give us an inkling of who someone is.

Me, I’ve written a lot over the years, on topics about everything from drinking and drugs to kinky sex, but you’d be wrong if you thought I was particularly wild or exciting anymore.

I’m being boring nowadays. I just make it sound exciting.

And there you have the web in a nutshell, and why laws like Germany’s are long overdue — when it comes to the internet, you can’t believe everything you read. You certainly can’t dismiss it, either. But there are no litmus tests or polygraphs one can administer to online “personality” accounts to judge the veracity of their content.

It’s time people started realizing you really can’t judge any of us on the little you see of us online, and that the skeletons in our closet aren’t nearly as big or scary as you think they are, especially when brought into the light.

If you want to supplement what you know of someone by how they are online, and you can do so judiciously and with many grains of salt, then knock yourself out.

Just don’t be surprised when that spotlight hits your life, too.

In fact, some of your skeletons probably look awfully similar to ours. After all, dontcha know? It’s quid pro quo season on closet skeletons.

In Which Steff Talks About Mental Health

Come Saturday I’ll be giving a talk at Vancouver’s “Mental Health Camp,” where the goal is to get people thinking about stigmas attached to a wide range of mental conditions — from ADHD and depression through to eating disorders and compulsions all the way to harder-core afflictions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Me, I’ll be talking specifically on two things — one, I’ll give a 45-minute session on blogging for therapy in my solo “Ripping the Scab Off through Blogging” talk, and two, I’ll be on a panel discussing how each of us 4 panelists have used social media to share our psychological struggles and what it’s meant for us.

This posting is sort of to just touch on both of those, in support of the event, and to let you know what’s going down.

_____

I’ll be honest: Yeah, I’m not particularly wild about talking at something called “Mental Health Camp.” There is stigma, yeah. Damn right there is.

I also know that if there’s anyone who can overcome such stigma, I’m probably at the front of the line.

I’ve spent much of the last five years already writing about myself in very open ways as I take the journey of going from She Who Was Very Unhappy to this much more interesting and fun-to-be-with version of self I’m excavating from under years of neglect.

Writing about myself has been a huge part in how I’ve been able to accept where I was, where I needed to be, and what it would take to get there.

By learning how to write in an open way while still hanging on to details that weren’t really necessary to share, I’ve managed to be open yet keep some of my struggles inside, too. Snapshots, that’s what y’all get.

In homage to one of the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, I call the writing technique “surfacing” and it’s pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of perspective. Shifting that perspective ever so slightly creates a whole new reward from the writing.

I’ll be talking about it in  detail on Saturday, and don’t want to blow my hand by writing all about it here and now.

The talk will include a lot more than that, though.

I’ll look at the differences between journal-writing and blogging, and point out all the pros and cons of turning to the web for an audience. I’ll tell you who should be blogging more openly (almost everyone) and who shouldn’t (and there are some).

I’ll tell you the top 10 reasons I think anyone willing to blog should be willing to be more personal, and why blogging for therapy just makes sense from a societal point of view — both from solidarity and healing perspectives.

I’ll also share the prices I’ve paid while attempting to cash in* on living the revealed life. It’s not something one should enter with the foolish notion that “I’ll write it and they’ll read it.” There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot that can play out well. There’s much to consider.

____

Later, I’ll be on a panel with three friends — all of whom have had far, far harder mental health journeys than I have — discussing how we’ve been “out” about our lives and the prices/rewards it’s cost/yielded us.

In both situations, I’ll briefly outline the facts: I lived with mild depression for most of my life. I’ve learned that, when it comes to natural depression FOR ME, it’s controlled with diet and exercise. I have indeed been medicated on a few occasions, both for “situational depression” as well as ADHD.

I’m on no meds now. It’s not a prize I’ve won for being a Good Mental Health Patient. It’s just that I’ve found a way to mostly regulate my chemistry.  When I was ON meds and began eating well and exercising, what WAS a good level of meds went sideways fast as I started building my own seratonin and dopamine.

Do NOT fuck with meds just because I’ve been able to get off mine. It’s NOT about the meds, it’s about what’s safe for you. Talk to doctors!

But all this is to say I’ve been to my mental health hell with a chemical depression that took two years of medication to regulate back to normal. I’ve been on the verge of suicidal with a desperate cry for professional help in the past, all while being an intelligent person who felt trapped in this chemical mood I couldn’t shake for months and months.

Before that, I had to overcome a head injury. Since the chemical depression, I’ve had to learn to adjust to an adult-ADHD diagnosis and how it makes me see the world.

So, I’ve had some experiences, and they’re probably more common to the general populace than my colleagues’ are, so I’m happy I can provide a “mental health light” perspective to balance it out.

Being on the other side now, I remember how hard it was to be in the chokehold the disease of depression had on me. I never thought I would escape. Suicide seemed like a smart plan.

Here, now, and looking back, it does shock me how putting my head down and keeping on keeping on, fighting the fight, eventually paid off and has brought me to a better sense of self than I’ve ever known before. Yeah, I’m proud of the stuff I accomplished.

The journey was long and strange, and I feel I’m still on it and I’ll always have to be aware that depression can find me again, but having this kind of self-awareness and openness, as much as it’s been problematic at times, is something I feel that will probably help me navigate whatever stormy waters might one day roll my way again.

The truth shall set you free?

Yeah. Maybe. Let’s talk.

____

People in Vancouver can see these talks, among many other good ones, for a lowly $10 at the door. There are plenty of tickets, and, yes, it’ll be air conditioned in the heatwave. Wahoo. There’s a chance it’ll be streaming live, and if so, I’ll be posting that URL for my followers on Twitter, and you should check there Saturday morning, in case I forget to post it here.

*Figuratively, not literally.

RANT: Elite? Who’s “Elite”?

Yesterday, someone in the Vancouver social media scene* sort of thought it ironic that I should slag “tweetups” as being elitist and circle-jerky, since I was avoiding the whole worldwide “Social Media Appreciation Day” thing that Mashable sponsored and launched right here in Vancouver.

Apparently the thought is that I am now “elite” in Vancouver.

Yeah, whatever.

I was taken aback a little, to be honest. About being called elite, not that Mashable should say we are the seat of the world’s social media scene right now.

So, about that. Let’s talk about social media in Vancouver and maybe how I do or don’t fit into it, okay?

These days, compared to a lot of people, I don’t have a “huge” Twitter following — it’s about 3,500, but in there are a lot of really notable people in media. I suppose that’s why Klout thinks I’m up there in my influence now. Weird shit.**

Now, you gotta know: I logged onto Twitter back in April of 2008, looked around, and said “This is fuckin’ lame. No way this will ever catch on.”

I didn’t log in again until August, when it sorta started making some sense to me.

Then I found myself liking the challenge of coming up with interesting things that people might get a kick out of, or respond to — I loved the resonance I had when I was creative and/or funny.

For me, Twitter has always been about the thrill of creation. I challenge myself to see the world uniquely, and try to relate it to others in a way that makes them indentify and think, “YEAH, TOTALLY.” I like to make observations most people have only the inclination to think, but seldom to speak.

I try and be to Twitter in lifestyle observations what someone like George Carlin might’ve been — that’s my goal. I’m falling short, sure, but that’s the goal. I’m not fucking there to be all buddy-and-chatty, but I do let myself get social on there, and love the friends it’s brought into my “real” life.

Frankly, being on Twitter has changed and improved my life in EVERY way. I don’t deny that, and it’s why it’s such a valued role / time-focus for me. I do LOVE the opportunities it generates.

When it comes to blogging in Vancouver, I can count on one hand the number of official “blogging” events I’ve attended — and one was as a speaker. I’ve been to less than 10 tweetups in two years. I’m hardly “on the scene” except via what you see online, and that’s how I’d prefer it.

To be truthful, I have social phases, they come and go — usually with the seasons, literally. Winter, I hibernate, but summer, I love to see people more.

As far as celebrities and/or “connected” people on Twitter or in blogging, know whose ass I kiss? No one’s. People I talk to, I talk to because I’ve got something to say or I genuinely like them, or, as is often the case, they’ve said something that springboards into the perfect joke for me to crack.

I think blogging/Twitter celebrities are a fucking laugh, because I’ve “been one” in the past, and I know what my life was like behind the scenes and how hard I had to work to keep that wagon-wheel turning — and how much I personally began to compromise to see that happen.

I know how disposable we “social media stars” all are. Think you’re a creative genius? Yeah, you’re just one of millions — and it can go as quickly as it comes, as I’ve learned myself. Get over yourself, ‘cos pedestals and empires both come tumbling down, my friend.

Online celebrity that your livelihood depends upon not as enviable a position as you might think, so I don’t care to be a professional blogger. If I did, you’d see oodles of ads on here or affiliate sites.

But, you don’t.

Maybe you will one day — I’m not above it; it’s just that I’m not interested in what it takes to keep going successfully. I have NO illusions about how hard it is to keep that success going, and I don’t want to be beholden to my content right now. Advertising can influence content if it becomes too financially integral to you, and I’m on this blogging journey for myself and to create dialogue about things, not to have a livelihood. Priorities, and I know what mine are right now.

As a result, I don’t need to go to tweetups to whore myself for clients, network, or make buddies, since I’m already stretched for making time for people I care about, so I kinda hate tweetups, for the most part.

Why? They’re awkward. A lot of tweetups can be phony, filled with self-puffery and promotion. Every time you shake a hand, you get a resume. It’s often loud and blarey. No “real” communication happens at them. They’re cliquey — I’m forced to pick people to hang out with, and I don’t WANT to pick a table and stick with it; I’d rather meet a wide assortment of people. I’m a mingler, not a “sit and be exclusive” type, and I hate feeling like I have to stick with who I came with. I prefer smaller events with 10 or fewer people, where I can actually make eye-contact with everyone and talk to each person at the table.

In short?

I didn’t fucking ASK to be liked by you, or anyone.

All I sought to do was be real, be myself, have a place to put my voice, and honour my responsibility to deliver the content I know I’m capable of creating.

THAT’s what I do.

THAT’s what I want acclaim for and feel I deserve it for, because I do take risks and put myself out there, and I’ve been judged, and I’ve lost jobs, and I’ve been ostracized, all while I’ve fought to have relevance for my voice and the beliefs I think deserve to get air time with everyone else’s.

I’m a WRITER. I’m a writer who uses the now-accessible modern tools well. That’s ALL.

I’ve paid the real-life price to get noticed and be outspoken, and I did it on my terms the whole goddamned time.

Yes, I think that’s worth saying.

Yes, I’m proud of never compromising who I am.

You think that makes me full of myself? Then I’m sorry you don’t know what it’s like to have pride in what you’ve created. Pride is good, so long as you realize you’re not the only one with skillz.

I deliberately avoid hanging out with those perceived to be “the elite” because I don’t want ANYONE to think that’s all that I’m about.

I’ve worked too hard for this NOT to be about MY CONTENT and ONLY my content.

Am I going to diss the elite? No fucking way. Why not? Because some of them are incredible people doing incredible things, and they deserve every bit of their acclaim, whether you think so or not. A lot of people slam the “elite” out of jealousy or some sense of entitlement that leaves them feeling like they’ve been robbed via others’ success.

It’s bullshit. You get what you work for in life, and if you’re not getting what you want, you’re doing it wrong.

Trust me, this I know. I’ve spent a lot of time fucking it up over the years. I have a doctorate in fucking up, honey.

These days, I’m just riding the wave life brings me, and if being myself and not censoring my thoughts on Twitter somehow has given me cachet with a wide range of people, then that’s great, but it’s not EVER been the motivation behind anything I’ve tweeted or blogged.

I was the unpopular kid in high school so I get how bullshit popularity is, and how, for every person who’s accepted and celebrated, there are a dozen who are isolated and hurt — and that, too, is bullshit.

I am NOT a part of that circle. I am NOT a part of that hurt.

If I fucking cared about the circle-jerk, or thought my social status mattered, I’d probably try to offend fewer people.

I don’t even know what elitism is anymore, because I know I’m sure as hell not guilty of it, yet I get the feeling I’m accused of it.

I’m an anti-social person who comes to hang out some of the time, but would rather have someone over for coffee, not tweet about their visit, and just keep it real. I’m not snubbing anyone, it’s just not my deal.

Walk a decade in my shoes and maybe you’ll see why I like my quiet, anti-social life.

Know who I had over for breakfast this morning? Nope, you don’t. They’re “elite”, according to some people’s skewed perspectives on things, but I don’t give a fuck if you know. Why? Because I don’t need your approval, I don’t need the reputation-crutch of name-dropping, and I just generally don’t care.

The only time I do care is when people think I’m mean or a jerk, because I’m not, and it’s plain wrong to think so.

Find a time I’ve used cruelty against a person or group for humour. Give me an example. You can’t. Tell me about the time that I publicly ostracized someone who did something inconsequential, making an mockery of them in an attempt to belittle them. Right, you can’t. Tell me about the time that I snubbed people who approached me at an event. Yeah, you can’t do that either.

Because that’s not who I am.

I’m a scattered ADHD chick with strong but fair opinions and a biting sense of humour who’s just doing her shit, and people seem to like it.

Where you think it places me on the social spectrum is all about your deal, it’s not my reality.

It’s like that line in the Breakfast Club opening voiceover — “You see us how you want to see us.”

But I’m the chick that wakes up knowing I live with a bug problem and have to struggle to pay the rent.

I’m not on the A-list, I’m not hobnobbing, I’m not well-to-do, and I’m not who you fucking think I am.

Just because I give you this strategic view on my world doesn’t mean you really know jack shit about my life, so don’t kid yourself. You know EXACTLY what I want you to know, and not a fucking bit more — because I’m anti-social and things about my life don’t just “slip” into the public knowledge. It’s very much under my thumb. All of it.

You think I’m the ultimate oversharer? Heh. Right. I’m pulling the puppet-strings — I’m a content creator, I’m not a diarrhetic flood with no censure. Trust me, there’s a master plan, but it doesn’t involve hobnobbing with “the scene”.

It’s time to get over what we think other people are, and just take them exactly for what they say and do.

Because, you know, if you actually judge me on my words and actions, I’ll be goddamned proud to stand behind them.

And that’s who I am.

*This person meant it in a casual observation way and I didn’t take offense but it was the first time someone really put into words what I’ve sort of had people suggesting for a while now, and now that it’s out and said, I thought I’d write about it. As I started writing, I got worked up. Thus the cookie crumbles.

**Maybe being interested in Klout seems hypocritical after this rant, but why would I create content if I didn’t want it read or absorbed? I’m absolutely interested in knowing my resonance, I want to be read, I just don’t care about getting on “the list” socially.

Diving into Safety Head-First

We have helmet laws here in British Columbia. Even if we didn’t, I’d be wearing mine.

One saved my life. And still I’m different than I used to be.

When I saw this article come up on Twitter, I got pretty choked about it. I started thinking of the friends I’ve seen riding without a helmet — whether for a block or in the thick of city traffic with bad weather — and I found myself clenching my teeth in frustration.

Head injuries are horrible.

They change you forever.

They affect you emotionally, spiritually, physically.

And I’ve had far too much personal experience with head injuries to let the topic of helmets disappear easily into the cybernight without some commentary.

My personal experience, with just people my age?

Well, personally, I almost died. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I would have died when I somersaulted off my scooter and hit the pavement at Columbia and 2nd back on August 29th, 2004.

I spent the next year trying to get back to who I was while I laboured without a diagnosis on my head (because judgment is the first thing to go; you can’t be objective about yourself and you don’t think about the reasoning behind why you’re such a “fuck up” now; it becomes a self-esteem and time/skill-management thing when it should really be a head-injury thing).

I changed as an employee — it cost me my job security and made me first on chopping block when needed lay-offs came rolling around. (We didn’t know then that it was my brain-bouncing that was the cause of my production getting slower and less sharp.)

That started two years of job insecurity as I hopped around the employment world, learning that I couldn’t handle stress like I used to anymore, and realizing I couldn’t learn new skills or organize as well as I once could.

Experience 2 with head injuries is my brother. Hit by a Chevy Suburban, he spent 5 days in a coma in late 2005 and has never been the same person since. He takes longer to understand things, has a hard time processing his emotions, is more inclined to depression, and it’s all a result of the severe head injury he took — since he had another one within 6 months of the first.

Experience 3 with head injuries was a beloved old friend, in 2008, just 34 years old, who was out adventuring with friends just 9 days after the birth of his little baby girl. His ATV tipped, crushing his head on rocks, and leaving him washing down the fast river, where he drowned and died — orphaning that beautiful baby girl in her first two weeks of life.

Yes, head injuries are bad.

So, when I see brilliant, fantastic friends hopping on their bikes in their almost-hipsterness, cruising around town without their helmets, it fucking kills me.

Know what a head injury feels like?

Take equal parts of STUPID, ANGRY, and CONFUSED, throw them into a martini shaker and mix liberally with IMPULSE CONTROL ISSUES and BAD JUDGMENT and you’ll have the start of what you’re after.

Now, take that horrible mood cocktail and spread it over your days — 24/7, 365.

I spent a year at a loss about what I felt, what I needed, where I wanted to go, how to get there. I’m lucky, I’m a writer, and somehow through the act of writing EVERY SINGLE DAY for a year, I managed to get my brain to finally start firing again.

I don’t even remember ANY of the first 6 months except a Pocky Incident and being unhappy about a hamburger while watching World Cup Hockey.

I’ve never been as good at learning things as I used to be, I need more guidance and have more questions, but I’m smarter than the average person so I get it together sooner or later on new tasks, but only after a lot of frustration.

I’m still smart as hell, no doubt, but I forget large chunks of my life.

Large chunks.

And my mother’s dead.

And some of the chunks are of her. When death rolls around with your loved ones, memories are all you’ve got left, and your head is all you got to protect that with.

It kills me, you know. Just kills me.

When you’re a writer, your memory is your most valuable tool. I’ve lost a lot of mine. My years are a hazy blur when they used to have crystal clarity to them.

I have to live the rest of my life with the very real knowledge that head injuries are like a good savings plan — they compound infinitely.

Every time I hit my head, I run the risk of making myself less of who I was.

Every time my noggin bumps a doorframe or something, a shock of fear runs through me.

You parents failing to put helmets on your kids, I’d be all right with calling that child abuse, given what I know has changed in my life from my head injury.

Protect your children. It’s your job. It’s the law.

I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have that day I almost died back. How much I could undo the stupidity that led me to thinking I should be on my scooter that morning.

I just can’t tell you.

Most people who know  me would never think I’d had a head injury. I’ve got razor-sharp wit, keen conversational abilities, and I’m sly as the day is long.

But they’d be wrong. I’m different. Just in little ways I can work around.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t anger me still that I’m different now.

I used to test at Mensa levels on IQ tests, you know. Between 145 and 170, depending on the day, over the years. “Smart” is a commodity one can’t afford to trade on, not via head injuries or anything else.

Really, it’s not that the head injury takes you out of the game — because it doesn’t. That’s kinda part of the problem — you become the “walking wounded” afterwards.

You go through life okay enough — you look fine, everyone thinks you can do your job, they think you’re as normal as can be. But because you’re rendered some lesser part of yourself as a result of the changes, you’re not even aware of how much you’ve changed — you’re in a fog, a daze, so you can’t say “Hey, something’s off here.”

And because you’re not defending or explaining yourself, those around you think you’re just in some depressive funk and that you need to “shake it off.”

But you can’t.

You hit your brain and you have a boo-boo that can’t be bandaged, doesn’t get air, never sees the sun, and can’t be displayed to others. You’ve seen how long a bruise on your leg takes to heal? What about if it’s under a skull, and all the bruised areas affect how synapses and thoughts and neuro-body-controls occur?

It was two years after my head injury that I finally realized how much I had changed, and only because I was seeing the same stuff happening to my brother with his head damage. A strangely consistent downward spiral in his life mirrored the one that had been happening to me.

Finally, I went to see a shrink I’d been to in the past, who’d had muchos experience in head injuries, and I learned what was going on inside was all part of the healing journey a head injury victim usually takes.

I had a helmet on and I’ve luckily lived to tell my story, even though I’m changed and will probably always have to live with the legacy of that day in small ways.

In fact, everyone I’ve written about here today was wearing a helmet, and yet, look at our stories.

Put your fucking helmet on.

Get over your haircut. Get over yourself.

If not for your own life and the hell it will likely be if you survive a head injury and have to live with it for the remainder of your life, then at least wear it so my fucking tax dollars can go somewhere more intelligent than dealing with your dumb-ass negligence.

Please.

__________________________________

Think you might’ve had a head injury and wonder what the indicators are? Check here. The New York Times has a good cheat-sheet HERE on what to do or look for after a head injury has first been suffered — please read it NOW, not when you need it. Remember how quickly Natasha Richardson died from a ski fall? Yeah. Know your shit.

An Open Letter to Our Planet

Dear Mother Earth:

I’m not an environmentalist, I never have been. I’ve never donated to Greenpeace, probably never will. I’ve never protested on your behalf.

But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

I’ve not been religious since my childhood, but I have no doubt there’s something bigger than me — all I need do is find myself under a towering West Coast evergreen or sitting by the ever-flowing river, pulling a Siddhartha on the shores.

And that thing bigger than me is you, Mother Earth.

You’re everything. You shape my every day.

In recent months, I’ve had to further reevaluate my actions in life.

I’ve always been aware of the peril you teetered on the brink of, Mother, since the rainforests began coming down in Brazil in the ’80s, but seeing how close you are now to the precipice of no environmental return breaks my heart and makes me wish I’d been more vocal earlier.

There’s not a lot I can do for you.

I’m but one small voice in the fray.

Yet I can educate the others, and hope they join me in the small actions I know can build into a giant movement, but only if we all act together.

As I write, an island of garbage is growing in the Pacific. Halfway between San Francisco and Hawaii lies a manmade island of floating garbage now considerably larger than the entire state of Texas. Diapers, plastic, toothbrushes, and garbage of all kinds have floated into formation and now sit there, clogging the Pacific, as an homage to the incredible crassness of man.

And deep down in the Gulf of Mexico, Deepwater Horizon keeps spewing oil at a rate no one can agree upon, decimating the fastest-disappearing environment on the planet, the wetlands of Louisiana’s Gulf.

Anger has built around the world, with words of rage being flung at British Petroleum and the lagging actions of the Obama Administration, but were it not for the demand we’ve caused, the insatiable hunger we’ve shown for all things plastic and cars that go vroom, we would not be in this position.

We have the mentality, Mother, that if we didn’t put that piece of plastic in the Pacific with our own two hands, or if we didn’t perform the negligence that caused Deepwater Horizon to blow and kill 11 men before decimating shores and industry, that we’re just innocent bystanders in the eye of an environmental storm.

But we’re wrong, Mother.

It’s our fault.

We drop the garbage that eventually slips down storm drains and flows into the ocean.

We buy the senseless “bottled water” and purchased drinks that are made from aluminum and plastic — materials that can’t be made without petroleum.

We drive the three-minute trip to the store instead of walking for 10 minutes.

We do it.

It’s our fault.

I’m trying to do my part, though, Mother. I look at the bottom of plastics and glass before I buy products to ensure they’re recyclable in my area.* If not, I try to choose better or live without, if I can.

I’m trying to use my words, my ability to communicate, to inspire others to care, to help others see the horrible direction we’re headed in, and to teach others that you, Mom, deserve our very best.

And you haven’t been getting it.

It’s our fault, Mother.

We know not what we do to you, but you do. You know, and now you’re starting to show us. Oh, are you showing us.

It’s not too late.

But soon it will be.

We have the opportunity to learn, to change, and to take this planet in a new direction. We’re more creative, connected, motivated, educated, and empowered than we’ve ever been as a society, and if we’ve ever had the opportunity to undo all the harm we’ve done, that time is now.

I, for one, know I can continue to improve.

I can do better, waste less, think more.

I will do better. I will waste less. I will think, do, and say, more.

It’s not too late at all, Mother.

But soon it will be.

With hopefully undying love,
Your Daughter, Steff

*My home trash collecting will allow for recycled products in class 1 & 2. There are 7  grades of plastic, and just because it shows “recyclable” doesn’t mean it actually *IS* recycled in your part of the world. Here’s a quick reference of how to recycle and what works: Click here. In short? Really only classes 1 & 2 can be recycled; everything ELSE you should reconsider purchasing.

WANT TO FIGHT THE GARBAGE PATCH? Join here and see what you can do. Stay engaged via following PlasticPollutes on Twitter. WANT TO WEIGH IN ON THE OIL SPILL? Probably the best way to stay involved is via the TED Oilspill expedition’s work right now: http://tedxoilspill.com/ Look into opportunities to do shore “clean-ups” in your area — every piece you pick up is one less that can harm the ocean and its inhabitants. I’ve just organized one in my city for July 18th, at a more “neglected” and less-visited beach. You can organize one, too — or just go as a family or with friends. It’s not ‘weird’ to help save the planet. Not anymore.