I’ve gotten some disturbing emails and blog comments lately. I’m not just talking about the spam comments. (I tend to find the spam comments more heart-breaking than disturbing. Just yesterday, I received a very sad comment from a young man from Africa. “I am a poor man,” Mr. Buypenisenlargementpills explained. “I need money to survive by comment on your blogs.” Who’s heart wouldn’t break after reading that?)
The comments and emails that I find most disturbing are from actual real live people.
These people claim I am an inspiration.
Unbridled cookie consumption?
I’m not bringing up this whole people-think-I’m-an-inspiration-thing to toot my own horn or anything.
And, honestly, I don’t get many comments and emails of this nature.
It’s just that… well… ummm…. I’m going to have to ask you to stop.
It’s not that I don’t like it. (Or you! I like you a lot! I do!)
I’m honored…. Flattered, really.
I mean, it’s lovely getting emails and comments telling me that I’m inspiring. Even though I, frankly, can’t figure out what these people are talking about. Have these people read my blog? Don’t they know I spend the majority of my days binging on potato chips and watching Law & Order re-runs? Maybe it’s like one of those weird reverse-psychology motivational things — like that desire you get to suddenly clean out your house and donate everything you own to Goodwill after watching an episode of Hoarders?
It’s just that I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m really bad at this inspiration thing… like really bad.
I’m sure you could do a lot better than me, inspiration-wise. I mean, look at me! In the three months that I’ve lived in Thailand, I haven’t learned a word of Thai but I’ve tried every single cookie on offer at my local Tesco Lotus. What kind of inspiration is that?
I mean, there are whole lists of people who are much more inspiring than me. There’s this list of inspired blogs or that list of inspiring bloggers. And, to prove to you how truly uninspiring I am, I assure you I am not on either one of those lists!
Or, hey, there’s this compilation of uplifting quotes from some travel bloggers about their “defining moments.”
As for me and my “defining moment”?
I got nothing.
Still not completely sold?
Still doggedly reading this blog post even though I’ve conveniently pointed you in the direction of motivational travel bloggers who actually, umm, travel and don’t spend their days locked in their apartments eating cookies? (Sheez, what’s a girl have to do to get you people to leave her alone, already?).
In that case, I’ve compiled this handy-dandy list of reasons why you need to stop using me as your inspiration right now. (Pretty please?)
1. It’s not you. It’s me.
You see, I didn’t really go on this trip to inspire you,
I went on this trip to inspire me.
Back when I first hatched this plan to take a year off (or two… or five), the idea was that I would travel and volunteer around Asia and do a whole bunch of cool things (and by “cool things” I’m usually talking about eating donuts).
And then I would be inspired to write a book.
Well, it’s almost a year later, and I can’t say I’ve gotten much further on that whole book thing, but I have gotten lots of writing done.
So, yeah, I’m all about being an inspiration… but only for myself, okay?
I know that sounds terribly selfish of me, but I am the terribly selfish sort. I go to the movies on my own because I don’t like to share my armrest. (And, Lordy, don’t even ask me for some of my popcorn!). I don’t donate my money to charity – I donate it to potato chips and airline tickets. I don’t even give away my time to very good causes. My current volunteer teaching position is the only attempt I’ve made at being a do-gooder – my other volunteering positions have resulted in my polluting bodies of water with tractor tires and varnishing strands of my hair into the woodwork of a sailboat.
So, if anything, I’m a really crappy, selfish source of inspiration. You could do better than me… a lot better. (I’ve mentioned the lists, right?)
2. It’s (not) a hard-knock life.
I would simply love to have some awesome, tear-jerker of a life story to share with you right now. I mean who doesn’t love a good tale of overcoming obstacles and beating all the odds?
But the fact is I grew up in a comfortable, stable home. I’m no hotel chain heiress, but I never had to beg for porridge or anything. (Although, I did on occasion beg not to have to wear my sister’s hand-me-down jeans. Sheez, what’s a girl have to do to get her very own pair of Jordaches?)
I’m healthy and possess all my original limbs. (Even if my original limbs can’t dance for nothing).
I’m single and independent.
And I’m… ummm… white. (Yeah, yeah, I know this shouldn’t matter, but it does. The fact is that being a white person in this world gives me a lot more privilege and opportunities than, frankly, I really deserve.)
Because of all these things it’s been relatively easy for me to pick up and move my life overseas and then for me to continue moving that life every couple months… or years… or whenever I get inexplicably bored and decide that some other, new fancy country will make me happy.
I meet people everyday who have had to overcome things I can’t even imagine: racism, poverty, imprisonment, hunger, physical disabilities, crippling illnesses and abusive childhoods. These people have persevered and changed their lives.
These people are inspirational.
I’ve overcome a few all-you-can-eat buffets in my day. And, once, I watched the entire DVD box set of 30 Rock Season 2 in a 24-hour sitting. (But I have a feeling these don’t really count… do they? I mean, things got pretty dicey there during my twenty-fourth hour of DVD-watching. My pajama pants had fused to the couch, and I had the darndest time locating the remote control under that huge pile of cookie wrappers on my coffee table.)
3. It’s too much pressure.
This past weekend, a friend of mine from my hometown was visiting Chiang Mai. She had arrived in Southern Thailand three weeks earlier to meet her boyfriend, who has been living in Phuket. By the time she had arrived in Chiang Mai, she was sporting a shiny new engagement ring and a shiny new life plan: she would finish up school, quit her job, defer her loans, give away her cats and return to Asia in the Fall to take a year off and write a book.
“You’re my inspiration,” she declared.
I promptly started to have an anxiety attack.
Sure, it’s one thing for me to ditch my own life, career, apartment and the occasional housecat in the futile attempt to make my life magically better. Who cares if I end up destitute and living under a bridge? So what if I have to start selling the fillings in my teeth for pocket change because I frittered away all my savings?
But I simply can’t take responsibility for someone else doing the same.
What if things don’t work out for her? What if she ends up destitute and broke? What if the boyfriend doesn’t work out and the cats refuse to love her when she comes back? What if, like me, the book never happens?
Whose fault is that?
Mine, people. It’s my fault.
That’s too much pressure, man.
4. It’s not my job.
A couple weeks ago, a popular travel blogger posted a piece entitled “The World is Boring.” The post came off as ranty and curmudgeonly and resulted in a huge storm of angry comments and Tweets from readers, and, shortly thereafter, the blogger took the post down.
I can’t say I totally disagreed with the author. I mean, the world can be boring sometimes. But, hey, I like boring.
One of the complaints about the post that kept on surfacing in the comments and tweets was that readers felt the piece was uninspiring and potentially discouraging for new travelers.
When someone on Twitter accused the blogger of not doing his job of “selling travel,” he responded that this wasn’t his job.
“My ‘job’ is my blog,” he wrote, “and my blog is simply my thoughts and feelings beyond practical tips.”
He kind of forgot to mention that, in addition to his “thoughts and feelings,” his blog also has a whole bunch of ads for things like travel insurance and hotel booking services. Oh, yeah, and he uses his blog to shill an e-book entitled “Secrets to Successful World Travel.”
So I would think that inspiring people to travel would kind of land somewhere in his job description… no?
I don’t sell e-books. (And be happy I don’t. The last thing you need is for me to blather on and on about cookies and pants for a hundred pages and then charge you for it!).
I don’t have any ads on my site yet. (Although, I think we can agree that an ad for Oreos would look pretty nice in my sidebar. Anyone know someone who works at Nabisco?)
I’m not selling any travel goods or services on my blog. So, I can honestly say that the business of travel inspiration is most definitely not my job.
Therefore, I’m off the hook, right? I can quit now, right? I don’t even have to give my two-week’s notice or anything because it’s not like it was even my job… right? (Please, tell me I’m right.)
5. I’m really bad at it. (But I know someone who would be perfect for the job).
I’m not a natural-born motivator. I’ve never been the cheerleader type. (Okay, so, true story: I was a cheerleader in the eighth grade… a really bad cheerleader. Let’s just say, if you can’t do a cartwheel, you really have no business being a cheerleader.)
I don’t do gushy. Motivational posters and those emails with long lists of inspirational quotes make me queasy.
I don’t rattle off lines like “follow your heart” or “believe in yourself.”
These things may be easy enough to say, but, man oh man, are they ever hard to do.
It took me thirty-four years to do them.
Last year, I put my practical, professional life on hold for the first time and pursued the life that I always wanted – that of a writer. Surely, if I was the inspirational sort, I could have inspired myself to pursue my dreams a long, long time ago – like back when I could still fit into my pants and remember what my dreams were… you know, before the tequila and heavy doses of mindless reality TV addled my brain and rendered me incapable of differentiating my dreams from the dreams of characters on The Real World.
I still wake up everyday, and doubt myself. And, frankly, I should. I don’t have a book. I don’t even have anything published yet.
I just have this long, blathery blog.
And your comments telling me I’m an inspiration.
I’m honored…. flattered, really.
But, frankly, I think you’ve got the wrong girl. You see, I’m nothing special. I don’t possess any remarkable talents or skills. Heck, I don’t even have ankles to speak of. I can’t dance. I can’t speak five languages. I can’t sew or juggle or scuba dive.
I can’t inspire other people. I can barely inspire myself!
You could do better than me for inspiration… a lot better.
In fact, I think I have just the right person for the job…
Be your own inspiration.
I just know you would be really awesome at this inspiration thing. I mean, how hard could it be? There are lists and lists of inspirational people out there. People apparently consider me inspirational and all I do is eat cookies and whine about pants.
You would knock the socks of my inspiration.
I bet you’d bat inspiration right on out of the park.
You’d totally be the boss of inspiration.
Heck, in no time, people would start sending you emails and comments telling you that you’re inspirational.
And then I would be off the hook… right? (Oh please, tell me I’m right.)