This week I started To Kill a Mockingbird. Since I graduated highschool, I’ve wanted to read it if only for a small sense of FOMO, for whatever reason my literature class may have been the only one in the country of whom it wasn’t required reading. I ordered it off Amazon maybe a year ago and this week I decided, let’s do it.
I’m about ankle deep in but I’m glad I at least know who Atticus Finch is now when someone refers to him. I haven’t sunk my teeth into a classic in a while, and simply reading fiction has become a lost discipline of mine, but that’s not the only reason reading this book has been tough. A lot of it, embarassingly, is because no one cares that I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Literally no one. Reading this book is not going give me too much dinner conversation with my friends (no offense friends) nor will it earn me anything, other than the study of a great author and the consumption of what is a classic.
I sat there reading tonight, and I began to become engulfed in the characters. I began to see the structure of the Radley’s creepy house. I was starting to learn Scouts sharp but defensive personality, but then, every ounce of contentment found in simply reading a book was stolen as soon as I wandered onto one of the many apps on my phone. Suddenly a rush of discontent flushed over me, I could care less about the pages I was just moments ago so engaged with, and was riddled with mental card catalog of what I should be doing to be more like the people on the screen.
How did I get here?
Why can’t I enjoy my book?
Now this isn’t a rip on social media, or even solely about social media. But it is warning sign about the many things we let our unguarded minds and hearts wander to, and maybe a flotation device to those who are lost in the sea called Trying to Be.
What this is really about is satisfaction. And how it might be the most valuable and scarce commodity of our day.
In a generation where over 20 million people in America over the age of 12 are battling addiction (stat found on almost every link when Google-ing “addiction stats in america”) there seems to be an itch that says, “you’re just not getting/being enough.”
As a believer in God, I truly believe sometimes the only place you can find rest from this constant feeling insufficiency is in the words that someone bigger than me spoke, like that I’m chosen, worthy, intentionally created, and have purpose. But I think there’s a few things we all have to get down if we want to exit stage left the cyclone of feeling constantly mediocre.
1) We’ve got to learn to have things about ourselves that no one else knows about. If the only reasons you move are because of how someone else will react, you’ll be really boring when you’re just with yourself. And 2) Satisfaction is a gift in the way that it sometimes will arrive unprovoked. But satisfaction only stays when you make the choice to keep it around, or moreso when you make the choice to fiercely guard it against the voices of “you’re not” coming from several directions.
These little prying thoughts that steal our joy make me think of the teeny jellies that have been at the beach all summer.
I’ve been to my favorite beach a few times this year and every time, I go in the water. I know some people hate the water and all that could be in it, but I’ve never really been bothered by it…until recently. I learned not too long ago that at any given time, if waist high in the water at this beach, you’re surrounded by a good many tiny little jellyfish. Their sting feels like a little pinch, and is nearly undetectable, making them essentially harmless. But even so, this discovery made me instantly uneasy.
I tried to shake the thought of these little creepy squishy guys around me, but often lost the battle and returned to shore. Part of me became really sad at the reality that my new knowledge of what existed would no long allow me to be off guard or at rest on the waves like I used to as a kid.