I’m not a Brand

Navigating My Way through the Digital World IRL

Original Artwork: Amberleigh Storms

You step out of the bathroom into the dimness of the sun’s first light peering through a sliver in the curtains. Your clothes are waiting for you on the foot board of your bed where you laid them out last night before going to sleep at exactly 10:00 PM.

You reflect on your morning as you dress and comb your hair. The birds chirp harmoniously outside your window. It really is a perfect day.

Since you woke at 4:00 AM you’ve written 2,000 words, read a chapter of that stellar Self-Help book you’ve been obsessed with since opening its cover, ran three miles, meditated and posted on every social media platform where you have a presence, including a 20 minute photo session where you captured exemplary content for Instagram.

Now that you’ve showered, you’re ready to take charge of the day. You’re “ultra” productive and operating at “optimal” capacity. All you need is your power/ cleanse/ super food/ performance management/ protein shake and you’ll be set. Cha-ching!

Okay, stop. Stop!

I can’t function like this and I certainly can’t create under these conditions. How is this lifestyle trendy? I have enough pressure. I’m feeling depressed (or manic, depending on the episode or cycle) and in order to be successful I’m expected to project fakeness all over the internet to attract attention.

I realize I may sound like a naive 19 year old who’s goal is to live in her parent’s basement for the rest of her life, but I really just want to create. I magically want to put the pieces together without conjuring up make-believe bullshit on my part so you’ll fall in love with me.

If I can’t be real I don’t truly have creative freedom, and that sucks. But, if I don’t do it the way the digital world is designed for, I can’t afford to eat. Couldn’t we go back to the days of Hemingway when dude wrote from a place of passion and not from a place on the internet?

I’m the woman with the disheveled hair, dressed in purple polka dot pajama pants, a dark flannel bathrobe, black and white plaid scarf and beefy boots intended for all forms of terrain and types of weather. My incognito size sunglasses conceal my eyes and top portion of my face. I pace and bite my fingernails.

I’m standing in the coffee section at the market. It’s a significant achievement being in the market. It required me to leave my safe space and go into a public place.

My only objective is to get coffee but the overabundance of options causes a specific type of stimuli, forcing me into meltdown mode. French vanilla, hazelnut and butterscotch. Dark, medium and mild roast. McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.

For the love of God, I just want coffee that tastes like coffee.

Considering I’m a real person with real feelings (and Agoraphobia) my reaction to this is quite human. I want to scream and lose my shit. “I just want fucking coffee!” And, “who needs all these fucking choices!?” And, “WTF!” But I don’t. I never would.

Instead, I settle for a container I’ve touched seven times while debating whether or not I should accept defeat. I go home and get cracked out on caffeine as I pound away at the typewriter keys.

What I should have done was go live on Facebook, watch it spread across the digital world at a viral rate and amass an enormous following because it’s no longer enough to be skilled in crafting character, detail and scene. I need to be an internet influencer too, if I want to amount to anything.

I’m the woman who spends summer days sitting in the grass watching the garden grow with my pack of 12 cats. I’m the woman who sits in a lawn chair during subzero temperatures while snow falls from the sky because I wanted to connect with something bigger than myself and I felt like I couldn’t do that inside the house.

I want to be recording clips of these shenanigans and uploading them to Patreon Lens for community engagement but I don’t because I’m confused. Any ‘How-To’ article or online course will tell you there is a set way to market for success and if you don’t, “This is How You’re Doing it Wrong.” There’s an article for that too.

The message I’m receiving via the cesspool of technology induced noise is that the only way a writer is going to make it nowadays is to be unique, and in order to be unique you need to use the same technique that everyone else is using and explode yourself (and brand) on the internet. This is contradictory information. I can’t be the only one who’s noticed.

Why do I have to have a niche, anyway? Can’t I simply declare that being a person is my area of expertise and call it good? Why do I have to project the message that “today is awesome,” opposed to the truth. “Today sucked but I survived with grace, mostly?”

While the entire marketing industry is developing a five year plan, I’m over here barely making it down my handwritten list of things to do and I’m not alarmed at all because there’s always tomorrow. I’m not procrastinating. Some days it takes all I’ve got to pull myself together and IRL, no one reflects on a lifetime of productivity when on their death bed.

The shake may be the trending way to start your day but I typically eat Klonopin for breakfast. I’m prescribed four psychiatric medications and participate in treatment at a not for profit organization in the city. Not only do I experience Manic Depression but I also take panicking in public to a whole new level. The locals gossip about it for weeks.

I invest the first 20 minutes of consciousness each morning thinking up a reason to get out of bed. I am not “ultra” or “optimal,” nor am I a brand. Call it a bad attitude, but I just don’t care what people think of me, or who they want me to be.

It’s been almost three months since I last posted on Instagram. I haven’t been feeling social and if I have to force it or fake it, it’s not worth it to me.

The truth is, what I need to be successful is for you to accept me and all of my non-branding, obtrusive ways.

I’m not a brand. I’m a person navigating my way through the digital world IRL.

I pour another cup of coffee, sit down and begin to type precisely what I’m experiencing.

‘I pull the weighted thermal curtain to the side of the window frame and watch the day’s last glow of light sink below the horizon. Somehow, sunrise became sunset while the hours in between passed instantaneously without a tick or tock of the clock.

There were no words written, no drawings sketched, no songs to sing or photographs taken. Another day has gone by where I created nothing to reflect on or feel inspired by.

This isn’t the first time my art is a dull ache in my soul. In fact, it’s a semi-regular demon I struggle with. I call it, “Depression.”

I don’t always lose the battle but when I do, all else falls by the wayside.’

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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