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An Essay Without A Thesis

With my first anniversary of being active on IG a few days away, I have been asking myself, Why did I start IG? Or, more specifically, Why am I still on IG? I struggle to answer the second question. The first one, however, is manageable.

My interest in social media was symptomatic of the pandemic. When the first lockdown in March 2020 hit, my life - probably like yours - came to an unexpected stop. Many things in my life fell out of place, and many more things, like my sense of direction, went missing. I needed to fill in some holes and find some way to crawl out of the rubble that threatened to crush me. And so, like every other time I have had to restructure my life and install some new support beams, I decided to challenge myself and set a new goal.

Enter IG. My new quarantine crush.

During those initial long and lonely weeks of lockdown in 2020, I curled up on my couch with my iPhone, my notepad, and my mechanical pencil to learn how to shift from my non-committal relationship status with IG to a serious relationship. Over the course of the next several months, my convenient distraction became my next challenge.

I would tell you in plain language the details of my challenge, except I am not able to write that sentence. All I can say with any degree of certainty is that my challenge involved seeing if I could leverage IG, a portal of endless possibility, to find the nameless, nagging thing I have wanted to figure out and do for several years. The pervasive fogginess of the latter half of that sentence makes me uncomfortable and frustrated. And it has for twenty years. Since becoming a tutor in my late teens, I have had this unshakable feeling that my talents and personality lack proper alignment. Consequently, I am always taking on new challenges and coming up with new ways in an effort to make them congruent.

I believe I have a gift for teaching, but I have always known I do not belong at the front of a classroom. Experience has taught me that organizational and time-management skills innate to teachers have not bestowed themselves upon me. To this day, my lesson plans appear in point form notes with pictographs and bubble letters on torn pieces of foolscap, and my to-do lists on post-it notes written in silver sharpie (or whatever marker my son has left within an arm’s reach of my bed/desk/couch/coffee table.) But it is not just that. After all, those are skills that I could work on and see some success from my efforts. It is also the sense of uneasiness that I feel when I am in a school.

I am not comfortable in the school environment. Since the first time I entered a classroom, I have always felt like I should not be there. From kindergarten to high school, I was never at school a moment longer than I had to be. And, even though I graduated high school, completed five years of undergrad, two years of college, and then a university graduate degree, I never enjoyed being at school. In all of my post-secondary education, I scheduled my classes back-to-back to avoid having to spend extra time at school or on campus, even if it meant enrolling in a class I was not particularly interested in.

Still, after finishing my undergrad and completing most of a graphic design program in college, I decided to apply to teachers' college as a backup plan. I know you must be thinking, A backup plan to what, Jenn? And, my answer is I do not know. I know it only as that nagging, nameless thought that defies language, and that continuously pops up when I am at one of life’s crossroads. It is that ridiculously nebulous thing that made me decline teachers' college the same day I was accepted, and that made me apply to grad school the same day I dropped out of college. Strange as it may seem, this amorphous thought somehow has the power to communicate what I should and should not be doing.

And, perhaps that is the best answer to my initial question, Why am I still on IG?

Maybe I am still here because that nameless, nagging thought has not redirected my attention nor reset my course. Perhaps I am still on IG because I have not yet completed the challenge and gleaned from it all the wins, failures, and lessons that I am supposed to. Perhaps, while that nameless, nagging thought remains quiet, I will celebrate my first anniversary on IG knowing that I’m no longer dating an app, but engaging with a community, in a space that feels right, where the mismatched parts of myself seem less important than they ever have before.

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