Unplugging

I've been unplugging from the world lately.

It's summer, and on my first day of summer, I knew something had to change.

I've taken a big interest in psychology lately. I think it's amazing how everything in life stems from your mind. Including how you look at life. And I knew I needed a new perspective. I've hated my thought life for quite some time now.

One lifestyle change I was trying to make was to not look at my phone right before I went to bed. I knew that was horrible for you when you're trying to go to bed, but literally all school year I would lie in bed and look at my phone for like two hours, and then I wondered why my mind was spinning out of control.

This world is full of distractions. I know that. So that was one thing I knew I needed to change. I was trying to get in the habit of reading before I went to bed because I had good memories of staying up late as a kid, being captivated by a story and having to stay up to finish it, and then I'd fall asleep immediately afterwards.

There is a book I absolutely adore, called The Chase. I love Karen Kingsbury books, and her daughter wrote this book with her husband. It's actually about trusting God with your dreams when it comes to marriage, but I have learned life lessons from this book that go beyond just that. It's one of my favorites ever. So I wanted to take the time to read a chapter a night and annotate the parts that spoke to me. One of the first couple chapters was about quieting the noise and getting your mind focused on the right things, which would be God.

I have known for quite some time that my mind is a mess of thoughts. Usually I didn't mind that because it made for some really good writing, and lots of times I think that's what made me a really good writer. But I still knew I needed to make some changes. When they started talking about social media, I knew that was a part that was affecting my thoughts greatly and had ever since I started it, to be honest. They started talking about quieting the noise and how, if you ever need a break from social media, don't be afraid to take one.

Finally, it clicked. I knew that was what I had to do. How many hours per day did I waste of my summer doing literally nothing but play on my phone all day, doing nothing besides feeding my mind with more junk?

So I made a rash decision to delete ALL of my social media apps on my phone. I wouldn't delete the actual accounts, but I did need to unplug. Goodbye Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat....

Even as I was doing it, I was like, okay, Ashlee, you are out of your mind if you think this is going to last. You probably won't even make it an hour. But I prayed that God would help me take a break from this stuff to renew your mind, and I prayed that, yes, it would last more than just a day.

My dad and I headed up to see my grandparents for a weekend just last Friday, and I still hadn't checked social media. It was amazing to see how much time I wasted on that phone - I'd go to check in and be like, oh that's right, there's nothing to see and do on it. How many times I checked that phone subconsciously... Scary.

Now, I'm not saying social media is bad. I LOVED and still do love social media. I've loved it ever since I was a kid, and I would beg my parents to let me have an account on all the platforms. I thought it was an awesome way to reach people and an awesome way to stay in touch with people.

Except then it wasn't.

So here's the crazy thing: I really didn't miss it. On Saturday, my cousin who was also up there at the time we were, told me to come back on it since I'd gone, like, three days without it, which had been my goal. So I did check it briefly because I wanted to see the pics she'd put on. And you know what I found? Besides her pretty pictures, there was not much about it I missed. I didn't even miss posting my own stuff! It felt like drama, and in fact, one time when I checked it something actually hurt my feelings again, so I was like, I'm going on another hiatus.

So I'm still on that hiatus, and this social media obsessed girl has learned something shocking: I don't know if I want to come back to social media. Why in the world do I feel that way? Well, I'll tell you what has happened to me since I went on my hiatus...

The hurt and drama is gone.

I've been a typical teenage girl that gets hurt over drama on social media ever since I've had it. I get jealous of people that fake their lives on it and wonder why my life can't be as good. I get upset when somebody comments on so and so's post but can't be bothered to comment on mine. The list goes on of the ridiculous crap you'll find on there. Of all the social medias, Facebook and Instagram (especially Instagram!) were my favorites ever. I could've cared less about Twitter, but I was told I had to have it in order to market my blog, and Snapchat was fun to chat with people, but oh my gosh, let's talk about those featured stories on Snapchat. They can be so inappropriate. I needed to get off of that, and then there was Pinterest, which just sucked up a ridiculous amount of my time aimlessly scrolling through it.

But Facebook and Instagram... I loved them, and so it figures I got hurt the most on them. I'd get hurt on Instagram with the followers, somebody just unfollowed me from school, well, what the heck does that mean? Or why isn't so and so following me? Why did this person just ignore my comment and respond to everyone else's? And don't even get me started on Facebook and how selfish people can be on there. Plus, then I'd play games, like oh, let's see what happens when I don't post and see if anyone misses me. Then I'd get frustrated when they didn't. I'd get frustrated at my lack of friends, followers, and engagement. I'd worry if I was doing something wrong. That leads me to my next point.

The pressure is gone.

I can't tell you how much pressure there is to perform on social media. And as a blogger, this is doubled because there are things I "have" to do to get more blog readers, followers, and just views in general. There's the pressure to write inspiring comments on Facebook, witty captions on Instagram, interesting tweets on Twitter, exciting videos on Snapchat, etc. There's the pressure to make my life look fun, exciting, and full of purpose at all times. There's sort of an unspoken way I'm expected to act on social media. Even on this blog, there's pressure. I'd love to just get on here and write about whatever, whenever. But no. You have to be writing informative posts, posts that will help people. You have to have pretty pictures and graphics that look visually beautiful. Basically, you have to look like you know what you're doing, and then they'll say, oh, but make sure you're being authentic! What. The. Heck.

I'll tell you the complete, honest truth because I've always been about being completely real and not faking it. The real, authentic Ashlee doesn't have her life figured out as well as she'd like to think. The real Ashlee doesn't always want to follow the social media and blogging rules because they're unrealistic and exhausting, and let's face it, life is about more than this. The real Ashlee doesn't always have something inspiring to say because lots of the time she needs someone else to give her a boost. The real Ashlee doesn't always know what to say. The real Ashlee isn't always full of interesting thoughts, and the real Ashlee doesn't always have the most exciting life.

The honest truth is that while I am insanely grateful for my life and content where I'm at, not every day is good. My life isn't fun 24/7, lots of times there are daily problems that arise. My life isn't always exciting, most days I just sit at home and have to find something to do. And my life doesn't always FEEL like it has purpose. Sometimes I don't feel like writing, I don't feel like blogging, I don't feel like doing anything. And am I complaining? No. Because this is my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I've realized that it's okay if I don't do something exciting every day, if life doesn't always feel fun. This world is obsessed with entertainment. And somewhere along the way, I've fallen into that trap, thinking I need to be entertained constantly, too. And I've been taught something terribly awful also: I'm only meant to entertain people. I only matter if I have something to offer someone.

That's a lie. Those are complete, utter lies, and the pressure social media has placed on us to perform is ridiculous.

Remember the days when people cared about people without getting something in return? When you loved someone not for how exciting, intelligent, spiritual, or whatever they were, but just because they were a person? Yeah, those were good days. Days that I don't think I even got to grow up in.

Teenagers get so much of the blame for this in our culture, but I can assure you, as a teenager growing up in the 21st century, it's not just us. There are plenty of adults that do the exact same thing. Post those pretty pictures of your kids, tell me how perfect they are when I know you've had days where they've absolutely exhausted you. Post those statuses about your work and how productive and successful you are when I know you're only sharing the highlight reel with me, purposefully leaving out those nights where you were so frustrated you wanted to quit. And the list goes on. Because really, that's all social media is. It's your pretend life, the life you wish you had. Why else would we feel so pressured to perform if it wasn't?

I think so many of us have fallen for the lie that if we can just pretend our life is perfect on social media, we can ignore the other big problems we face. I know I've fallen for it, like if I can just fool others...

And that's why I'm on a hiatus. I don't want to fool people. Life is full of good and bad, and I'm tired of only sharing the good because somebody has to address the bad, too, not to complain, but to encourage through the bad.

I've always promised I'd be real, and this is me keeping that promise.

I love my life. Yes. But don't get me wrong. I've had nights where I'm fed up with the world, too.

I've had amazing days where special memories are made. Yes. But I've also had days where nothing goes right, and my heart is shattered with disappointments.

I've had days where I fall asleep full of thanksgiving, reliving how awesome the day was. Yes. And I've also had days where I go to bed crying.

So here's what I've realized. You're going to have some really special times in your life. Thank God for them and appreciate them for what they are, but just know that the good times are temporary. You don't have to feel like something is wrong with you when the problems start coming, when the nights are lonely and the days are exhausting. Thank God anyway. Keep your head up and your eyes on Him because you know there's purpose through the pain, and one of the biggest lies this world could tell you is that pain is meaningless and pain is a sign of weakness.

Pain is never meaningless; pain is what will define your character and draw you closer to God. That's why this idea of a perfect life on social media drives me absolutely insane. I want to apologize to anyone that thinks my life is perfect because it isn't, and you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. The Ashlee I am today would not be here if she didn't cry herself to sleep on some nights or get knocked to her knees once in awhile, or a lot.

Because the bad doesn't last either. The rainbow will come, and your character will be stronger, and when the next trial comes, you're that much more prepared.

I'm on a hiatus because I'm done faking it. I am content with my life, trials and fun times and everything in between. I don't have anything to prove to anyone, except God. And when my relationship with Him is lacking because I'm not content with my life because  I've been spending too much time looking at people's highlight reels, then it's time to refocus. My life is great as it is. I'm not afraid of trials, and I learned not to be at a young age because of how they shaped me. But on social media, you're told to pretend you don't have trials. I completely disagree with that, and that's why I'm done for awhile. I have trials, but I'm also very joyful, and I don't need to produce a highlight reel of my life to be content with it. The key to life is learning to be content in any circumstance, not just in the highlights, and social media is people's best moments at their finest. I can't handle performing with that. I shouldn't have to. Life is more than that, and I'm done wasting my time trying to make my life look good enough. Who the heck defines that, anyway? A rich life is found in Jesus (John 6:35). Period. And I think that's why so many people are unhappy, despite what their social medias would like you to believe. Because they're too busy performing. Nobody's life is perfect. Stop pretending. Stop comparing. Start living. In Jesus. In the moment. In what you've already been blessed with. In your trials so that you can grow.

Lastly, it took away the noise.

The book was right, just like I thought. There's no more noise. Be this, say that, do this, act like her, etc. I'm gonna be the person God wants me to be, I'm gonna listen to what He says for me to do, I'm gonna act the way He tells me to, and I'm gonna live for Him, which is when you'll find your richest, most joyful life. And it has benefited me greatly, taking this time to be closer to Him and unplug from the expectations.

I wish I had something poetic and inspiring to say every day, but I don't always.

I wish I had perfect, exciting pictures to post every day, but I don't always.

But in the end, I get something better. Being closer to God in time will give me the words and the stories that are going to change lives for Him. Being close to Him and obeying Him will reap the rewards you really want in life.

There's more to life than looking good.

It's okay if you don't have it all figured out. It's okay if your life is messy. It's okay if you don't always have the words. It's okay if your story isn't picture perfect. When you're chasing after God (that's what this entire book is about), you will learn that the things of this world don't matter. And the stories that God writes for you will be so much better than anybody's social media highlight reel. Trust me, I know. And you know what? I'd include all my problems and trials in my highlight reel, because there is absolutely no way I'd be as close to God, as joyful, as wise, or even as successful for the things that matter without them.

Life is short. That is why I am unplugging. Because I want to chase the things that matter and have the success that matters.

With love, Ashlee....