Excuse me, world. Do you validate?

Excuse me, world. Do you validate?
By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini | July 27, 2022

I want to be able to say, ‘I don’t give a shit.’”

That’s what I told my therapist. To which he asked, “Then why don’t you?”

“Because I give a shit.”

He laughed. We enjoyed a few moments of awkward silence. And then I Venmo’d him. It’s this fun little game we play once a week.

After that, purely out of habit or muscle memory, I turned my attention to Twitter where I focused on writing news-related, monologue-style jokes in hopes that maybe I’ll catch the eye of somebody in late night TV or, at a minimum, get the requisite number of likes to temporarily fill my dopamine reservoir. 

The whole thing is stupid.

Twitter is my addiction. Which, to be faaaaaaaaaaaaair, is objectively less concerning than actual addiction. At least until I start tweeting from under a bridge, pleading with hobos and hookers to check my spelling.

Don’t get me wrong. I do other things, too. I play music and watch soccer. 

I also take naps. Which definitely counts as a thing.

But, for me, yukking it up on social media is actually a lot of fun. Though, if we’re being honest, that enjoyment largely comes as a quick rush from those small moments of validation. The likes.

It’s weird how much I care. How much I need it. How much I desperately seek the immediate feedback from strangers to assure me that I have something that resembles a skill. Mind you, not the kind of skill that wins Olympic medals or builds things out of wood or does … basic math. But the kind that can occasionally craft a fair to middling boner joke from even the most innocuous headline.

There’s nothing wrong with writing Twitter jokes. I actually quite enjoy the creative process. Finally landing on a decent punchline offers a similar satisfaction to completing a crossword puzzle or correctly shouting out Jeopardy! answers.

But neither of those offer much of an audience. 

Not that my dog’s admiration doesn’t count - I just don’t know whether or not butt licking is a clear sign of his approval. Could go either way.

Social media offers that audience. Sort of. 

And I honestly take deep satisfaction from the challenge of seeking out news stories and then finding little opportunities to twist the events and key words in ways that might make people smile. Whoever the hell they are. 

That fulfillment - that joy of the process - should be enough. It should be sustaining. Just relish the creative experience … and move on.

But I can’t do that. There is no moving on. 

If my tree falls in the forest I need someone to hear it. And then like it. And retweet it.

Self doubt is weird. Especially in our connected world. Because even when that proverbial tree does crash upon the earth - when a joke works and rumbles through the digital forest - the ensuing pride and jolt of confidence lasts only as long as the echos. Then it’s on to finding more trees to fell.

Like an idiot Paul Bunyan.

Reactions matters to me. And I wish they didn’t.

Does that insatiable need go away with success? I don’t know. I haven’t had any to speak of. Perhaps the hunger for acknowledgement subsides when you reach some lofty point in your career or attain certain life goals. 

But probably not.

For creatives, and even non-creatives, agonizing over what other people think is likely just woven into your DNA - maybe from birth, or simply developed over time, stemming from something uniquely traceable to your childhood. 

There’s no on/off switch.

And, honestly, I don’t think I want to fight it anymore. This is who I am. Once a boy, now (somewhat) a man, who beams bright from a stranger’s nod. Or a smile. Or a dog licking its butt. 

If that is, in fact, a good thing.

I accept this truth. Because, while seeking the approval of others is a ruthlessly uncomfortable way to go through life, it can also be motivating. If I didn’t care … I wouldn’t care.

Comfort is where ambition goes to die. There and Costco.

Don’t get me wrong. Deep down, I desperately wish I could find a way to still love the process without relying on validation to define my self worth. But I can’t. So I won’t. 

And that’s my way of not giving a shit. 

Instead of trying to alter my DNA or re-wire this brain, I’ve decided to just accept that it’s perfectly OK to wander the creative woods, swinging my ax from tree to tree.

Like an idiot Paul Bunyan.

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