I've escaped London for a little while. Lately I've had restless nights, days where I couldn't concentrate and colds suddenly attacking me rendering me useless for 24 hours at a time. I simply needed a small break and to put some space between myself and my usual life, go for quiet walks, breathe in some truly fresh air and sleep. I realise that it might sound a little strange saying that I want to put space between myself and my life, after all, my life is obviously me, right? Well yes, of course it is. But I needed to escape that part of the life I lead in London, the environment that sometimes makes me feel like I live in a kind of parallel universe that is full of people shouting for attention. That universe is mostly the online world. I know that I am of course free to turn off my laptop (on which I'm ironically typing right now) if I need a break, but I never seem to manage to switch off entirely.
In order to do that, I need to change location, be somewhere where the pace of life is slower, leave the city, get into the countryside, see green fields and speak with people down the pub who don't care about social media and blogging and who value the few people around them and their true friendships. It's about being in a place that feels authentic and honest. Where people (mostly) say what they mean and mean what they say. These people don't seem to constantly shout about themselves trying to attract attention. They are what they are and others can like it or not.
It's this honesty and valuing the people around you that seems to have got lost in a world where the loudest person who surrounds herself (or himself) with the biggest groups and is present at every event is hailed a success. It's a world where quantity is of more value than quality and it's something that makes me uncomfortable because I see genuine talent going unrecognised and overshadowed by people who are good at 'networking' and shouting about themselves.
I know the saying 'if you can't beat them join them', but it's not about beating anybody, it's about not being the kind of person who is comfortable joining everything. I'm not a natural networker, I don't feel overly comfortable in big groups of people and events that are specifically designed to meet new people in my field and where I'm supposed to force my business card onto every person who so much as looks at me. I know how it works, I've seen people who 'work the room' wandering from one person to the next, introducing themselves and then jamming their business card into your hand. I'm just not like that and probably never will be. Contrary to my appearance, I'm actually relatively shy and am happy to meet one person at an event, find a genuine connection and spend the evening talking to that person. I might then even give them my business card.
I like small gatherings of people who are genuine, have an interest in others that goes beyond business and social media and where I feel that their life and work are a true part of them not a staged event. People who don't jump onto every bandwagon but know what they like and therefore know where to invest their energy and themselves. Being at every party in town just doesn't look like something desirable to me, it just looks desperate. I also find it counter productive: the thinner I spread myself, the less energy and head space I have to invest in my work. In order to create something I can be proud of, I need space and I'm not going to achieve that by making painfully awkward small talk with people. Don't get me wrong, I've met some wonderful people at events and even made some new friends, but I have also met my fair share of people who will only speak to you to determine how useful you might be to them and then swiftly move onto the next person. And that's not the kind of thing I want to be a part of.
I realise that all this makes me sound terribly anti-social bordering on insane (like to shoot yourself in the foot much?). After all, networking, constantly meeting new people, making useful contacts, being out there and promoting ourselves is the name of the (online) game, right? Some people might even point out that I might as well shut shop now if I'm not prepared to play along at all times. But maybe I'm hoping that one day the game might change and that we will go back to seeing the person behind the veneer and that we will understand that being seen is not the same as actually having something worth seeing.
As I'm sitting here writing, I'm looking at some old stone houses, it's raining outside and it's completely quiet. London right now seems like a million miles away and like a different and slightly insane world. I'll return in a couple of days of course and I would miss it if I actually had to move away, but for a little while, being away helps me to clear my head and see things in a different light. Taking a step back (physically and mentally) is a good way to see things for what they really are...