March 18, 2020. That was the last time I posted a ‘blog.’ Let’s be honest: I haven’t posted since February 2018. August 2017, back in 2016. Single posts for the entire year. Trying to maintain a semblance of an “active blog.” Failure.
In reality, neither limited by time, or life events, I just have not had the urge to share. I’ve turned inward. Retreating in 2012 to California’s Mojave High Desert region, I licked my wounds, largely pride, and nursed a deep sense of failure. And I wrote a lot. But it’s not public because I felt shame, and I felt lost. Who would understand all the existential crises I trekked through at the time?
The thing is I didn’t understand what I was experiencing. Lots of feelings. Incredible amounts of conflict. Complete utter sense of loss: future, plans, ideas, self worth, faith. I turned inward. Writing became an intentional process to figure things out. Writing is a poor mans version of a therapy session where I use socratic method to question myself and find answers. Worn out, I was not ready to “blog.” Share. Face people.
If I post it, would you read it anyway? I never cared whether anyone read my ramblings. Knowing that right wing nut jobs weaponized my words in their sordid illogical framework to paint a terrorist out of me, and others exercising their first amendment rights, never prevented me from posting. It’s not for a lack of having something to say. I have a lot to say, but are people really reading anything nowadays?
The medium consumption of the average American consumer has shifted. In a TikTok era, can we truly say there is a strong desire to read?
So much has happened this past decade, personally, but also globally. Tumultuous and grievous. Fast paced and intense. Disappointing and saddening. Time has forced me to question, to dig deeper internally, and my response to all this: to turn off. Uncertainty abounding, I felt the ground shifting below me, all felt unhinged.
Ten years ago, I shared how I jumped out of an airplane some 15,000 feet off the San Diego soil. I am afraid of heights. Yet, self help psychology taught me to embrace my fears. Truth is, personally I was stepping into a monumental life transition, not just stepping out of a plane. While I committed to skydive, I neglected all the internal factors hurling me out of my planned life. Thats how oblivious I was to my past catching up to cannibalize my planned future.
“Thats what 9,000 feet looks like,” Jonas said softly in his weird European accent, “Are you okay?” Hard to explain to Jonas, I wasn’t okay with how close his body was to mine, how fear of heights was coupled with a desire not to be touched, in close proximity, to any other human. Jonas was tied on to me. I was attached to him, my skydiver instructor for this jump. It’s hard to do all that when I was peering over a wide open space, a hole in the hull of the airplane, down those thousands of feet.
I was holding onto excitement at the fact that I had not turned tail on the airfield, and while I choked on words at that moment, I couldn’t feel the need to turn tail even now. While reflecting on my achievement, I heard Jonas tell me we had a couple more thousand feet to go. Anxiety washed away, I had time to cope with the height of it all. Then Jonas was yelling “Go! Go! Jump NOW….!” All of a sudden all my feelings morphed into shear naked cold fear. As Jonas pushed us out of the plane all I could do was shut down the rational part of my brain, hold my breath, and close my eyes.
That planned life, a dream that had driven me from the moment I graduated UCSD, to the day I quit my nonprofit management job: law school. From 2006 until my first day of law school in 2011, I had aimed and directed my efforts toward this. Yet, a year later I left law school knowing full well that I had no other dream, no other tangible plan, no clear career path laid out before me. I quit my dream. And that failure compounded by other past moments of “me quitting” gnawed away at my sense of self.
Falling out of that rickety old propeller plane on that early June Saturday morning was a way to search out a strand of hope. I was hoping that the dark sinister thoughts of failure would be knocked out of me by the shear brutal force of gravity. I lived in the high atmosphere with the Earth unfolded across the horizon. For a brief moment, one of zen, it truly felt that way, I felt the weight of expectations lift. The tightness of manufactured desires loosened around my body. Sight appeared to open up to an endless horizon. A strand of hope. Then gravity.
I walked away holding tightly to the thought that, “I didn’t know exactly what all of this means right now, but I do know exactly one thing: I want to live my life feeling like I have lived and not just get by.” Now I had to figure out what that meant to me. To define it, to plan it, to live it; that was my responsibility.
The past decade swirled with thoughts, activities and plans meant to figure out and do just that. And while my plans played out, God unfurled a master plan with every moment that rolled forward, a few new shocking “firsts” were experienced. The auspicious conjunction of a life lived and a life imagined began to take shape.
In a promotor, self-branding and marketing, “you are the brand” environment, sharing this journey of self-discovery and actualization through posts on the blog seemed like a perfect thing to do. Monetization. Right?
Yet, I could not bring myself to share publicly and concisely this journey, or an American Muslims perspective on unfurling events, the whole reason I started this blog. The whole world was disrupted. What came out of me here, never met the standard for the moment we were living in.
I wrote opaque and convoluted posts. I chased after posts on social and civil rights issues; I wrote travelogues and even silly product reviews. I invested heavily in the Millennial Quran Study project – a public reflection on my reading the Quran and various tafseers in the order of revelation. I wrote drafts, many drafts, of different blog posts that never got posted.
By 2017 I felt that the purpose of a blog no longer held importance. The failure of Obama, the trauma of Trump, the pandemic even. I noticed when it came to writing, I had no desire to share my thoughts. I turned to Instagram stories to share ‘micro-posts’ on things I hoped to share publicly, using words and visuals – images, gifs, and videos – short bursts of facts, opinions, and advice. And, privately I jumped deeper into my journal reflecting practice, writing daily.
Disruption was the norm. In politics, in journalism and publication as they were evolving, with technology. Disruption was. Is. The landscape has drastically morphed, the way we got news, the way news is covered, and the sort of news being covered. Fragmentation followed disruption. Rapid democratization of who can write about the news, the sort of news being covered, how it was covered, and for the audience, the places where we went to get our news, the sort of focus we put onto the sort of content we consumed. It all was part of the future state of the current uncertainty. If disruption was the norm, and fragmentation followed in its wake, personalization was the result.
Blogging seemed “old”, a Boomer platform. Hard to find and keep up with favorite blogs, RSS feeds afforded the opportunity to ‘syndicate’ to an audience. But soon, Tumblr shifted the focus to micro-blogging and to an encapsulated platform. Tumblr offered primarily a value proposition for Millennial and older Generation Z audience with short attention spans to get access to shorter pieces, updated on a familiar centralized feed that had become ubiquitous on Facebook. Then Instagram and TikTok, followed by Vines, and a complete turnaround on how content and what content consumption meant. Then podcasts and video content for DIY, for history, for pundits.
I’ve got a squirrel’s attention span. It doesn’t take much to grab my attention and yank me from my working mind. I was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Hyper activity Disorder while in my mid-twenties. I silently lived with it, not sharing with family, very few friends had learned of it throughout my adulthood. An existential crisis was a norm, but coupled with a great sense of failure, a lack of direction, and nurturing a dark growing depression, I was wadding in disaster at the edge of a deep precipice. And, I was not sharing with anybody, rather hoarding it all to my self.
I’m grateful to be around. To have struggled, was an opportunity itself.Turning that dark period in my life into posts never appealed to me, still doesn’t. Sharing how I got through crises, seems like a deeply personal one-on-one task. Guilt, shame, self-doubt, worthlessness, disappointment, grief. Such heavy emotions, and a million billion kajillion voices demanding to be heard. Why read mine?
And here you are reading this raving bluster I’ve cobbled together. I certainly didn’t set out to reveal anything. I haven’t provided answers either. The most you could walk away with is that this guy had some major issues that made him feel lost and depressed, while coping with his ADHD he figured a way out of the storm he happened to be in for the past decade. And maybe thats all that matters: figuring out a way. Even as I embrace turning forty.