As I’ve written about before, I saw the new musical “Burn All Night” recently. In one of the songs, the ensemble sings explicitly about documentation and how they require it in order to be immortal. That sort of desperate, extreme statement fits in well with the pulse of the show and the general fervent nature of today’s youth, but they didn’t stop there. The more bold claim was that they needed to be documented in order to exist.
At first glance, that seems like a complete exaggeration. I would never suggest that I needed documentation in order to understand my own existence. However, recent experiences have made me realize that maybe they’re right, after all.
I take a picture of my friends and they post it, but my face doesn’t appear and suddenly the question is: was I really there? My friend gets removed from the list of an extracurricular and doesn’t get notified about something, and it makes her wonder: am I still really in this group? For a long time, my podcast didn’t appear on the Wikipedia page for Relay FM, and in a strange way it made me feel like I wasn’t a real part of the network. I would notice that and have to go back to the Relay FM website to assure myself that I hadn’t conjured the whole thing up.
Why does it matter if an external force validates what we already know? I think that maybe, there’s a part of us that never believes we’re good enough for what we’re doing: our friends are cooler than us, our work is better than us, we don’t deserve the honors that we’ve achieved. It’s the same kind of imposter syndrome that makes every criticism of our work so painful—not that this person in particular doesn’t like us, but that they’ve “seen the truth” about how terrible we are.
I think maybe, we should hold on to what we know a little bit harder, and stop letting other people’s photos and opinions have so much weight.