Hey hi hello, Dear Reader. I hope this installment of my mental musings finds you well today. I come to you from my humble abode, American flag-clad and damp bathing suit-sprinkled in all its glory. It’s nearly noon, and I’ve been awake since 5 AM. I couldn’t fall back asleep after I suddenly woke up with the urge to pee, so I’ve just been making videos since then. It’s been seven hours.
My media economics professor this past quarter was a big fan of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of the “flow state.” The psychologist defines it as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. When I’m making videos, I’m in my flow state. I don’t need to take a break to check my phone or get up and get a snack, and I normally wait until my bladder is about to burst before I pry myself away from the screen to take a leak.
In sum, making CiC content and sharing it with all of you makes me feel very, very good. But when I received this comment on the trailer for the Cath in College YouTube channel last week, I was forced to stop and think about the deeper meaning behind why I do what I do:
I think your happiness in college comes from an already fertile ground. Your videos are addictive for people because they depict what most cannot have. And for that, you may get more and more subscribers for less and less work put in, yet while offering no nuance to a life worth living (yet occasionally you do in your Q and A’s and discussion about classes).
I think you should endeavor to cross over this boundary you clearly draw with tropical music and attractive people, and think about the other: the sadness in college, the difficulties in relationships, the ambiguities of love. To be critical, you are not empowering an understanding of “who people are” or “who others can be”, rather drawing in others, with your handed laurels, into something not far from a void.
There are so many opportunities for fruitless pursuits on the internet–endless channels that reel people in with their aesthetic appeal, giving people a taste for a lifestyle or body or relationship they can’t have, but ultimately leaving people feeling empty–and hungry for more. (And that’s the point, isn’t it?) This comment hit me in a soft spot because one of my greatest fears is that Cath in College will become one such pursuit.
One of the core philosophies behind CiC’s founding is that every single person on this earth has a story to share, and if we all took the time to listen, we would inhabit a safer, happier world. My goal for CiC is to give you just one of the seven billion stories that deserve to be documented: my own. The idea is that if you come to believe my perspective is valuable, you will extrapolate that lesson out to the rest of humanity, internalizing the virtue of valuing all people’s perspectives. Moreover, my own perspective is one of positivity, of living in the moment, of gratitude. Thus, these are the values that I seek to share on CiC.
So is it true that Cath in College offers no such optimism? Does it fail to tell a story that could inspire others to live positively? Live openly? Live fully?
I 🍩 think so. Here is why.
Donut! Like ‘do not’… get it?
First off, sadness does not equate to nuance or depth.
While I appreciate this commenter’s thoughtful and deliberate criticism (I really, really do,) I disagree with their assumption that the only way to provide meaning through Cath in College is to expose the vulnerabilities of my and my friends’ lives. (“… the sadness in college, the difficulties in relationships, the ambiguities of love.”)
First, consider one simple truth that even I sometimes forget when I find myself on the other side of the screen: We are real people. We have real insecurities and real imperfections. We struggle with mental wellness, with relationships, and with pressure. We maintain friendships outside of what is shown on Cath in College, and relationships with each other. We are vulnerable. We struggle. We are not perfect.
And while this is all true, it is not my responsibility–nor my right–to show this all to you at your request. Ye DRs know a LOT. But you don’t know everything. I, as well as my friends and family, have a right to maintain that personal privacy to whatever degree we would so kindly prefer.
But just because Cath in College can’t offer a deep-dive into our personal lives, I still believe it has plenty to offer that separates it from a meaningless online sun-filled, ab-clad, paradisal void. You just need to look a layer deeper and see what lies beyond the surface.
Take a closer look…
When you see Calli, Shannon, and me go into our final presentation with the strategy: “Let’s just try to use English words,” I hope you learn to not let the stress of getting a certain grade dominate your academic thought space. Learning for the sake of learning–that is what makes school so rewarding. Video: “Piercings, Etymology, and Boba with Calli & Shannon [VLOG#38]“
When you see Calli, Quina, Marissa, and me break into Half Moon Bay to go skinny-dipping in the ocean at midnight on a Monday, I hope you learn that it’s okay to break the rules for the sake of living every once in a while. Video: “We went skinny dipping [VLOG #14]“
When you see me surprise Allan at the airport with a pineapple pizza after coming home from a three-month internship in China, I hope you learn to think of all the little things you could do for the people you love to brighten up their days. Video: “The crew starts coming home! – Allan returns to campus [VLOG #28]“
When you see Ibrahim tell Geoff and me about his Islamic faith on the way to get our ears pierced, I hope you are inspired to listen dutifully and compassionately to those with different backgrounds and to be open to sharing your culture with others who demonstrate a genuine, caring interest. Video: “They get their ears pierced for the first time [VLOG #16]“
When you hear Joey pardon himself for joining in on Conner’s and my coffee run, I hope you hear our response–“Oh, Joey, please.” “We would have been offended if you didn’t.”–and learn that “no new friends” is a sh*tty motto, and that there is always room in the squad for one more. Video: “Joey pops his Philz cherry and I’m soaking wet [VLOG #41]“
When you see how terribly Harambe’s Angels SUCKS at every sport we lay our hands on, but that we put in blood, sweat, and tears anyway, I hope you are inspired to never let the fear of losing get in the way of giving something your all. Video: “Cath in College Sports: Intramural Flag Football [VLOG #34]“
I truly believe that there’s a lot more to CiC than meets the eye.
Trust me, I wouldn’t be spending all this time on it if I didn’t believe this were true.
In “I’m just trying to not f*ck up,” published July 2016 (8 months ago,) I said the following:
I’ll never tell you what to do. I’ll never tell you what to think. But I will share with you my experiences and my perspective with the hopes that you will garner from them an idea of what you yourself want to think and do.
It’s easy to talk the talk. Let me prove to you that I am what I say I am.
Click play for the exact quote
I did reply to the original comment on the CiC channel trailer. The response that I ended up posting in the moment was primarily concerned with the privacy element of increasing vulnerability on Cath in College. Now, though, I think that the bigger miss for this DV is all that there is to be learned from Cath in College on a deeper, however more obscure, level. The nuance Cath in College has to offer lies not in the declaration of its characters’ vulnerabilities, but in all the meaning that is packed into every seemingly inconsequential interaction.
Cath in College is real life. To get the full benefit of being a member of this community, one must be curious and eager enough to live it.
And to the DV who wrote the original comment: Thank you for making me reflect on why I do what I do beyond engaging in my flow state. You have forced me to evaluate my intention versus my impact, and for that, I am always grateful.
So, so, so much love,