To Influence or To be Influenced?

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The date is June 14th, 2009. You and your best friend just got off Bus 10 at home, and decide to celebrate the last day of school with a lemonade stand. Together, you set it up on the beginning of the cul-de-sac. Eager for every passing car. Jumping up and down, trying to grab the attention of your neighbors. Not one cloud in the sky and the smell of fresh cut grass seeps into the fibers of your Old Navy tee-shirt. 

Unfortunately, today you wake up a 22-year-old college student with yesterday’s mascara smeared along your face, a 710-credit score, and not enough experience to get the internship you need to get the experience...

I would do anything to go back to the nostalgic summer of 2009. Every so often, I see younger children around my neighborhood riding their bikes and I think, thank goodness, they still go outside.  Televisions that resembled boulders and Crayola magic markers. I miss it all. 

“Be a good influence for your cousin,” my mother used to tell me. Mind your manners, cross your legs, chew with your mouth closed, do not interrupt, say please, and thank you; the list goes on and on. But when did influence become influencer?

When COVID began, being locked inside our homes the only way to exist was online. TikTok and Instagram became their own universe; it’s own reality. There were still days when I’d hibernate from the real world and exist digitally once the lockdown ended. I’d scroll through content creators’ profiles, stalking their Amazon store fronts and Linktree profiles. Fashion bloggers, video creators, and “get ready with me” videos took over my page. 

These beautiful people traveling, promoting, creating. I wanted to do it myself. 

We’ve gone through 12 years of grade school already. Most young adults my age have already graduated or are graduating from college. We're moving on with our lives and finally getting that taste of adulthood and independence. Nurses, lawyers, engineers, future CEO’s. And then there's me. Little writer monkey with a passion for the camera and doing something other than a traditional 9-5. The more I look, the more I see it all around us. I can’t help but ask myself: Why are we so quick to be influenced?

Last weekend, I was driving home from a night out with friends. As I got off the highway, I began to think about how people post videos of themselves aimlessly living their lives. I could do that, I thought. That’s when my gas light turned on. 

No better time than the present. 

So, there I was. Standing outside, plain as day, in my trashed white party Air Forces and Kirkland Signature pajama set, attempting to set up my tripod at the Danbury Nobel far enough away from the pump so I don’t blow up the station. 

At first, I felt silly. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I suddenly became aware of the other people filling their cars up around me. 

I began to fear that they’ll look at what I’m doing and pass judgment. New Fairfield is a small town. Not much is kept secret in this community. What would the people I went to high school with think about my work? Or the parents of my friends? My regulars from work? 

I got back in my car after my tank was full. I closed my gasket, put away my tripod and got back in my car. I began to replay the past 7 minutes in my head, and was thankful no one came up to me at Nobel. No one asked me about my filming. 

That’s when I realized what I was afraid of. It wasn’t failure I feared. It wasn’t the people watching. It was me. My lack of confidence in myself; in having any influence. 

I never did post that video on TikTok, but I did grow some confidence.