Recently, I was in a taxi heading back to Aberdeen train station. The driver, a lovely chatty woman in her 50s, warmed up to me over the drive and we ended up covering everything from the weather to whether we were satisfied with our lives. We were coming from two different backgrounds and at completely different times in our lives to each other. But both of us, clearly, had that question simmering in our minds.
I got on the train, pulled out my knitting, and sat back for the journey back to Edinburgh. The train meandered down the coast giving beautiful sea views. I’ve travelled that way before, but it’s not a frequent route. It’s a peaceful visage despite the general clatter of people on the train. I’ve always been able to relax into my audiobooks and my knitting at such moments. It’s like I’m home but a bit less comfy and with some novel views.
The question of whether I’m satisfied with my life isn’t in the forefront of my brain very often. It peaks up when I hear what friends are getting up to. Actually, when listening to what friends are getting up to, it’s like playing whack-a-mole with that question. The fact I want to compare my happiness to theirs feels dirty and bad, and I try not to.
But the constant comparisons of how happy we feel compared to how others appear to feel? That feels like a constant companion in modern life.
Whether it is Instagram, Facebook, or even Ravelry, it feels like there is this endless slide to the bottom of any feelings of self-worth. My photos are amateurish; my knitting three trends behind; my life imperfect compared to the people I follow.
I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this. Recently, it’s even been in the news after a British teenager committed suicide and the parents, in part, blame Instagram. The advice that inevitably comes up when these feeling are discussed is about how you’re comparing your ordinary life to their highlight reel. I get that.
I’d go one step further, because that isn’t even their highlight reel. There’s edits and filters and props. And it only has to be perfect for that one moment. The model can relax their pose, throw the props in the bin, and turn to their computer to complete the process of making the situation captured perfect.
Somehow, those expectation of what it looks like to be satisfied with my life hasn’t faded with those photos. It hasn’t faded despite nearly a whole year where I almost never let myself look at Instagram.
It’s getting better. I didn’t even consider myself to be too addicted to social media. I wasn’t posting every 5 minutes. It was a casual flick through that turned into hours without me even being aware. Regardless, I started to think of happiness as a photo were all the individual elements were perfect, as opposed to a feeling of satisfaction, or a pleasure, or anything to do with me.
Yesterday, I was reading. It’s Scotland, and the sun at this time of year is just beginning to feel warm on my face as it comes over the roof tops. I was reading what I consider to be the equivalent of the ‘classics’ for knitting. For me that’s Elizabeth Zimmerman, Barbara G. Walker and the amazing (and more contemporary) Stephanie Pearl McPhee. There are others which deserve the same love, but there is something similar in the style of these books.
The point of the books is not the patterns but the words before them. Barbara Walker even warns the reader about this in ‘Knitting From The Top’. The pattern is just part of the knowledge they want to share. They make you a part of their world.
In a fast paced world, searching out the specific details from amidst the broader discussion of technique could be annoying. Instead, they draw you in. I cannot imagine a world where I need to knit trousers, let alone harem pants, but after yesterday’s reading I know where to start at least. It’s not an ‘Instagramable’ moment. It’s the pleasure of being home with a cup of tea and the satisfaction of enjoying yourself.