Read and Reflect: Giving people power has sucked the soul out of me

Our residents are exploring the topic of mental health this semester by reading and reflecting on the following books: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, and Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss by Stephanie Wittels Wachs.

Written by Stephanie Smith.

As digital editor at my college’s newspaper, I manage our social media and keep our website up-to-date and looking sharp. Anyone who manages social media for a business or an organization has encountered their share of trolls. There are mornings when I hop on Twitter and see notifications in the double digits, and a sinking pit forms in my stomach as I check the list and pray for no whammies. More often than not, the notifications are usually retweets of articles, people tagging others, people tagging the paper about campus events, or new followers. When trolls flare up, I can usually shake them off fairly easily – but not before I subject all staff members on Slack to a bitch fest complete with screenshots.

Within the past week, we’ve encountered a truly special troll.

He’s an alum who recently ended a 20-year journalism career at a major news organization. He’s been reading all our stories – leaving comments and critiques on just about every single one. Some critiques are valid; others make me scratch my head and go “huh, okaaaaay.”

Logically, I know he’s giving us free information that we pay over $11K for yearly in our pursuit of a journalism degree, and that I should feel – touched? honored? – that he’s taking the time out of his day – every day – to do this.

But he’s also been sending me into a red-hot rage every day when he does this.

Not a very #GIRLBOSS-ey thing to do.

Especially when Sophia Amoruso has a chapter in her book called “Treat Your Thoughts Like Your Dollar Bills: Don’t Waste Them.

"I also think you can end up ignoring, and even losing, the positive things in your life by focusing too much on the negative … When you think about people, you give them power."

When I come down for Women of Cincy, I park in the land of free parking and take the streetcar to Union Hall. During a recent streetcar trip, my social media assistant texted me the latest screenshots of this man’s posts, which sent me into that rage (again) and had me replying in ALL CAPS with f-bombs interspersed, and taking the lord’s name in vain while calling the man a pathetic dingus.

That afternoon, I constantly checked our site and Facebook page while writing this reflection, because I wanted to be the first to screenshot his latest and greatest to share on Slack; I requested the staff start memes in his honor and I said that I wish this had started before Halloween because I’d have paid someone on staff to dress up as him.

If thoughts are like dollar bills and my mind is like a checking account, then my mind just racked up a huge negative balance that I will never climb out of.

This is a huge lightbulb moment for me – framing thoughts as money. I try to be stingy with my dollar bills because I know what it’s like when my checking account is overdrawn – I am a college student, after all – but I’m not so stingy with the power of my thoughts.

You have to kick people out of your head as forcefully as you’d kick someone out of your house if you didn’t want them to be there.

Sophia tells a story of when she first started dating her ex-boyfriend Gary, and she was more or less MySpace-stalking a woman he once hooked up with. Sophia would talk about her all the time, and it’d piss off Gary. Then, at a Halloween party at a club in San Francisco, Sophia mentioned the woman again, wondering if they’d run into her. Bam! There the woman was – at this club – and made a beeline to Gary, ignoring Sophia. Sophia introduced herself to the woman as Gary’s girlfriend, made a dig at the woman’s age, and the two got into a full-on fight.

"… it was a miserable Halloween and a miserable night. During the miserable cab ride home, I realized I’d put so much energy into thinking about what I didn’t want to happen that I’d caused that exact thing to happen. I conjured that bitch."

My all caps f-bomb texting has happened many times before about other things – and I usually continue it when I get home, complaining to my boyfriend about someone or something. Then my voice starts getting louder, and I start talking faster, and then by the time I finish, my voice is like a high-pitch shrill, and my boyfriend asks why I’m yelling, and I’m like “I’M NOT YELLING! I’M BEING PASSIONATE!” As my rage happens, I usually have an internal debate that goes something like: Please stop. This is draining. You bitch so much, so often. He doesn’t need to hear this. YES, HE DOES! I WANT SOMEONE TO BE MISERABLE AND NEGATIVE WITH ME!

"After this happened, I was obsessed with this incident. I talked about it all the time while rolling my eyes and thinking about how much she sucked. Finally, I did this so much that Gary pointed out I was obsessing about her so much that I was going to make her successful. I took this advice seriously, and decided then that I don’t want to spend time thinking about things that I don’t want to have a place in my life. You have to kick people out of your head as forcefully as you’d kick someone out of your house if you didn’t want them to be there."

It took this 50-something-year-old man-troll to make me realize that being miserable and bitching about it ad nauseam is my comfort zone.

The amount of energy I put into having countless bitch fests with my BFF at the campus dining hall about students and professors could’ve better been spent having more genuine conversations about things that truly mattered to us, and us actually having adventures outside of the college bubble. She’s now in Lexington in grad school, and I’m still trying to make time to visit her.

The amount of energy I put into constantly bitching about a former student (who had a reputation for being cutthroat) stealing one of my ideas could’ve been better spent pushing my ideas out into the world. Instead, I’ve kept all of my ideas to myself.

The amount of energy I put into complaining about the quality of some of the local beer bloggers’ work could’ve been better spent developing my own beer site. Instead, my site is sitting dormant and unpublished in my WordPress account.

The amount of energy I put into sending my boyfriend bitchy texts about all the young’uns starting a photography, or an audio/video production, or a web design side hustle could’ve been better spent further learning how to use my Nikon, practicing my photography skills, and starting my own niche photography side hustle. Instead, the camera sits in its camera bag, collecting dust on a bookshelf.

The amount of energy I spend sending screenshots of the 50-something-year-old man-troll’s posts to our staff’s Slack, starting or contributing to bitchy rants on Slack or texting about his antics, and constantly refreshing our Facebook page to see if he’s posted yet could be better spent preparing myself to be a badass. A badass in journalism where I can create enough job security for myself through a combination of a traditional job and side hustles; so that I don’t find myself hiding behind a computer almost 30 years after working at the campus newspaper, giving unwanted advice to the current staff consisting of passionate journalism students who are being bad-ass by putting out the best paper they can with the limited resources they have.

“Frankly, even if that girl your boyfriend used to make out with suddenly gets hit by a car (like you’re secretly hoping she will), who cares? You’re still you… Focus on the positive things in your life and you’ll be shocked at how many more positive things start happening.”

I don’t regret having my bitch fests because it’s healthy to feel anger and jealousy. But the problem is that I let that anger and jealousy smother me. I never knew how to move on after I released all the negative energy. My bitching, my anger and my jealousy never affected them; it always affected me. They’re busy making their lives amazing with no clue I’ve been using them as my mental voodoo dolls. And the fact that I was jealous of them? It disgusts me now because during my fits I would constantly compare myself to them – and the last thing I want is to be any of them because they’re not me. And you know what? The world needs way more Stephanie Smith in it.