I can remember the moment when I realized I could no longer hide who I was from my family. I had lived this lie for so long that it literally felt like it was going to eat me alive.
Every day I woke up feeling like I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was trying so hard to be everything my parents wanted but deep down, I knew that this just was not who I was destined to be.
I couldn’t help it. I was born this way. This was not a choice. I tried to deny it to myself for the longest time, told myself it was a “phase” and that things would improve. But on this day, I realized that things weren’t changing and I had to come clean.
I had to tell my parents that I wasn’t cool on social media.
I knew that I had brought shame and dishonor to my family name. They had sent me to the best schools, brought me on the nicest vacations, bought me great clothes and yet here I was, failing to gain any type of online traction.
“I’m sorry,” I choked as I finally handed over my phone and let my parents see my Instagram profile for the first time in months.
“Only 67 likes on this?” My mom said in complete horror and disgust. “How can this be? You’re with a tiger!”
I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her that the other girls just had perfected taking a selfie like I never could. I went to all the classes, watched all the YouTube tutorials but somehow, my selfie game was just never as strong.
I knew that on this chilly March day my parents would never see me quite the same. My college degree lost a bit of its worth, my kindness seen as almost irrelevant and my new job was basically a waste of time.
“How will you ever find a suitable man to marry if you don’t get more followers than this?” My father asked concerned.
He was absolutely right and I fought to hold back the tears that needed to come. I didn’t know what type of respectable guy would ever go for a girl with under 500 followers online. I was mortified, but knew that I had given it my all.
I began to explain that I had tried every possible angle to sell myself as cool. I really committed to trying to be the best person I could be by only purchasing food so I could take pictures of it, and posing seductively in the hopes that my sexuality could maybe entice some people.
I told them how I fell down the stairs trying to get the perfect lighting of me and my squad and about the times I waited in line for eighteen hours to get a rainbow bagel so I could take a picture of it by the Brooklyn Bridge and then not eat it.
“Why did we even bother sending you to study abroad?” They both asked. Again, I hung my head in silence. There was no point in experiencing another culture if it was not going to be popular with strangers online. I did not need to be immersed in the experiences of other’s to grow. I needed to feel temporary satisfaction by their comments and likes, that was how you became a more well-rounded person.
I wasted their money and had given them absolutely no return on investment. I was a financial let down and mistake.
“I’m sorry!” I pleaded again, not knowing what consequences lay ahead for me.
I realized my opportunities were dwindling because of my lack of online popularity. I would never marry, get a promotion or be respected within my community.
I had failed, but could only hope that they would be able to come to terms with reality and accept me for who I am.
“We can send her away,” suggested my Father. “There are special places for girls like you, who are confused and think they can’t change, but you can!”
“Yes,” my Mom chimed in. “We can fix this, sweetie. We can sign you up for more classes, get you a therapist to talk to and a life coach to help you with your hashtags.”
My heart broke into a million pieces. Why couldn’t they understand that my eyebrows would just never be on fleek. I couldn’t contour to save my soul and if I couldn’t look hot then there was basically no point in living at all.
I thought they could love me for who I was but the shame would be too great. We would be excommunicated from our community.
“I can’t live like this!” I screamed through tears. My legs were so tired from jumping on all these bandwagons that I felt like I had no more fight in me. I was defeated.
My parents life-long aspiration for me to be Insta-Famous was shattered. I would never see their smiling faces as I surpassed the 1 million mark of followers who had such genuine love for me because of my external appearance.
All the training, the money, the time. It was all for nothing. No one followed me when I became a yoga teacher, so I tried cross fit instead. But I blew out my back trying to dead lift and had to go back to yoga.
I tried only eating pizza to show that I was great at being skinny and also eating like crap but I just got fat. I became a vegan, then went on the paleo diet and even tried a trendy new thing where you only ate air for a while. No success with the followers.
My final attempt at bringing any kind of redemption to my house was to make a sex tape. Perhaps this could renew our name and once again make me seem great in society’s eyes. Maybe if I could be like Kim Kardashian people would finally see that I was really worth something.
But that too, failed.
So it was decided, I had to leave my home and promise to never return.
I hung my head heavy as I looked back at my childhood home one last time, tears streaming down my cheeks. It was bittersweet.
I would never see my parents again, but at least I spared them shame and at least I was finally free to be who I was – A failure.