It has been brought to my attention that my TikToks suck. First, the teenager clued me in. Because of course it was the teenager. I’ve seen them. They suck. Then the adult child agreed. Uh, yeah. When I asked the husband what he thought, his answer was, no one laughs harder at your TikToks than you do. Given the fact that my last TikTok has only gotten 7 views in 24 hours, I’d say that might be the literal truth.
But here’s the thing, I don’t care if my TikToks suck. That was sorta the plan.
But first, a story…
My story begins in Rhode Island, the teeniest state in New England, where both my parents were born. My mom’s brother, Uncle Charlie to me, had an adorable cottage on the lake. That is where he spent summers with his wife, Aunt Maureen to me, and anyone in the extended family who would care to join. For quite a few of those summers that would be my parents and their teensiest child, me.
In this lake, upon which the adorable cottage sat, there was a floating dock. And from this dock the children would jump. All the children. The grandchildren, cousins, friends’ children. They would jump off into the tea stained water with squeals of delight, climb back onto the dock to start over again and again. All of them, except for me. For, even though my age was nearly in the double digits, I could not swim.
After giving me more than enough time to muster up the courage to want to learn how to swim on my own, it was decided that enough was enough. This was a safety issue. I was going to learn whether I wanted to or not. For, as my Uncle Charlie put it, you’re too damn old to not be able to swim. So, I was placed in a life jacket, rowed out to nearly the middle of the lake, and thrown in like a sack of anxious prepubescent potatoes.
Sometimes when I will recount this story to people, the look on their faces will be one of horror. That must have been so traumatizing! You must have been terrified! How did you ever trust him again? I must assure you, I am fine. Well, at the very least, I feel certain my current neuroses have nothing to do with that moment.
I knew it was coming. There was a conversation beforehand. I agreed. It wasn’t as if I thought we were going for a boat ride and they just dumped me when I wasn’t looking. I was in on the plan.
I was more than ready for someone to take charge and make it happen because the fact that I couldn’t swim when all my cousins could, some much younger than me, became an albatross around my neck. My shame around it had paralyzed me. I was afraid to ask for help because I was simply too embarrassed about it.
The initial splash might have been sort of terrifying, but after breaking that seal it was nothing but flailing arms and awkward freedom. As my uncle slowly rowed, keeping his eyes on me the whole time, I slowly followed behind until we got to shore. There it was announced that I could take off the life jacket and go jump off the dock like everyone else. It felt really good.
Ok, cool. Now what in the hell does that story have to do with you sucking at TikTok?
Hold on. We’re getting there.
Truth be told, I only downloaded the app because 45 was mad at it. Ya know, that other president. The one who shall not be named, but whose skin is the color of the vinyl couch we had in our living room in the 70’s. His last name rhymes with lump. His wife famously said, “Who gives a f*ck about Christmas stuff?”
Yeah, that guy.
I didn’t really have any plans with growing a social media empire over there. And if you saw how dismal my other social media numbers are you’d understand why. I just wanted to see what it was all about. Turns out, it’s pretty dang entertaining. And when you’re smack dab in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but time on your hands, it’s the best place to lose a couple of hours. Or days. Depends on how deep your existential angst is.
Eventually I started to think, wouldn’t it be fun to MAKE a TikTok instead of just watching them? And thus, a star was born. Just kidding! I suck, remember?
I’ve been there for almost a year now and I’ve made a few dozen TikToks and none of them have done very well. In twelve months I’ve only acquired 100 followers, despite following nearly a thousand other content creators. And that’s probably because I suck. No, it’s definitely because I suck. And that’s okay.
See, for most of my life I’ve been the type of person who would not even consider learning something new unless I felt really confident that I wouldn’t suck at it. And that, my friends, is how you end up never learning anything new. Because, guess what? Of course you’re going to suck at something you don’t know how to do!
When I first started swimming behind that slow moving rowboat on the lake upon which the adorable cottage sat, I was pretty terrible. Of course I had a big stretch of water to practice and I’d certainly get a whole lot better in the space between the initial splash and the shoreline where I accepted all the praise and accolades.
Today, I am a swimmer. I can certainly swim. While I may not be an Olympian, there is nothing I love more than being able to feel the water slide over my body as I propel forward easily even if my breaststroke is a little clumsy. It’s a good thing you don’t have to be the best at something in order to enjoy it.
You’d think my year on TikTok would be the social media equivalent of at least a dozen trips from the middle of the lake to its shore. You’d think I’d be a little bit more advanced. But I’m not. After almost an entire year, I kind of still feel like I was JUST yeeted off the boat. And frankly, I don’t care. I welcome how much I suck at it.
Writing affords me a safe space where I can jot my thoughts down, edit to my heart’s content, refine some more, and eventually choose not to let you read my words if I get too scared. I don’t allow myself that luxury at TikTok.
Since I hate seeing myself talking, I hate hearing my voice, and I loathe being put on the spot, I made TikTok the place where I force myself to do all of that. I finally decided it was time to swim, so I threw myself off the damn boat. Every TikTok I make is sort of on the fly, with little preparation and even less editing. Come to think of it, maybe that has something to do with why my TikToks suck. If it takes me more than 30 minutes to make one and post it, I’m out.
And while the cringe factor is high and the likes and follows are abysmally low, I have learned a lot about really doing things just for the joy of it. When my husband says no one laughs harder at my TikToks than I do, he is not lying. I crack myself the hell up.
And that joy has made learning new skills easier. I made my own TikTok sound! Has anyone used it beside me? No. Did that particular video have a lot of views and likes? Hell no. Did I teach my technophobic self how to do something new? Galldurn right, I did.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever be great at making TikToks, but as long as I’m enjoying it who cares? I’m swimming. All flailing arms and awkward freedom. But this time with hot flashes!
So, I invite you to yeet yourself off a rowboat and learn along the way. You’ll find the shore even if it takes you awhile because, in the immortal words of Jake the Dog from Adventure Time: