Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between consuming and contributing, specifically in the context of culture. It’s easy to consume, comforting even. When we consume we fill filled up, but when it’s not counterbalanced that filling up can feel more like eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet instead of being nourished by a hearty stew made by someone you love.
I don’t know about you, but recently I’ve been feeling bloated by the amount of culture I consume — podcasts, Youtube videos, audiobooks, music, television shows, movies, articles, Instagram reels, etc. At any given point I have 10+ tabs open just waiting for me to dive into. When I finally shut my laptop or blacken my iPhone screen, I am usually bouncing from event to event in the city; comedy shows, club nights, art exhibitions, clothing swaps, yoga sessions, and workshops. You name it, I’m probably already there.
It’s no wonder I struggle with shutting off my brain and deepening into slumber many nights of the week.
My latest theory is that I haven’t been counterbalancing my consumption by contributing to the culture I live in. I had the same consumption guilt a few years back when I began the arduous process of co-founding a nonprofit. Instead of feeling filled up though, that whole process drained me to the core. Eventually, I didn’t have anything left to give and had to spend the next few years filling myself back up. But now…now I feel ready to contribute again but not exactly in the same way.
Now don’t get me wrong — I am definitely not writing this to guilt you into giving back to your community by means of cofounding a nonprofit or doing some other grand gesture in the name of contribution. Quite the opposite.
What I am suggesting, is that you examine your consumption contribution ratio and then evaluate if there are small ways you could be contributing to the communities that you already receive nourishment from. No need to run out and create a community from scratch — that’s hard y’all!!
A few days ago, I attended a panel on how to transform dance floors and club culture in general. One of the panelists was Alvin Collantes, a trained Gaga dancer who dreamed up one of my absolute favorite events in Berlin…Dose of Pleasure. How do I describe DOP other than an ecstatic dance adventure meets techno club meets dynamic meditation meets a playground for adults? The groove sessions usually consist of a warming up of our bodies by slapping our chest and legs, screaming at the top of our lungs, and jumping up and down followed by a few hours of letting loose and shaking all of our bits and pieces. I almost always get sweaty and leave riding a natural high. A boost of endorphins bursting in ecstasy. During the panel he said something that I really took to heart, you can contribute to whatever space you’re in by being vulnerable, by bringing all of you, shedding your layers, and by acknowledging the other brave souls around you who are doing the same through a smile, nod, or locking of eyes.
I loved this so much. Why? Because it completely takes the pressure off. I don’t have to add yet another to-do to my ever-growing to-do list. I don’t have to start a community from scratch. I don’t have to hire a branding expert and become a TikTok influencer before my contributions will matter. I can just start being more present in the places I already show up. RELIEF!
It reminds me of a story my friend recently told me. She was attending a Booty Fitness course for all bodies in the park a while back and one of the women there was struggling with keeping up. Her face was red and her body was failing her. Other women went up to comfort her but she seemed agitated, embarrassed even. That’s when the teacher took control and said matter of factly, “We need you here.” That seemed to give the woman a renewed sense of confidence. She wasn’t just there to sweat and burn a few calories, she was contributing to the space by showing up as her authentic self, even when that meant falling apart.
When you show up with your WHOLE self, you give others the courage to do the same. Imagine living in a community where no one needed layers. Folks could just feel comfy existing in their own bodies. They could move and wiggle to their heart’s content. They felt safe to share what was on their mind without fear of being rejected or ridiculed.
Sounds great, right?
I think so too. That’s why one of my intentions for the coming months and 2023 is to be more present at the events I show up to. I will ask the facilitator questions, make eye contact and smile with those around me, and move and wiggle in ways that bring me joy. Maybe just maybe it will inspire someone else to do the same and THAT’S HOW WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. One wiggle at a time.