Connor Franta who used to get nervous speaking in front of big crowd, speaking is now his job. He is a YouTuber, vlogging is what he does for a living.
Connor writes in his memoir, ‘ To this day, my voice STILL cracks, but now I roll with the punches, make a few self-deprecating jokes, and continue. Some things never really change. You can only control your perspective. If you do, the big things that haunted you at school seem so pointless. ‘
In his memoir A Work In Progress, he writes about his pubescent self-consciousness and how he, the goody-two shoes became engulfed in teenage angst and rebellion in high school. He was never the bad kid, he was only made aware of the real world and did some things that were out of character for him- the consequences of trying to care less. . He didn’t care if his homework wasn’t done to absolute perfection and ended up failing several tests, got pulled over a few times for speeding, staying out late instead of taking care of his responsibilities. His parents eventually had a little chat with him and he knew he was not being himself so he went back to the old him.
Connor also writes about how as the new kid in school, he had to improvise and live the lie as long as his social status benefited. He wanted to be the cool kid and as he reflects in his memoir , he cared far too much about what he wore and how and about the words that he spoke. So in a lot of ways, high school can be the training ground for going out to the real world. He writes, 'That’s the downside of growing up. There’s a lot of pretending involved. We frequently act like someone other than who we really are because we don’t know or aren’t comfortable with our true selves. “Just be yourself “ , parents and grandparents often say, but that’s easier said than done. It seems we must grow up before we can even begin to think about flourishing. It’s taken me years to realize and embrace this.’
A cynic probably scoffs at these successful people who keep telling us not to be afraid of failing and that success involves failing first. Connor writes, ‘Failure is your teacher, not your judge. Like any other good thing, ti takes time, and you’ll just have to wait it out. All you have to know is why you’ve done something and like it, without seeking the validation or approval of others. If you think it’s unique, that’s all that should really matter. Create first and foremost for yourself, no one else.’
Whenever we have a fabulous meal at home or when we eat out, my elder daughter will stop everyone from digging in so she can snap photos of the food before we start eating, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. She has an eye for taking the best photographs for the food before us and she takes photos with not just her Cannon 60 D also her iPhone. I do take photos of the food I eat to remind myself of where I have been and to capture the wonderful dining experience. In his memoir, Connor talks about his passion in photography and how he whipped out his iPhone , stood on his chair, and began to take five to ten photos until the angle, light, and overall aesthetic were perfect despite hearing people around him giggling and could feel the eyes of strangers burning through his back like the hot summer sun. I recall an incident when an European middle-aged couple was looking at us with an amused look as my daughters started snapping photos of the seafood before us at a restaurant inside Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, Lyon’s famed indoor food market named after the legendary Paul Bocuse. It could be my hyper-sensitivity, the man was not only amused, his expression was one of condescension.
Connor is a self- accepting millennial and wise beyond his age. He talks about our addiction “nomophobia” ( no-mobile-phone phobia). When he dines with his friends, they play the “all phones in the centre of the table” game where everyone has to turn their phones on silent mode and place them in the no-touching zone on the table. The first person to reach out and use it must pay for dinner. It is true that whenever we go out for dinners we cannot leave our phones behind. It is ironic that we have a tendency to interact with those who aren’t with us. We tend to reach out for our phones in moments of awkward silence around the table. I feel terrible if I am distracted and look at the phone when I have a friend or friends in front of me.
‘The choice is ours: engage with real life or escape into a virtual world. Do you want to communicate with living, breathing people right in front of you ? Or wait until some lifeless words pop up on a screen ? You decide which is more fulfilling.’
I could not agree more when Connor writes that it is the act of making and savouring his coffee that he enjoys when he drinks his coffee. Though there are days when I need to knock off a cup of coffee for the caffeine to keep me going because I am particularly tired, more often than not , having a cup of coffee means ‘me time’ when I can sit down with a book as I take a break during a work day or between running some errands. These days I am in such a race to fit in both my work and everything else that I find myself missing out on the joy I used to get from making a cup of coffee in the morning. I actually much prefer grinding and making my own coffee. It is a ritual to start off the day ahead.
I also totally agree with Connor when he writes that life is about figuring out who we are and that we humans are all complex beings. We can never place anyone in a particular box for everyone of all ages cannot be defined by labelling them. Every individual is a lot of things if they care to reach out their full potential.
'We are constantly growing, learning , and changing as people, and I love that. Honestly, I could barely recognize the person I saw in the mirror a year ago if I saw him today. I want to be able to keep saying that through life.'
I feel that to a large extent we are the same person we were yesterday , or the day before or years or decades before. It is our perspectives that evolve constantly.
To the question : ‘ Who are you? Connor’s answer : ‘You are who you are in this given moment. Label-less. Limitless.’
Connor shares with us his mantra : Live now, worry later and reminds us that you can’t change the past. It’s done. Finished. As we all know the future is an unknown and he writes, ‘Destination unknown. It’s like being in a movie where you don’t know the end . Think of it that way.’
Connor’s words are heartfelt and sincere when he tells us about his hang-ups and how he comes to terms with his sexuality. The book is about many things and one of them is about coping with loneliness and how loneliness is really a state of mind. He writes, ' But Mom's right - a thought is only as strong as you allow it to be. We either fuel it or release it. Same with loneliness. ' While he tries to reach out to young adults, the core of his message is timeless : Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to go after what you truly want. I believe no matter what age we are, we are all work in progress.