midlife

An Insider Pass: Ruminating About The Instagram Circus With Jo

Once upon a time, a good friend shrugged and said, “I just don’t get that Seinfeld show—why do you think it’s so funny?” And I was like, “How can you not get it?!” It was the mid-1990s and it was a new format for TV: a show about nothing! 

Fast-forward, and now ordinary, slice-of-life quips are everywhere. People love them! And my Insta-friend, Jo Davies, deftly dishes up the best relatable observations in her Instagram profile, @midlifehighway.

Well—that is until she took an IG hiatus this summer. Where’d she go? Why’d she leave? When’s she coming back?? 🙆🏻‍♀️

I wanted the scoop on this brilliantly clever woman. So I decided to go straight to the source: While vacationing in London, I had lunch with Jo last month! That’s right, an IRL meetup with a virtual friend across the pond, imagine that!  

Naturally, we shared many laughs as we bantered about everything and nothing. It was a lovely, light afternoon filled with little bites, a little window shopping, and even a little Prosecco (just for me)—ahhh! 

Then in a very candid followup (via Zoom) a couple weeks later, I was privy to personal thoughts absent from her IG profile. Not a shock: who doesn’t have a carefully curated public image? Yet who doesn’t wonder about the private persona of those we follow and befriend on Instagram? 

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

Today’s #CoffeeBreakStory is the 6th in my #MidlifeStories series about Women Over 50 pursuing a life with curiosity and contentment.

Social media tends to be a highly filtered version of life.  

Like many of those on IG, I adore seeing pretty things, too. But there’s nothing like a shot of authenticity to dispel FOMO on what appears to be someone else’s fairy tale story! So this series pulls back the curtain to reveal everyday women living life happily on their own real terms. Which then reassures that our own lives are just fine!

You may want to grab a double shot ☕️ midway through ’cause Jo and I really dig into some midlife truths in this behind-the-scenes story! (5 minutes in length).

Right, let’s get this show started! 🌟

Instagram

The Instagram Spotlight

If you’re like most, a brief Instagram break starts with the best of intentions. 

M: Jo, what’s up, what’s up? inquiring minds want to know!

<😂 > Mary, I can’t believe anyone’s that interested, it’s gonna fall very flat. But right. I started off as just doing—like you sometimes do—um, just going to take a month off and have a break. 

It just becomes so time-consuming! And largely, because I’m such a terrible people-pleaser, I’m worried about what people think if I wasn’t replying to their messages or going on to people’s posts and commenting on everyone else and liking everyone else.

I found my screen time going up to 6–7 hours a day!😳

I know some people do this for a living, but if it’s not, that is not a way to live. It’s one thing in lockdown, but in everyday life? And having taken a break, I found it very liberating.

I started off just trying to make people smile. You know, give them a laugh. Then of course, you have to try and be funnier and funnier and funnier—and I’m just not that funny.

M: Not true! You’re very witty!

So the pressure…the pressure with what you’re putting out there, yeah! And it was just things I was doing in my every day. I would do the same things the following week. But you can’t write about it twice. And there’s only so many stupid things you can do in a week….

M: <😜>You did set the bar high! But there’s plenty of others you encounter to provide you with that relatable fodder, no?

<😅> Well yeah, there is! But also there’s that sort of tragic thinking: you notice how many people are laughing. You’d get people saying ‘that’s the funniest one yet!’ Then other times, you’d be down by 20-30% on comments, at which point I’d be going, ‘Oh, was it not that good?And then I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know any of these people. Why do I mind so much what they think?’ I mean obviously, I had some sort of regulars. <pauses> I don’t really like that term ’cause it makes me sound like some sort of sex worker <🤣 >

M: 😳 Jo, please, we’re not your Only Fans—don’t start charging us to see your feet! 

<😝😝😝>

And then, you know, I care what they think. But most of the people…and I don’t mean this disrespectfully…you only ever engage with them over Instagram. Most of them are all over the world. So unless you started a dialogue with them, your only interaction is, ‘great posts this week’ or ‘that’s really interesting’. So to have your whole day based on whether that person found you funny? I thought to myself, there’s something very wrong with this… <🤔>>

The shiny allure of social media starts to tarnish a bit when you’re primarily hanging in the real world…

How The Show Began 🎪

instagram

To be clear, Jo is naturally drawn to the whimsical.

She considers it to be an essential part of her life. Just look at the two tiny ceramic trapeze artists suspended from her kitchen ceiling! ⬆️ 

M: So how did Midlife Highway begin?

I’m permanently taking up a new hobby! I did a nutrition course and I thought I wanted to do an Instagram thing on nutrition, very naïve, because of course I didn’t really know enough. It was supposed to lead on to potentially advising people and helping people locally. But then it just sort of morphed into something else, the Midlife Highway: ‘So this is what I’ve kind of been doing this week and this is what annoyed me’.

But that wasn’t even my intention actually. I had no plan. And suddenly I had this thing that was never gonna make me any money. Just taking up all my time and sort of rather unhealthy in my desire for people to think I’m funny. You know, that validation thing. I’m looking for validation from people I don’t even know.

M: Yet I imagine you have a wide circle of IRL friends though, right?

I do, yeah. And actually, that was the other thing that was so odd. When I started the Midlife Highway thing, I didn’t tell any of my friends. You know what it’s like, Mary—you have all your friends you have a particular relationship with. In some relationships, you’re the strong one. In some, you’re the meek one, in some you’re the funny one. So I felt like everyone saw me in a certain light.

And the Midlife Highway was very freeing ‘cuz it was like, this is me. I am clumsy, I am dozy, I’m disorganized and everything else like that. And I felt I could write much more freely without any of my friends, you know, chipping in or saying, ‘that doesn’t sound like you’, or ‘that’s not the you I know’. Then actually, when they did start to find me, they all enjoyed it, too. It was silly of me to think, ‘I don’t want anyone to know I’m doing this’.

M: So it was fun until the time commitment became intolerable. 

Yeah. But I also have a very, very short attention span. I started off doing marketing when I left university. I’ve also trained as a personal trainer. I used to make trays with wedding invitations and photos and stuff in lading glass. I’ve trained as a florist. I mean, I can’t stick with anything! <😶🙄😬>

M: Wow! Lots of very different plates spinning in the air! 

My mother has a…needless to say…like all mothers, she has a theory. And that was that I did a career that I really couldn’t go back to. I stopped working when my second child was a year old. All my salary was paying the childcare so…<🤷🏻‍♀️>

M: A lot of women can relate to that!

Actually I wrote a post about this way back, which was, ‘where has my career gone?’ You know my mother said we actually gave things up when we had our children. If you gave up work, you were giving up a career. I mean, she gave up work when she thought my father might ask her to marry him! <😅> But yeah we have careers so giving it up is really quite a big deal.

M: Would you do it differently now, if you could do it all over again? 

No. I don’t regret giving up work. Maybe with perfect hindsight, do a career you can go back to is a useful thing. But I feel I was very present in my children’s lives. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I was working full-time.

The age-old conflict of trying to do everything…sigh! Let’s shift gears and lighten up ⬇️

This or That

It's Game Time!

Here is what I heard when I asked Jo which of two things she favoredthis 👍🏼 or that 👎🏼… 

Thoughts can take me down a deep and twisty rabbit hole at times so I decided to follow my feelings instead. What’s the worst that can happen? 

I passed with popping on sensible paisley pajamas; instead, I stylishly boarded the train in my finest chiffon nightgown.

As we chugged out of the station, I proceeded to regale the passengers with a recounting of my favorite True Crime stories. Those Hallmark heartthrob movies set my teeth on edge. 

During intermission, I strolled to the lounge car and selected the finest fruits (oh, happy days: persimmons and plums!) for my midday snack. Sensible, stodgy vegetables got a hard pass on this jolly day off.

Curiously, all my fellow passengers were loudly snoring when I returned. My lecture was over—sigh! In went my ear buds and I settled down for a podcast listen. Unless it’s Mary V’s blog, my eyes are ever drawn to the scenery around me. But gradually, they closed and I dozed. 

When the train braked hard for the next stop, I awoke to something cold and moist nudging my hand. Horrors! Is it a cat?? Phew— it’s just the nose of my seat mate’s dog, gently reminding me it’s time to wake up.

As I rise and exit for my guilty pleasure day at the shops (shhh, don’t tell the Mister) I can’t help but wonder: how would Freud interpret this mishmash of a dream …would it get his goat? 🧐

I was all on board until she later recalled giving the double 👎🏼 to bacon! I mean, you think you know someone … and then …. 🙃

instagram

What Do You Do?

So how has Jo been spending her IG break? 

Before I get into that, Jo shared a final, astute observation about how people tend to engage with one another.

I began to feel on Instagram (and I think I wrote another post about this), why do we all feel like we have to have some trailblazing career? When we get into our 50s, can we, taking aside the financial aspect of it which is different for everybody…can’t you just sit down next to somebody and when they ask what you do, say ‘Nothing. I’m a housewife.’

M: <nodding vigorously> Why does it even have to be the first question though, you know? I mean, it puts us in a box that we are our career!

Yeah, exactly! And they really ask it so you’ll ask them what they do. Then they can go on about that <😜>

M: What do you say now when people ask you?

Well, I say I do a whole load of different things. Just gloss over it.

But now I ask people, my first question to somebody I haven’t met before is, ‘what are you reading?’ That’s my new one. 

M: Ah, that’s a good one. I like that!

I think I just keep trying to fill the void. And actually, funny enough, the Midlife Highway thing is as close to sticking to anything as I’ve ever become.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~~.~.~.~.~.

Jo is busy with a mixture of activities, both new and old:

  • handcrafting jewelry
  • creating one-of-a-kind tabletop terrariums
  • occasionally selling said stuff at local fairs

She’s still heading out on extended pilgrimages along the famed Camino de Santiago. Jo has walked a few different routes and has more on the calendar for 2023.

But above all, it’s always family first. Official empty nesters with the graduation of their youngest this year, Jo and her husband still enjoy travels with their three adult children. The annual laid-back summer vacation in Cornwall continues to be a much beloved family tradition.

And for the record, her IRL friends consider her the Funny One Bossy One! 😈

The wrap with Mary V

The Wrap On IG Musings With Jo

🥁 Lastly, the burning question: will her @midlifehighway Instagram account resume anytime soon?? 🥁

Initially, I encouraged her to come back. Found myself offering tips for how to see only what she wants, how to make peace with what she has capacity for time-wise, etc.

But then—I stopped. It’s not my place to tell someone else what to do. In fact, I strive to offer advice only when asked. And she wasn’t asking. So I listened, instead.

I think the fundamental thing is I just want to be my authentic self. And that’s what I wanted to do on Instagram. And then I came off it because I felt I was no longer being myself. I was having to say what I thought other people wanted me to say or what was going to appeal to people. And also saying things for effect as much as anything else.

That isn’t what I wanted to do. And when I find myself being pulled in a different direction, I think that’s when I just felt I needed a break.

To be clear, Jo has a private Instagram account where she sporadically drops a post about her real life activities and loves. That may very well be the only way she chooses to share going forward. 

Although I miss her pithy “getting my goat” 🐐 observations, I respect that she is getting all the validation she needs In Real Life. Yet just like anything else, that could change, too…stay tuned!

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

✨Remember who you are! Honor what satisfies your soul!✨

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

 

credit: -some images were sourced from Jo’s IG snaps and stylized by me-

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