A few years ago, when I was living in New York City, I began to notice and admire the facades of a certain type of downtown building. I’m talking about the old brick-and-mortar walk-up apartments in neighborhoods like the East Village and Lower East Side, the kinds with fire escape ladders zigzagging down the front. It seemed like every building had a different combination of brick color and ladder color: tan brick with black ladders, red brick with green ladders, etc. And the more I actually looked at these beautiful buildings, the more it occurred to me that they looked vaguely...tasty. I started assigning them “flavors” in my mind. And then I started taking pictures of them. And then one day I decided to start putting them on Instagram with their flavors as captions.
I even started taking pictures when I traveled.
I called the account “buildingflavors.” The posts started getting more and more likes and more and more comments and more and more reposts until it started to get sort of exciting (at least for me, especially when I compared it to the lack of action on my potty-humor-centric, low-like personal Instagram account). People reached out to me about how much they enjoyed the account, and my employer at the time, Travel + Leisure, even took notice and approached me about publishing a little piece on buildingflavors. It was nothing groundbreaking, but for me it was a fun and rewarding hobby with a vague possibility of turning into something bigger. It was just something that made me happy. And then, almost a year and a half ago, right as the account was really building momentum, I stopped. I logged out of the account, and deleted Instagram and, until today, have not posted on it since. I deprived myself of a rewarding hobby that other people also enjoyed, and I did it because of a complete delusion.
What scared me off of Instagram was, in short, an inexplicable issue with the “#buildingflavors” hashtag I had created; it had suddenly stopped displaying the correct number of posts using the tag. A harmless glitch, but it spiked in me an intense and irrational fear that something sinister was at work, something that posed a threat to me; to protect myself, I needed to distance myself from it. My OCD took over. One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the infuriating discord between knowing that your fears and behaviors are irrational and the inability not to engage anyway. For some reason, for me technical glitches in things like social media applications feel very scary, and a world full of both apps and glitches can be a frightening and exhausting place.
I bring all this up because it’s a clear example of an incredibly frustrating trend: OCD consistently costs me. It doesn’t cost me a million dollars; it doesn’t get me fired from a job; it doesn't physically injure me. But it does cost me. It holds me back in a million different little ways just like it did with my buildingflavors hobby, and it adds up to lost potential. A few other examples:
The other day I stepped on a shard of broken mirror (if you’re constantly on alert for them, you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll see pieces of broken mirror on city sidewalks). To be sure that’s what it was, I picked it up. Then I realized that everything I touched with that hand thereafter would be tainted with bad luck from the broken mirror. And I just got exhausted. I thought, “enough.” I am getting married in two months. I hope to have kids one day. I want to achieve great things professionally. I cannot let OCD impact every single aspect of my behavior. I need to fight it harder. So today, almost exactly 16 months after my last buildingflavors post, I’m putting up a picture and using the “tainted” hashtag. I’m hoping it’s a step in the right direction and that I can battle through the discomfort I’m sure will come.
Plus, I live in the Beacon Hill area of Boston now, and the buildings here are just too tasty to pass up. ;-)