A few days ago, I spent some time feeling homesick for the interwebs of my misspent youth and for the people I met there. At least a fraction of what I missed about those days (and that place) was the extent to which everyone had a sort of instant audience for the things they were writing. Recently updated journals would pop up on the main page feed; there was a running list every time you’d log in. There were thousands of journals, but after awhile, you “knew” the ones Continue reading “Coming out”
Boredom is a rarity for me. There are too many books and blogs to read, too much television to watch, too much Amazon browsing to be done to ever allow it. This afternoon though…I just finished a book (Hillbilly Elegy), and before I can really get into another one, I need some silence and a steady lack of company. Neither are happening. Step-son is having technology issues that I must periodically attend to, step-daughter is trying not to throw her phone in frustration with one of her friends (who seems to think that sending a screenshot of her phone will show evidence of her broken screen). Husband is trying to sleep for a little while before he returns to work tonight for another 12 hours. The cat is high from the catnip spray we bought last night, and the neighbors are mowing their grass in the 95 degree heat of the day. The trains roll through repeatedly, too many to count and way too loud.
So I’m not bored, not really. But the book was good and a little thought-provoking and my mind is certainly wandering.
Today, I’ve been thinking about people I originally encountered on the internet, met face-to-face, and now haven’t seen or heard from in more than a decade. Thinking of them led me to a sort of homesickness for OpenDiary, a community I joined in 1999 and stayed with off and on for the five or six years following, even though I was also self-hosted during most of that time. (OD, of course, closed permanently in 2014, but even looking at the Wayback screenshots of its standard crappy page design makes me more than a little sad for those days long gone.) It’s funny the things that stick with us and that become synonymous with “home” in our heads. Place–I guess even virtual place–becomes something so much more once feeling is attached to it. On OpenDiary, I met Leah, whose last name I no longer remember, whose emails were lost to the ether when my old standby email address was shut down due to inaction. She made me soap, sent me a book on powerful historical women, and hugged me in the Charlotte townhouse of a friend of hers. She was a first-year teacher with a lot of frustration…not at all a new thing for that school district, even then. Then there was Essdee (Shawn Dana), whose last name I never knew, whose face I never saw, but whose comments on the every day minutiae of my life made everything so much easier. And, of course, Dominica, who accompanied me and my then-partner to a Star Trek Voyager convention in Cleveland (where we all patently refused to sit in on Jennifer Lien’s section, even though she hadn’t yet become a psycho with a record), who was so very kind, who loved us both, who was a brilliant web designer, and who herself had more psychiatric problems than any of our circle of friends could have possibly imagined.
Where do these people go? How do we all drift so quickly in and out of one another’s lives, especially if what we have seems to be good for all involved? I like to think that I am a person interested in people, that the people I love and have around me are more important than any thing I might accomplish or any money I might make in my time on this planet. I would rather excel in friendship than in the accumulation of possessions, and I hope that the people who are (or have been) in my life know without a doubt that this is where I stand.
I am Jewish for a reason: I believe that this life is all we get, that our only company for the journey is one another. That we have to take care of our fellow humans even in their weakness and sadness and madness and baddity. (I don’t care if “baddity” isn’t a word, I’ve still been using it for more than a decade and it works.) I was young once, so of course I didn’t always feel this way. As young people, we rarely value the right things, and I’m sure I threw away many people I should’ve kept, and vice versa. It’s just so hard sometimes to remember (even now) that it’s not just me in the world. People don’t do the things they do because of how those things will affect me; rather, like me, they mostly only consider how they themselves will be affected. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I am not the end all and be all, that the teenager neglecting to pick up her mess cannot be taken as a personal affront anymore than the weather can. It’s a freakin’ struggle, but I’m guessing it’s one with which we’re all fairly familiar.
I’ve digressed a little. My point is that I’m missing all those long-gone folks today, and I’m taking their gone-ness (and OD’s gone-ness) more personally than I should. Conventional wisdom tells me that I can’t go home again, but today….today that’s just making me really, really sad.
I am, admittedly, awfully new to the parenting game, but man I gotta tell you, this shit is hard. It’s a huge learning curve; every new situation, every meal, every everything is first and foremost me trying to figure out where the booby traps are, what the words are that might set off the next chain of exploding land mines. The kids were in this family before me, and there are so many days when I would tell you myself that they run this joint–no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
They, of course, do not feel the same way. Though I am usually decent and amusing company for them, there are more than a few moments when they look around for their father, likely hoping that he’ll notice how his wife is once again trying to rule with an iron fist when they’d be much happier to have her sucking up and asking for their approval. These looks do not go over well with me, and I’m beginning to notice that my ire is compounding over time. The more I don’t respond, the more I want to and the more likely it becomes that I’m eventually going to. Every day, for example, I struggle to resist the urge to plan and legislate every second of their time at home. I am oh-so-tired of cleaning up after them, of saying “please don’t eat pineapple fruit cups on the couch” and then having to clean a sticky mess off the cushions when they get up. I am so done saying “don’t carry soda cans into your bedroom” and then having to buy ant poison for the subsequent and inevitable infestation. If they had chore lists and set punishments for their dumbassery, maybe I’d get a break from the relentless movement and the neverending urge to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.
But as the parent who is the most present in their lives (my sweet husband works a lot), I am most often consumed with worry rather than anger. I’m 43 years old, and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that there’s some scary, dangerous stuff out there. I’ve also been around the block enough times to know that most of the time, it’s our own bad choices that bring the shitstorm down on our heads. I would very much like to save them from either of those truths whenever possible. I am therefore seriously considering a mandate from my high position as step-mother:
HENCEFORTH AND FORTHWITH, ALL HUMANS UNDER THE AGE OF 39 WHO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WILL IMMEDIATELY (AND WITHOUT HOPE OF SUCCESSFUL APPEAL) RELINQUISH THE EQUIPMENT REFERRED TO AS CELL PHONES AND THEN TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, POST HASTE, TO THE RENAISSANCE ERA, WHERE THEY WILL START READING ACTUAL LITERATURE AND DRINKING TEA AND NEVER AGAIN UTTER THE WORDS “YOU TUBE” OR PERFORM THE MANEUVER “DAB” EVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN. ALSO, THEY WILL WEAR VICTORIAN CLOTHES AND SPEAK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME SENSE AND A DECENT EDUCATION.
I don’t know…maybe it sounds a little extreme, but it’s beginning to feel like desperate times call for desperate measures. I mean, I was about 18 when I started learning about computers and building my first, scary-looking websites, but the integration with technology nowadays is freakin’ scary. It’s more than just wanting to play on your phone when you’re bored; people (including children) today are so addicted to their phones that cell phone addiction has actually become a thing. It adversely effects concentration, test taking, and even sleep. Consequently, what formerly was an occasional flight of fancy about taking the phones away from the kids and returning to board games, books, and actual eye contact has now become an almost zealous belief in the inherent evil of cell phones and a determination that next time some shit goes down and punishment is imminent, removing the phones (and all other access to social media) might well be the first (joyous) step.
Aside from the scary addiction factor, I’m also worried by the extent to which cell phones are causing our kids to grow up much earlier than they should. And I know that wouldn’t be possible if we were monitoring our kids’ phone usage as closely as our parents once monitored our internet usage, but for the most part, for whatever reason, we aren’t looking. Ironically, I think we were in far less danger than are the kids and teens of this generation. I mean, suicides are happening because of Facebook and Snapchat, y’all. I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that’s what happened to my kid, especially since the mere idea of a death caused by something so intangible is still pretty much unfathomable even to people my age, who were in the first high school level computer classes as teenagers.
How does something so small get so big and important in the lives of children?
I think my sister (in-law) has it right, as usual, and we should be seriously limiting screen time and snatching the phones at random–right out of the hands of the children we love–to see what the hell is actually going on in their lives, what information and everyday horror they’re being presented with in a place that is so very obvious and easily accessible, and yet WE NEVER FREAKIN’ LOOK. I mean, I had to do some serious plotting to read my first smut book at 15, and dammit, I don’t think my step-kids should have it any easier. Also, if they want to know how to build a bomb or start a cult, I really think they should have to perform a little exercise and walk their crazy little asses down to the library, but hey, maybe that’s just me getting a bit drunk on all that new step-mother power.
But I’m serious, y’all…I’m worried. I’m going to try to pay more attention, but I have a feeling that it’s only going to take a feather to push me over the edge of reason on this subject, and I’m taking all the cell phones with me on the trip down.
The truth is, I’ve been off the online journal circuit since before it ever got popular. In fact, I’m going to bet that the last time I wrote consistently was 2008-ish, which was about two years after my crazy ass Vegas girlfriend and I called it quits. (Though I had to keep slogging along at the journal for a while afterward because APPEARANCES.) I was pretty burnt out after that–I’d been writing several times a week for about seven years at that point–and I just let the last cute domain name (and there had been several over the years) fade back into the ether from whence it came. In the intervening nine years, I haven’t kept much of a journal in any form. I buy expensive and beautiful notebooks and keep them in decorative baskets on my bookshelves, preparing for the unavoidable eventuality (ha!) that one day I’ll be walking by and decide that today, instead of reading, I’ll write. That happens not nearly as often as I would like. I have many pretty notebooks with writing in them, but unfortunately, it stops after no more than 20 pages and never picks up again. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I’m just bizarre enough about my notebook journalling that I cannot allow too much of a passage of time between entries…skipping a year, for example, is totally not cool and absolutely necessitates beginning a new notebook. Were it not for the fact that I cannot stand to waste paper and that someday there’s probably going to be an apocalypse wherein I’ll need all the paper I can get, I would throw them away in a heartbeat. As it is, they just sit there and torment me.
The great thing about writing in this forum is that there is no paper to waste (and no money to waste on buying it). Also, until I decide I need all the bells, whistles, and customization options (which is at most a couple weeks down the road), it’s free. I admit, writing online again is also a lot like coming home, only it’s more than a little strange to have no history making the journey with me. Once upon a time, y’all, I didn’t go ANYWHERE without my archives, and quite honestly, I’m still having a hard time with the idea that they aren’t–and won’t ever be–here. Obviously, I’ll end up retelling some stories, but wow, it’s pretty weird to be out here all alone and unknown in this place where I once felt so seen and so at ease. (Isn’t it wild to hear anyone talking that way about the internet in this day and age?) I guess I’ll just have to move along by taking the advice of my high school public speaking teacher and fake it til I make it…someday, dammit, I’ll look (again) as prolific as I feel.
A month or so ago, The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article about keeping a journal in the age of Trump. As a person interested in both first person historical accounts of traumatic events and journal writing, the piece spoke to me, though probably not in the way (or for the reasons) the author intended. For one thing, I already keep a sporadic paper journal, though it mostly contains the extremely malleable and changeable nutso thoughts that run around in my head on a day-to-day basis and not so much commentary on the utterly sickening and terrifying political goings-on in our country. Obviously, I wouldn’t choose to ever have those personal pages put on display in a museum, and it’s likely that no one would want to see them anyway. Secondly, though it’s been many, many moons ago now, I once kept an online journal (with several names and incarnations) that covered all sorts of topics–from political to personal and back again. Point being, I don’t imagine the article above had my type of writing in mind with its call to action, nor do I think that the author was advocating any kind of online notation of current events…there are plenty of news and personal sites doing that already. No, I’m fairly certain the writer was attempting to convince its readers that future generations would thank them if they would take pen to paper and describe what effect the current political climate was having on typical individuals trying to live their normal lives (and if there’s an Anne Frank among them, so much the better).
Well, needless to say, I am not Anne Frank. I do have an on-the-ground perspective of the world in which we live, but I doubt seriously that it’s any different from others; mostly, I just use a lot of profanity and try not to throw things at the television. Nevertheless, I am a person “of a certain age,” and I remember fondly the days when people wrote on the internet because it was there and because there were other awesome people doing it. I want to go back to those times, and I cannot help but hope that this pilgrimage back to the ‘net of my misspent youth leads back to those ridiculously amazing people and that I find myself still among their number. But even if there are no nice and/or brilliant people left writing on the web these days, I’m spending this evening pounding on the keyboard because there was a call in that article a few months ago, and I heard it: IT’S BEEN A FREAKIN’ LOT OF YEARS, BOO, AND IT’S TIME TO WRITE ON THE INTERWEBS AGAIN.
Here goes nothin’…