I’ve been thinking a lot about the internet recently. More precisely, I’ve been thinking about blogging, and putting your personal self out there in the world via public social-networking-type channels, like the Twitters. I’ve been wondering whether this is any good for me.
I’ve been putting my personal self out on the internet for a long time. I started my first website in 1998. It was basically a blog: an online journal (which I coded myself in terrible HTML), where I shared what I was learning and experiencing in college. I shared bad poetry. I shared some good essays. It wasn’t like a diary: This was all carefully crafted writing, and not every detail was put out there, but it was a good portion of Me. And in turn, there were a number of similar websites that I read regularly. There were women (almost entirely women) who were also writing about their scholarly and personal journeys, and although I never met any of them, I felt like I knew them a little bit.
In time, blogs were born and that made it way easier for more people to start putting their personal selves out there on the internet. And let’s not even get into sites like Live Journal. And then there was Friendster and MySpace and Facebook, and Twitter and Tumblr and it was all over. Our whole selves are on the internet. And that’s fine. It’s one thing to post a status update. What I’ve really been thinking about is the whole blogging endeavor.
People who blog are doing more than just tweeting the occasionally pithy thought. We are basically crafting a part of ourselves to share in very personal spaces, and inviting, practically begging, complete strangers to come on in. We are, in many ways, building communities, and I know that people have made lifelong friends over the internet and found important and meaningful connections. That makes me happy, because that’s one of the things that makes the internet rock the most.
But the thing about blogging is its not necessarily reciprocal. I am reading a lot of stuff about someone’s life, but that someone isn’t reading anything about mine. That person doesn’t know me at all. And now that commenting is involved, well, it feels even weirder. I say something to you, and we’re having a conversation in your space, and I know things about you. But you still don’t really know me. And blogging, too, can turn into a popularity contest. Here are the cool kids, and they have a club. And you can read about them, and know all about their lives, but you aren’t going to be invited to the party. They will never know all about you.
I’ve been blogging for so long (and yeah, not always here, as as been obvious over the last five years). I mean, Christ, I think I have seven blogs now. I don’t know that I want to stop blogging, or even if I could. But I’m wondering if it’s really good for my mental well-being. I think it just makes me feel like the perpetual outsider, but one who’s totally allowed to look in on the good stuff. I don’t know. It’s weird, and maybe I’m making a big ol’ thing out of nothing. Maybe I’m letting my own personal neuroses get the better of me. Maybe I should just keep writing, and damn the torpedos. That’s probably what I’ll do anyway. I’ve been doing it for almost 15 years.
It’s just weird, is all.
It has been a crazy few weeks. I can hardly believe I left Walla Walla only two weeks ago. I wanted to send updates sooner but I’ve been running on some type of auto-pilot and most of my normal life tasks and functions seem to have been suspended. I’m still trying to catch up on all the things that happened on the internet, and I should probably send some emails to some people so they know I’m still alive.
I started my new job on Monday, and four days in I’m starting to settle into something of a routine. I’m excited about the work, despite the fact that it’s not entirely what I expected. I’m definitely going through some amount of culture shock: I was working at a small liberal arts college, in a library with only seven librarians, and now I’m in a large office building in downtown Oakland, working in a small cubicle and surrounded on all sides by librarians and programmers and project managers and UX designers and who knows what all else. I was working in what was essentially a department of one; my projects were managed by me with occasional check-ins with the Director and perhaps one or two other folks. Now I’m part of a much larger team, and we have people whose sole role is to manage projects. It’s very, very different.
Not to mention that we haven’t moved into our apartment yet, my partner is still on the other side of the country wrapping up his stuff and getting ready to move, and I’m kind of in personal life limbo. I’m doing everything I can to manage the completely predictable stress I’m feeling (because when I’m stressed I get grouchy and no one wants to be grouchy in their first days on a new job). I’m trying to keep reminding myself that I’ll adapt to the differences, that we’ll be settled in soon, that I’m just not good with change.
It helps whenever I look around me and remember that I’m in California, I’m in the Bay Area, I’m in my favorite place ever. I instantly relax a little bit, and smile, and think, “Yes, I made the right choice.”
I am pretty excited to announce that after years of trying to get myself back to California, I’m finally making the move. I got a new job in Oakland, and my partner and I are moving down there in less than two short weeks. It still doesn’t seem quite real to me. The Bay Area has become this fantasy place where I never thought I’d actually get to end up, and yet, here I am. I will soon be a resident of my favorite place on Earth. (Well, it’s my favorite place with which I’m familiar, and I will admit there are many places with which I’m not familiar, so I should probably say it’s my favorite place on Earth where I’ve actually been.)
It was actually not as easy a decision as I expected it to be, taking this new job. I have loved my work here in Walla Walla: loved the variety, the responsibility, the trust that my colleagues have in me do to things well, the opportunities that come up working with a small staff. I have loved the friendliness of people in this college community, and in this town. I love the library and the campus, the faculty and staff and students. And this little town of Walla Walla has started to grow on me, although I know I could never be completely happy with small town living. It might be small and lacking in some of the finer amenities that a city provides, but it’s charming and comfortable, and growing more charming every day as new businesses open and as the local wine industry settles into its unique and quirky and very special personality. So no, it was not an easy decision.
But California is where I belong, and my new job promises new chances to learn and grow, to do different kinds of work and contribute to projects that are bigger than just one small library. The work I’m going to do will potentially benefit all libraries, and in this particular time, I think that’s where I want my energy dedicated. And the idea of living somewhere where winter is a minor inconvenience, where snow is someplace you get to go visit, where farmers’ markets operate year-round? I get giddy just thinking of it. We found a great apartment in downtown Oakland (or uptown, I guess it’s called), surrounded by amazing restaurants and bars and theaters and markets, shopping and entertainment. And even more important, surrounded by family and friends. And just a short drive to so many other beautiful and amazing things California has to offer. I can hardly wait!
We leave at the end of March, and while it’s certainly harder to say goodbye to eastern Washington than I expected it to be, I’m running home to California with open arms. It’s about time.
If you live in a city with a lot of young, hip parents, or if you’re ever on the internet, you have probably heard snippets of the great war between the parents and the non-parents that seems to be going on a little bit everywhere these days. One of the main battles in this war is whether or not parents should be allowed to bring their small children into bars. My guess is that when you read that sentence your first thought was, “Oh my god, NO, parents should not be able to bring their children into bars, HELLO?!” And I’m going to tell you right up front that I agree with you. But as usual, I’m not unfamiliar with the grey areas that float around this particular debate.
When I lived in Boston, I frequented a neighborhood pub, in the best sense of the phrase. This place was down the street from my house and I knew all the regulars. We were involved in each others’ lives, and not only when we were inside those four wood-paneled walls. We were friends. And occasionally, these friends had babies. I loved it when someone would drop by with their babies, because babies are cute! This usually happened in the late afternoon, and the parents of said babies weren’t there to tie one on. They’d have one beer, if any, and head on their way, after we all got to fawn over the little person. This seemed totally normal to me.
Every now and then, someone would bring a child to the bar at a later hour, when there were drunk people around and the music was loud and very likely there were unsavory things going on in at least one dark corner. This never seemed normal to me. This, in fact, seemed very wrong. If there are drunk strangers around, your child probably shouldn’t be there, is all I’m saying.
I would like to be able to say that every parent should be able to make a judgement call, and at the end of the day, of course, that’s always what I’m going to say. Every parent has the right to decide for his or her own children which environments are acceptable. But some parents decide that very adult environments are ok for their very young children, and that is where this idea of personal choice breaks down for me. Some parents are always going to make terrible choices, and that doesn’t just suck for their children (although, you know, it sucks for their children the most). It’s also completely uncomfortable for the adults in that environment who chose not to bring their children (or have them at all). There are just some places that are for grown-ups only, and when I hear parents bitching about how they should be able to bring their kids wherever they want, I just feel befuddled.
The thing is, even though I loved it when my friends brought their cute babies to the bar, when I’m a parent, I will probably never do this. Because, no matter how friendly, a bar is for adults. If you really want to have a drink with your friends and your baby, find a nice restaurant that serves cocktails, and try to leave before the drunks show up. This is what parenting is, after all: It’s sacrificing the things you want to do for the little person you chose to give birth to.
I recognize this judgment call will likely piss off a lot of people (well, if anyone actually read this blog). Especially because I don’t have children. I mean, who am I do tell a parent what kinds of choices to make, right? I guess to that I say that I hope that parents can occasionally try to think of others outside their nuclear unit, and that they can recognize how uncomfortable it can be for a group of adults in a place designated for an adult activity to suddenly feel like they’re in a nursery. Perhaps the best way to get that feeling across would be for a group of childless adults to show up at Gymboree with a case of beer and start hanging out. It would probably feel a little wrong, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I’m not usually very formal or vocal about New Years resolutions, although I am definitely the resolving type. I like goals and personal rules, and I like to live my life with some structure. It helps me feel purposeful and centered, which can sometimes be a real challenge for me. Last year, I resolved to eat less meat and more plants, and I did pretty well in that regard. I resolved to read more new fiction, and I did pretty well there, too. And less decisively, I set a personal goal to live more healthily, both emotionally and physically. I think I’ve made some big strides in that general direction: I’m back to a regular exercise routine (man, it’s amazing how much more focused and happy I feel when I move my body), and I started seeing a therapist this year, for reals. Despite the fact that I tend to find therapy awfully bourgeois and navel-gazey, it’s kind of amazing how much progress I’ve made in terms of becoming a better communicator, accepting my right to my own feelings and needs, and a bunch of other psychological clap trap that, for what it’s worth, genuinely has made me happier this year.
Despite these things, 2010 was a rough year. I lost both my Grandparents in April, within a week of each other, which was harder and sadder than I ever could have imagined. My partner and I went through some tough times (long distance sucks), and I had a few personal experiences that were, well, a bit traumatic. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months taking a hard, hard look at some difficult personal things, and am still in the midst of hoping that I have the fortitude to make it all come out right in the end. But one thing I know, though, is that 2011 has to be a better year. I can feel it in my bones.
I’ve had a few resolution-type things swirling through my brain for the last week or so, and I thought it was high time I get them out of my head and into some concrete form. Most broadly, I want to continue progressing on last year’s goals: Keep working to stay healthy and happy and grounded. I want to be guided in most everything I do by the drive to take care of myself. But more specifically:
- I want to read more classics this year, and finally fill in some of the gaps in my UC Santa Cruz-provided Literature education.
- I want to write more this year. I think this is the year to focus on professional writing, and really push my comfort zone in this area. I want to complete my cookbook proposal by the end of the year, and to start writing more about issues I’m interested in in the library world. My professional blog has been sadly, sadly neglected.
There are a lot of much more personal, not-for-sharing goals I have (that’s what therapy is for, right?), but I feel like for the first time, I can look back and see real progress in the year behind me. Which makes it a lot easier to feel positive about the year ahead.
I get very frustrated when people talk about The Feminists. As in, “The Feminists are so riled up about this,” or “The Feminists are totally overreacting about that.” Most recently, someone I follow on the internet wrote about how The Feminists are ridiculous for being up-in-arms about Stephen Fry’s comments on the disparity between the sex drives of men and women. Her words generally revolved around how dumb The Feminists are for getting our panties in a bunch and duh, of course men and women have different sex drives, here is all her anecdotal evidence about that, also Stephen Fry is a COMEDIAN people so we need to just chillax.
You know what? Sometimes I agree that people get way too aggravated about throw-away comments and remarks. Big deals are made of things that don’t necessarily have to be big deals. In our 24-hours news world and commenting, re-tweeting, tumblr-ing culture, anger and offense tend to be blown out of proportion. It can easily seem like The Feminists are all hanging out in our woman clubhouses and creating placards for our next protest against Stephen Fry’s comments on why women don’t go cruising. But for reals, there is no such thing as The Feminists.
Yeah, I’m sorry to break it to you, but we do not have a cabal. There is no party line. There is, in fact, great disagreement among people who all identify as feminist. When a person makes an argument that is feminist, he/she is not speaking for The Feminists. And when you answer back by talking about how The Feminist Are Getting Pissed Again, those silly ladies, you are actively refusing to engage in dialogue, ignoring the statements and points that that person made. It’s belittling, and not at all constructive, and pretty much proves the point of why we still need feminism.
Constructive, compassionate dialogue involves hearing what the person you’re engaging with is saying, and I understand that people don’t really like to do that on the internet. Which is so sad, because damn, there is so much potential for meaningful communication in this tool. In order to hear what the person you are talking to is saying, you first have to acknowledge that a person is saying it, not a monolithic group of people. And that, frankly, is the only undisputed goal of feminism: To recognize that all people are people, individual and eccentric and each with our own desires, habits, thoughts, and needs. All men don’t cruise, all women don’t yearn for romantic love, all gay people don’t like the same kind of sex, and all feminists don’t hate Stephen Fry or think he’s a horrible misogynist. All feminists do not think the same; it’s not like we’re programmed, for the love of god. And all feminism is really about is wanting you to recognize and engage with each individual you encounter as an individual, without letting your preconceived ideas about how they think or what their gender (or race or class or background) says about them interfering with that.