I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

A few days ago I decided to swear off social media. This was for a few reasons. Mostly, I watched the Netflix “documentary” The Social Dilemma, in which the creators of social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others explain that these programs were built to be addictive but no consideration was taken as to the long-standing effects of this addiction. How the algorithms used to mine your personal information also channel different kinds of information. According to the show, if you are using social media, you are the product.

I don’t like that.

I think that the creators of social media applications are no better than tobacco companies, quelling any controvery or research that their products are actually killing people. So I dropped off. Fittingly enough, I got a little bit of pushback from my friends who are on Facebook. Things like “You do this about every six months, you’ll be back.” So supportive. I wonder if AA meetings are like this. I know that bars are. That is why it is hard to quit drinking when all your friends are at the bar.

That being said, I have been a full on Facebook/Instagram addict, spending upwards of six hours a day scrolling through my feed, sometimes just staring at the same crap I’ve already looked at, hoping somehow that it will somehow refresh and I’ll either get that dopamine bump for getting a like or a notification, or something new will appear for me to comment on. Life for these last several months has been lonely. As with many of us, these might be our only outlets of social interraction. I think it’s time to get off that bender.

For the last few days, I have had a lot more time to work on my book. Last night, I finished a 10,000 word chapter. Written in around two or three days. It’s hard to determine how quickly I got it done, since it was a hard chapter and I wrote some other scenes. The writing for the last few days was hard, and sometimes it nearly broke me. But I’m pushing on ahead.

Sometimes I get the doubts that there is no reason for doing what I’m doing. Who will actually read it? Who will care? Then I’ll have moments like the other day when I was buying coffee and the barrista asked me what I was working on. When I told her, she said she had a similar experience. Even just the idea of it resonated with her. So, maybe what I’m working on is important. At least it might be important to at least one other person.

No, it’s not Harry Potter, though some have told me I should write something like that and get rich. Which is a myth. I’m not interested in writing stories for children anyway. There is enough of that out there, and God knows I’ve tried my hand at fantasy and nobody cared. This story is writing itself right now and I’m just holding on for dear life.

Without social media, I’ve been reading more too. I re-read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and recently I started reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway really wasn’t a novelist. He was a short story writer and all he did to get that novel length was to string a lot of pointless short stories together. But I have enjoyed the language and the glimpse into 1920s Paris.

I have a first edition copy that I’m working through. The smell of old paper, vanillin, the feel of a hardbound book in your hands. No eReader can compare to it. I’ve decided I dislike eBooks. Everything that I have read on a tiny screen fades quickly from memory. I can’t hold onto it. With a book it is an immersive experience. Much like how I got through college, you participate. You turn the pages, you hear the clock on the wall, you can associate what you are reading with what you are doing at that time. I can pick up some books and turn to a page and know approximately in the story where I have landed. I’ll also remember what was happening around me when I was reading it last. I don’t get that from an eReader.

If I want content, I’ll read an eBook. If I want a reading experience, I’ll read a real book. There is a difference.

Too long didn’t read for this one: I’m learning how to use my time better. Sometimes I get lonely. And I guess I’m still a little old fashioned. I’m still moving forward.

Three Defining Moments

Today, I rewatched the movie “Wild” based on the non-fiction novel by Cheryl Strayed. I’ve been picking at the book again, but wanted a different perspective when experiencing the story again. It has been years since I watched the film. It’s about healing. Heatache. Redemption. It always hits hard.

In my life, there have been at least three big defining moments. At the risk of sounding selfish, I want to state early on that what you are about to read are my own moments and hopefully you don’t place judgment on me for what I am about to write. These words are not easy, but I hope that they have truth to them. No, these moments won’t include the birth of my kids or anything like that which parents are always expected to say. In retrospect, those moments were stressful and usually made miserable by a very selfish partner. I’ve blocked a lot of those memories unfortunately. Either because of exhaustion or stress or general unpleasantness. I love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but things like learning how to ride a bike or being pushed into the world are things that belong to them. Not me.

The first defining moment of my adult life was the UN Trip, in which I got on board a bus with forty other 15-17 year olds and we traveled across the country, visiting historical sites and landmarks along the way, all the way from Denver to St. Louis, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City for a week, Niagara Falls, and then back home again. On this trip, it was a source of many firsts. It was the first time I was away from my parents longer than just a day or two. The first time I left the country. The first time I had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (in the World Trade Center no less). My first kiss. And so many other moments. I have lived on those experiences throughout my tumultuous adult life. My awful marriage. All the years I have been pretty much broke. And these experiences have seasoned my mind for pretty much the rest of my life in some regard.

This trip was that moment of Awakening, like when E.M. Forster writes about the transition into adulthood. It was the summer that meant saying goodbye to how I thought as a child and learning so much about myself and other people.

My second defining moment was very much like my first. It involved a trip. I wrote a lot about it on my travelblog, but when I changed domain hosts, all of those entries evaporated. Be careful what you put on the internet, because it will be there forever…unless you stop paying your hosting service. Then they will make sure the internet is scrubbed completely. My trip to the UK was my first international solo trip and really my first solo trip of any significance. I figured out how to get around, pushed my boundaries and got blasted out of my comfort zones on a daily basis.

This trip was a lot about shedding the last fifteen years or so. From the experiences of my marriage, the divorce, my first romance which really messed my head up, and the loss of two of my three kids due to parental alienation. Getting out on this trip expanded my horizons, brought my confidence back, and helped me to heal from a relationship where I never really felt like I was good enough.

Now, I feel like I am beginning yet another journey. Only because of COVID, I can’t go anywhere to get away from the situation like I did last year. Instead, I’ve been writing a lot more. This time, the journey is within. It is sharing the stories that have built up over the last 25 years. Whenever anyone asks what I’m working on, this is what I tell them. Their response is usually something like “You’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

Yes, I do. Which might explain why sometimes the stories just demand to be told. I will often find myself sitting up at 2 or 3am, writing things down. The ideas are insisting that they be jotted down or even fleshed out. My biggest problem now is trying to figure out how to connect all of these expanding ink blots into a cohesive narrative.

These stories are the result of needing to get over my last serious relationship, which ended during lockdown. It was amazing while it lasted, but only served to give me more questions than answers when it was over. The other thing I am getting through is the end of my job of 18 years and coming to terms with that. It’s not as easy as you might think! And the third thing is what so many of us are dealing with right now: the end of life as we used to know it. Whether that is political platforms, mass germaphobia, or possibly never being able to go to a movie or concert ever again…the world we all used to know will be changed significantly once this is all said and done. We are only seeing the beginning too.

So, I will be posting updates of my thought process as I work through the book. I hope you enjoy the posts!