Observations: Notes 1-17

It has been a long time since I blogged so I have decided to write about my past 8 months in a series of notes. It is a long read without a photo in sight. The TL;DR is that lots has happened and I can’t guarantee regular blogging in the future.

Now for the long read:

Note 1: Offspring. In late January, my oldest son bought a one way ticket to the other side of the world. His plan was to spend anywhere from 6 months to a year overseas.

Note 2: Time. Like most people with an online presence, I try to manage the amount of time I spend online.

Note 3: Mediums of engagement. Since my son has been overseas, he has been communicating with me on a number of online social media (SM) platforms – both public and private messaging – on a daily (and sometimes several times a day) basis. He seems to love sharing his experiences with me which I like (except for when he is having a crisis and I am receiving panicked phone calls in the middle of the night and sure, one day they will make great stories to tell everyone when he comes home but I really don’t want the real-time tension of missed ferries and scary falling asleep on public transport just to wake up and find your wallet missing moments. Just give me the freakin’ funny story after the crisis is over, already!).

All this (lovely and makes this mother’s heart happy) communicating had to have a fall guy because, like all other social media interactions, it is a time suck. The fall guys: My blog, facebook (which I hate hence non-deserving of capitals) and to a slightly lesser degree, Twitter. The standup guy however is my Instagram which is my son’s SM platform of choice.

Note 4: Oh Twitter. So much promise. So much poison.

Note 5: Lurking is the new Tweeting. I lurve both LibraryLand and RomanceLandia on Twitter and I used to be fully engaged in discussion about all things relevant, irrelevant and irreverant in both these spheres as well as some scope creep into other corners of interest like travel, all things bookish and readerly, Greece, funny thingymajobs, politics and whatnots. However, life has changed and I have slowly become a lurker with occasional interactions. Where Twitter used to be a place where you could find your tribe and then spend time exploring and discussing your interests, this has all shifted and Twitter now is a place that has politics and protest at the forefront. Politics in 2018 is a toxic and shocking place. A place where I find myself constantly aghast at the temerity of politicians lying and manipulating and their terrifying hate-filled supporters and enablers. I find myself having to compartmentalise tweets as they come through: Fact, Opinion, Falsehood, Hatred. Each 280 characters becomes a stalled moment where I consider the impact of each word, where I need to undertake a source analysis so I can ascertain the credibility of the Tweeter and not only their particular life lens, but also how they may potentially react. To anyone. To me. Which explains my new tendency towards lurking.

Note 6: Being a fuck up in a knee-jerk world. I often think (worry) about how will people react if/when I say/tweet something ill-informed or something wrong. See, I live with my foot in my mouth. I say stupid things that in retrospect horrify me. I look back at things I have done and said throughout my life and cringe and wish I could take the words back. Things that I said at 16. At 26. At 36. Things that I said last month. Things that I said today. Getting older has not necessarily made me any wiser when I start prattling. I get a stupid nervous energy and I forget to just shut the fuck up. It is an affliction that many extroverts have. I like to think that there isn’t anything unique about me feeling this way. Which means that if I can fuck up, so can everyone else. We are all fuck ups together. If I see someone say weird, out of line shit, I like to think that I just shrug and wait to see if it is a hill they are willing to die on or if they just go “Ooops! Sorry!” or if they make an effort to change. However, I have seen people harassed, I have seen them torn down, I have seen (several) people I liked hounded and bullied to the point that they have left their online spaces forever due to things that they have done. And I don’t know if they are OK. And I worry about them. And true – what they were hounded or called out on was not good behaviour and there are consequences to bad behaviour. But frankly, no-one is perfect. Good people can sometimes do bad things and make mistakes. But we all learn as we go along and it is imperative that we are measured in our responses. Humans fuck up. I don’t know anyone, ANYONE, who hasn’t at some time in their life fucked up both big and small. I also think every person has the capacity to unfuckup in the future.

Example: A person I grew up with went to gaol for doing some pretty hardcore crimes. She has been out for over a decade. I bumped into her several months back. We chatted. We laughed. We talked about our kids. Where we live. What we do now. The big elephant in the room was totally ignored. As it needed to be. It was a polite, and rather warm conversation (from someone who was never ever warm in any exchanges that I recall from our youth). At the time that the elephant was happening, none of us abused her or trolled her. There was some talk amongst friends about the situation, and there was one incredibly kind friend who without falter visited her every single week despite having been victim to some of the crimes. So, after our short hellos, this person and I did not swap details or promise to catch up. That would not have been honest. But I was really glad she came over and spoke to me. It was a lovely and genuine exchange. It feels good to know that she changed her life over. And she is a nicer person from what I can see.

So the moral to Note 6 is that I can’t bear to see online attacks. They are not OK. They unnerve me. They are performed with such pious ferocity that I have noted the people who seem to relish in leading them and I keep farfarfar away from them. I don’t subscribe to behaviour being a good/bad binary. Humanity is too complex for that. Also, I am an idealist. I believe in HEAs and redemptive arcs. R U OK day is coming up. It is a day that people are encouraged to remember to check in on friends who may have mental health issues. If any of you personally have contact with someone who used to be engaged in the online communities that I am on (libraries and romance) who has been hounded to getting offline, please check in on them and ask if they are OK.

Note 6.1: I wrote this note on the 21/8. That night, I was in a Twitter exchange where I frankly put my foot in my judgmental, unthinking mouth once again. I was taken to task in the nicest possible way. I apologised. We all laughed. We moved on. Twitter trust in humanity is being incrementally restored.

Note 6.2: Activism, protest and calling out bad behaviour is important to our society. It is important to be able to voice our concerns. But there is a thin line between this and turning into trolls. We must all take care in observing where that line is and not have a knee-jerk reaction and fuck up in a way that we may later regret.

Note 7: I still like Twitter. It still remains my regular social media platform of choice. At least, for now.

Note 8: Thesis and well-being. My 7 months of not blogging coincided with a slump (but not a complete standstill) in my doctoral writing, too. From February through to May, my elderly mum was crisis ill, and in and out of hospital for the majority of that period. Thankfully, I am one of four daughters, and we all had our own area of care and support that we tried to balance between us. I say this, because I would never claim that I carried a full care load. However, the assistance that I gave impacted my own time management with my studies. The consequences being, that I am only now recovering and slowly unravelling the complexity of my thesis work. In the next fortnight, I have to make several structural and conceptual framework decisions that I have been in discussion with my supervisor over. Returning to the blog seems to be giving me a way to work through these problems. On the mum front, she is much better. She is cooking complex meals again, and she is snarky, full of irony along with being all kind and giving, once again. I wouldn’t say that she has fully recovered, but she is certainly a lot more like her usual, contradictory self.

Note 9: Work. I still work as a librarian and I have once again turned down teaching. In the long run, I don’t know how turning down teaching will play out for me. University teaching is hard to come by but I will go crazy if I have 2 jobs, the thesis, being present for my youngest son who is in his last 3 months of his HSC (for the non-Australian readers – this is our state university entrance exams and compulsory secondary education leaving certificate), as well as helping my mum. I don’t have the competitive fire-in-the-belly and willingness to give up my sleeping and resting time that seems to be necessary to make it in academia, so I will need to worry about all that is my future after I finish the thesis. In the meantime, I continue to public-library to get through the study cave necessities.

Note 10: Library cards and library membership. When my Note 1 son went to England, he was given instructions to get himself a library card as soon he was settled and to share his details with me so I could borrow ebooks and eaudiobooks. As all good sons do, he ignored me. His girlfriend though gave me access to her library card. And I felt vexed. How could I use someone else’s card? Even though I had her permission, I felt that I shouldn’t be breaching library rules in such a way. It has made me reconsider library memberships and family access points and password sharing and privacy issues. When I pointed this breach out to her, she responded with a “Huh? But I have your Netflix account logged into my computer. How is this any different?” and I had a lightbolt moment and saw it her way. The library access, by the way, has been great.

Note 10: Narrative in my life. I will leave it to another blog post to discuss what I have been watching and reading but I do have some teaser notes.

Note 10.1: Netflix and TV: I love watching.

Note 10.2: I have not purchased a book since August 2017.

Note 10.3: The reading slump may be over, baby!

Note 11: Conferences. I decided at the beginning of the year to not present at anymore conferences until I finished my thesis. This has not been a decision that I have followed through on. Thankfully. I submitted an abstract to the Popular Romance Studies, the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance IASPR 2018 conference and I am so grateful that I was accepted. Even a week before the conference I felt that I needed to withdraw my paper as my debacle of a year had kept me from comprehensively formulating my argument but  I am so glad that I presented my paper. It was called “Nobody puts romance fiction in the corner: the cognitive dalliance of physical places and digital spaces in public libraries”. I am now trying to write it up so I can submit it for publication. Two weeks prior to IASPR, I also presented a seminar on my research for my university. I will eventually add both of these to my Journals page, but here is the link to Romance in the Margins should you want to watch it on Youtube. I have since also submitted to an Information and Library Science conference. All the submitting and writing and panicking about my content during June and July ended up energising me. I started downloading eaudiobooks to listen to on my commute to work. I listened to 12 novels in the space of 6 weeks. I also read a couple but that hasn’t been as easy as more of my reading time has been focused upon theory and research rather than leisure time.

Note 12: I miss my weekly swimming. I can’t swim in pools due to the chlorine, so I haven’t had a swim since May. One day, I may brave the elements and go swimming in Sydney’s (relatively mild) cold. But it won’t be happening this year. When I grow up to be retired, I will never Winter again. I will spend every June through to September in the Northern Hemisphere. Life goals!

Note 13: I am fucking grumpy. I continue to attend my reading group. We are 17 years strong and I still enjoy attending. We just did Happy as a topic and, in line with all our reading decisions, we have thoughtfully decided to base our next 6 meetings on the rest of the seven dwarfs. Grumpy is up for September which suits me just fine as I have become a really grumpy person. Really really grumpy. Just ask the kids who catch my bus after school. I’m a fuckin’ grump. I growl at teenagers. I shush kids in the library making noise (dammit – the high school kids are studying and they really don’t want to deal with 3 year old playing chasings while their carers give zero shits). I could blame grumpy on the thesis. I could blame grumpy on being tired of parenting. But as a good friend pointed out to me, maybe I am just grumpy and no one else needs to be scapegoated.

Note 14: How on earth did I become a dog person: I now accidently own 2 dogs. We have owned Cleo – a mini fox/Jack Russell terrier who is crazy wired up and very clingy. Then we had an emergency foster dog come to us through a friend six weeks ago. His name is Beau and he is a chihuahua/Jack Russell terrier who is also crazy wired up and very clingy. And since we found out that he is now going to stay with us forever, we have renamed (?) him to Bo. Beau is too highbrow for plebian me. Bee-Oh is much more my pace. Bo as in Bo and Hope. Bo and Luke Duke. Sydney FC has Bobô – not Deyvison Rogério da Silva. Bo is popular culture. Beau needs pampering whereas Bo does not pretend to be anything other than a dog with a propensity for destroying pillows.

Note 15: Ineptness. I have two parcels sitting in my car waiting to be mailed. They have been there for over 9 months wrapped and with stamps applied. One day they will get mailed. This has nothing to do with my blog post and everything to do with my career choices. I will never commit to running an online store. This is more an aside than a note.

Note 16: The Blog. I am considering restarting Sharing my Shallows. My aim was always to get 52 responses and I am still a few short. Meanwhile, I have a wonderful one waiting waiting waiting patiently. Perhaps I will post it one Saturday.

Note 17: Home again: After 8 months away, my son is returning home in a few weeks. Let’s see if it frees up my blog writing time. I must say, I have loved that he has communicated so beautifully with me while he has been away. He has sent us photographs and livestreamed places to us. Every photo he sends, I save to my phone’s gallery. He calls as much as he writes. Postcards are overrated. Instant messaging is my friend. My chatty young child had all the chatter educated out of him through the weird system that gets called school these days. He became a very quiet boy from early on. His travels have brought him back to me. Early on in his travels, he told me he prefers talking to messaging. But those years of communicating through text alone have given him some wonderful skills in articulating his thoughts. I may have started this post discussing how I don’t want to be in the real time tension but I was wrong. I fucked up. I have changed my mind. I am glad that I get to talk to him when he has something funny to share or when he is lonely. I am glad that when he was alone in Southampton port at 10pm with no money with modern technology, his dad and I were able to help him get onto his ferry to the Isle of Wight where family was waiting for him. He was not left stranded. His funny “I survived” did not involve him being huddled up and freezing in the snow in some doorway. The internet and social media, for all its online hate and chaos is still a strong and enabling force. And it remains an important part of my life. I know that I will continue to use my blog as my online home even if the curtains are only occasionally opened, and Twitter will definitely remain as one of my online public spaces.

I thank you for reading to the end. I will aim to do a write up of my reading and watching in another future post. But looking at my track record this year, I commit to nothing.

 

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That was then; This is now – travelling for 30(ish) years

James Gleik/The Information

On my latest trip overseas, I noted the way travel has changed. Earlier this year I read James Gleik’s The Information. Gleik explores the birth of the information age and the impact of technology (from the alphabet, dictionaries, user generated content and information theory) on the way we live. In his first chapter Gleick tells of African talking drums and how they were used to relay messages from one village to another. This got me thinking about the way the information age has impacted my travel decisions and experiences. I think it has been easy to draw comparisons between these years because I am not a regular traveller. In 30 years, I have only been overseas 7 times so changes are much more evident. They are not gradual. So here are some of my observations: Continue reading