The Unsettled Here and Now

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I’m going to get personal for a minute here.

Sometimes I can be particularly observant of what’s going on around me and also in me. At present it feels like my powers of observation are a little out of whack. And I think this has to do with my increased traffic on social media platforms.

Since the US Presidential election, I’ve delved more deeply into my online engagements. Twitter has become my primary news source as well as my go-to space for a sense of community in troubled times. As incredibly grateful as I feel for the tremendous wealth of good will, necessary political resistance, and human warmth I experience, I also recognize the slow drain on my attentional and emotional resources.

Every day and on every tweet that I raise my #resist flag, I know this is what I must do, at the very least. I have picked a side and it happens to be against the incoming administration and majority aggressively Republican legislature. Even though I am geographically very distant, I experience the sense of dangerous and targeted upheaval on a very personal level. I fear for individuals as well as systems. And as I watch a group of overwhelmingly white, straight, so-called Christian males parade before multiple TV cameras and announce their policy plans, I feel sickened to know how quickly the country will likely find itself flat on its back not knowing how it got there.

I fear for our individual and collective exposure through our very willing and often enthusiastic embrace of digital tools and platforms which offer us convenience, speed, and seemingly unlimited choice. We are, at the same time, in fairly constant danger of becoming hostages of all the data we give away daily. With our clicks and instrumentalized acquiescence, we have created our most sophisticated and unforgiving monsters yet, which still maintain a miraculously rosy veneer of being society’s new great helpers.

All told, I’m feeling a lot of fear.

At my core I am an educator. My dialogues with students provide some of the richest contours to my thinking and doing. I look forward to starting classes soon in order to get grounded again; to be brought back to my core mission of helping students “Get fit, get better, and get along.”  We’ll have conversations about how we include, nurture, challenge and respect each other. They will remind me about the importance of fair play and being kind to one another. They will remind me to keep working on being my best. Perhaps more than at any other time in my teaching career, creating a classroom where fairness, openness and care are built into everything we do is the most important work I can do – for my students and for myself.

 

image: Spelic/@edifiedlistener

Importance Resizing

I started to write a post about my wonderful winter break and how restorative it was for me. How nice.  Then I realized what’s really on my mind is this:  While I was away having my break of breaks from work, from compulsive expository writing, from shallow reading trying to pass as close reading, from competitive scrolling, from toggling between e-mail and twitter notifications to see which one is most up-to-date, I reached this searing conclusion: Twitter does not care if I contribute or lurk, go AWOL or stay glued to my screen.  Twitter did not miss me while I was away. And to my great surprise, I didn’t miss Twitter so much, either.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about a digital detox or full scale time out. I had internet access most of the time. However, being away from home and from my laptop and my typical online habits, I regained a distance to my work and my sense of self-importance. Because, let’s be honest, social media can be an amazing tool to help you inflate your sense of self-importance to improbable magnitudes. Not just your followers, but their followers and their followers’ followers – all have the potential to be touched by that clever witticism you tweeted that got retweeted 3 or even 5 times – now that’s reach!  My point here is that being away from the steady shower of critical thinkpieces, longreads, pithy commentary and swift actionable tips helped me appreciate that the parts of social media that I value can be enjoyed in smaller, more targeted doses.

I can also see that life’s other occupations: making good on my speedskating intentions, playing card and board games with friends and family, crocheting until the cows come home (looking for a new scarf), solving puzzles, staring out the window, taking pictures of fog – these are precisely the luxuries that social media cannot provide. They are the tangibles which in my case yielded significant intangibles: rest, recuperation, relaxation, renewal.

The ice, the fog, the peace...

The ice, the fog, the peace…

Social media has plenty to offer me and others. And this organic time-out helped me put things back into perspective. I have some thoughts to share. I look forward to continuing and expanding my learning with and from so many others. But I think I’ll be happier in the process if I leave behind the need to create and be a brand. I am not a commodity. My voice is not here to sell or be sold.  How much I share, in which intensity and tone, will vary. I don’t know exactly who my audience is or will be and that’s okay. I know what I want to write about, what I need and want to say and if that resonates with one or two or fifty folks, then great.

Being away from the keyboard gave me pause, both literal and figurative. And in that time I certainly did a more thorough appraisal of possible exit strategies than ever. Deciding to be here (or not be here) is always a choice.

Photo: Spelic 2015