14 October, 2011


I'm getting old, and that's a fact. I suppose there's no escaping it, though it might make sense for me to try and come to terms with my pathologic fear of death as it inches closer, a minute... an hour... a day at a time. I don't bounce as well as I once did, if I hurt myself it actually hurts. I have the feeling every day that life is short, and so I'd better spend each day doing something that is both important and useful to me at that moment.

cur·mudg·eon [ker-muhj-uhn] noun. a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

I am stubborn, set in my ways. I feel like the world is traveling down a path I'm not interested in taking. I suppose this happens to everyone at one time in life, when the young people are harder to understand than the older ones. The things that bring me comfort are now passe, cliche or old-fashioned. My taste in movies is now "campy," my taste in music is now "oldies." Funny, I don't feel much different than I did at 17, except I'm a bit softer now. I think one of the secrets no one tells you as a kid is that once you get to your set point (a little different for every person, but I think it comes near the end of adolescence), you feel pretty much the same forever.

It is possible I feel the same since I've decided not to have kids, and so have not gone through that dramatic transition in life. That being said, I'm not ready to give that theory all that much credit since the quality of a person's personality and relationships is found to be the most salient predictor of their personality, behavior and relationship satisfaction after a child is born (Cowan & Cowan, 2000).

I like my life. I am grateful for technology and the many conveniences it affords. Without technology I would not be able to reach out (pathetic though it may be) in a blog, connect with old friends en masse via Facebook posts or contact 8 people at once to remind them of a team meeting. I would not be able to serve on a board of directors comprised of people from around the country and see and talk with them via Skype in real time. I would not be able to do all my shopping from home, have every bit of information imaginable right at my fingertips or stream content at a moment's notice. But this technology comes at a price in my mind. It has taken some of the intimacy out of my communication, some of the passion out of how I spend my time.

I miss "real" communication. Letters from a friend, written longhand. Going to the mailbox and finding an actual letter from a friend warms my heart. That small piece of paper scrawled in pencil or ink, posted across the country or around the world is a time capsule. It represents those few moments when my friend was thinking of me, caring about me and wanting to give me the gift of his or her time and thoughts. email is not the same as a letter. It is entirely utilitarian. Communicating by email allows me to keep in touch with friends when my life is too busy compared to what it ought to be. It allows customers to reach me and me to reply quickly even at hours that are entirely unreasonable. But it does not hold the same sentiment for me as a handwritten note.

Some of the many letters that live in a lovely cedar box full of memories

I'm finding as I talk to younger people that my sentimentality dates (and ages) me. Many would *rather* receive an email or a text than a letter. I suppose I have considered electronic communication a necessity but not a pleasure. This boggles my stubborn, cantankerous mind. It makes me think thoughts with short words.

I miss making art for the sake of doing so, and for the sake of making it a gift. Holding a pen, a paintbrush, a stick of chalk pastel in my hand and putting emotions onto paper. I often used to craft handmade greeting cards to give as boxed sets to friends. The market for such a gift is expired. No one sends letters anymore.

Some old samples of handmade greeting cards

The art store is one of my meccas, I can spend hours walking down the isles fondling the stock. I am particularly fond of handmade papers. I suppose that makes me old-fashioned, yet again. In this world, my "art" has become things created electronically. Websites, logos, digital imaging. The tangibility that satisfied my soul is somehow less with those forms of media. Yet the people who are young right now will know this as usual, and will be sated by it in a way I am not.

Yep, an old scholarship portfolio full of hardcopy work

I miss having a hard way to prove to myself I did work. Notebooks, papers corrected in red pen, pages of calculus homework meticulously drawn in 0.3mm mechanical drafting pencil. I have been back in college for quite some time now. The sum of my efforts could be reproduced a hundred times and stored on a microSD smaller the size of my thumbnail. The portability is wonderful, and certainly I can type more quickly than I can write in longhand. My laptop is my favorite friend. But there's something vague about words on a screen put through the "network of tubes." I don't feel as accomplished: because my ruler is so out of date. Yes.... I said "ruler." The evidence of my curmudgeonly ways mounts with every sentence.

Recently I acquired an eReader. It is ridiculously convenient, especially when I have numerous books required for school that are available cheaply and instantly on eReader. Yet there remains a special place in my black, cold and aged heart for paper books. The kind with worn covers and dog-eared pages that I've read a dozen times. The kind with dust in the binding and real glue binding the individually sewn signatures into a hard cover printed with gold foil. The kind that give old bookstores the wonderful musky smell of books and the people who love them. The very impracticality of my nostalgia about books should leave me aghast at myself. But I am not.

A few books read a few dozen times

I miss being unavailable, and being available for real communication. My smartphone makes my life more streamlined, and text messaging is convenient and very reinforcing. Every time we hear the beep-beep and it is followed by a few characters from a friend, we all get the ultimate tiny social version of click-treat. But I miss having the time for real conversations over coffee or sitting in the park. For talking my thoughts out beginning to end instead of being barraged by a series of half-thoughts and asinine abbreviations 165 characters or fewer. Yes, I like having text messaging, but I feel like texting has become the normative mode of communication for anyone younger than myself. Text allows a level of anonymity and social distance that can open people to say things they would not say in person. It accelerates a false sense of intimacy because accountability for statements is not required. Texting is a unilateral opportunity to throw thoughts and words at someone else without having to (or wanting to) see their reaction, or be accountable for the effects. I feel the same way about internet "dating."

In pixels on a screen, we can each create who we want other people to see. The screen is a shield behind which we can hide, and upon which we can scribble a caricature of ourselves. It can be false advertising.

The ultimate irony perhaps is the way I've delivered these thoughts. Electronically. Pixels on a screen. I feel somewhat better having written it down longhand first in my usual journal so my nostalgic self will have it forever, it can become dusty and musty with the rest of the paper trail of life I've left for myself. Now I've left little electronic breadcrumbs of my last few weeks' musings for the rest of you, as well.

Peace be with you.