A New Internet

When I longed for my future, I never thought about a fixed name. I couldn’t see myself as mother or writer or wife, more just floating through different atmospheres, a sensory montage of days that begin by waking up in a high-ceilinged, long-windowed room in an old building, ending with the slow carousel of a neighborhood as it passes on an evening walk, belly full of spaghetti. Cut with faces bathed in blue night, head banging, rib cage vibrating bass, the feel of a full pack of American Spirits that aren’t dry yet, a silent look between people that means the night isn’t over. At worst, these visions sound like a Getty Images search of the term “youth + joy.” At best, I guess, this has all happened at one time or another. My future as I fantasized it a decade agodisjointed, loose, rich in pan-flashes of sadness and ecstasy, full of smells and tastescame true. I’m realizing to fantasize is the not the same as to want.

I have no child, no partner, and a sporadic rotation of commissioned work, the most steady of which has been a graduate assistantship at the University of Mississippi, which will end when I receive an MFA in May. Since college, the years have felt like a Goldilocks-like exercise in picking up creatures and objects and tasks, examining them, and dropping them if they didn’t quite fit. Though I worry about impermanence, I see this curation as good. I have retained what is essential, and for this, I give thanks. To whatever it is that hasn’t killed me, I thank for shelter and food and water (access to the first two hasn’t always been easy). I’m also grateful that most of my beloved friendships and familial relationships are still intact, even as they’ve changed shape. So much has grown, too, out of what I’ve dropped: savings from where alcohol used to be, time enough to work four jobs out of a lack of Facebook, years of cigarettes giving way to deep, uninterrupted sighs.

I took a step away from Twitter and Instagram this summer, too, though I’ve returned to the latter platforms, finding myself spending hours each day in the consciousness of others. I don’t think this is an inherently bad thing; I’m a fiction writer, it’s my job to be inside brains and eyes. But I find I have a hard time leaving these constructed worlds and returning to my responsibilities and needs as a body—this dry-skinned, thick-muscled, anxiety-prone, nap-averse, sensitive vegetable that needs much more care than it used to. Other apps, on-and-off “tech sabbaticals,” deleting the the bright little squares from my phone: I tried them all and I was always pulled back in, plunging into hours-long binges like someone falling off their crash diet. In a strange, ironic dance, I like to listen to myself, but I really don’t like telling her what to do. That’s a Gemini for you.

My (unproven) theory is that the more I drop, the more room my fixed names, my future, will have to reveal themselves. I am a writer because I write, yes, but I don’t yet know how I’m a writer in relation to the world, in relation to the people close to me. I was going to say, “And I don’t think I can find out online,” but that’s not quite true. I’m still here, and I still plan to visit everyday. In any case, online and offline are merging, and what we find on social media is as much a mirror of human behavior as it is a product of technology. We have always consumed each others’ lives (or more accurately, the stories we’ve built around our lives), always trolled, always hearted. Now, I have lost the ability to consume these stories responsibly from such distance, with such speed, with such volume. I no longer want to tangle my love of learning about other people, and my accountability to them, with addictive behavior. So, I’m letting go of social media.

I’m ready to tether myself somewhere IRL, even if I have to weave it out of house payments and a fickle garden. I want to care for a patch of the Earth with the limited time we have left with it, and be a part of a community, using my skills and my vote. I want to be relied upon, and to help. I want to read more, think more, visit more museums and parks. Go on more dates, I guess. Other wholesome things. I hope this blog will be a way to give others space to consume and digest a consciousness, and do it slowly. Mull it over as you take a nice walk after dinner. Drift through a quiet, online-offline place, and take your time.

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