People Are Strange When You're Estranger

On April 20th, this site officially turned three years old. Every year, I write one of those “happy birthday” posts and then I make promises to be better than I have been. Perhaps it’s a sign I will return to writing more regularly or who knows, maybe this is the year I swim with sharks. Either way I spend the day atoning for my menial sins—all of the broken promises made by an earlier self.

Typically these posts coincide with the end of the university semester, in other words at a point where I have an influx of free time that should motivate me to make good on my promises. I honestly believed that my ability to focus had an inverse relationship to the amount of work on my plate. I now realize the folly in my thinking because if I hadn’t found time to write as a lowly student, then perhaps there were other issues. (Let’s be honest there aren't many opportunities to capitalize on free time like university.)

Identifying the problem could be as simple as admitting I never felt the need to be that person, whoever they were: the writer, the creative, the internet wünderkind. Yes, I might have desired to be recognized but where did all that fire go? Goals can’t be met through desire alone and hard work counts for naught if it is as short lived as those fleeting desires.

So, what then am I doing here? Why bring this up at all?

Good question, let me detour for a moment.

I have been meaning to write at length about Frank Chimero’s “Homesteading” article (probably since it first came out in December of 2013) and this feels as good a time as any. Frank writes about carving out his own niche on the internet. By investing time into the four “walls” of his own site he keeps his digital soul from being stretched too thin. Rather than keeping his various thoughts in small silos across the internet, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Instead he decided to invest the time he might have used elsewhere—to the benefit of others—on his own site—to the benefit of himself.

He has effectively made a comitment to stop being a “mover and a shaker” to become a personal collector. The pace of his online life (and his meat-space life too, no doubt) gears down towards his own speed as less of his efforts are spent trying to keep up with everyone else. He can take his time to choose which artifacts are truest to himself and set them on display however he sees fit. The aggregate of all the little pieces in his collection, whether it be books, essays, images or pithy quips all contributes to his personal identity. He’s building up a personal monument of sorts, not knolling[1] small pieces of himself across the floor. What will remain when all is said and done might be as close an approximation of his being as one could possibly hope to achieve.

It takes commitment to stay the course on any project and see it to its end, this is no less true on the internet, perhaps more so. I would like to believe it takes real vision to continue forward, especially when it is so easy to find other “distractions”. While I am too simple to come up with my own profound insight I can follow the trails blazed by others. Frank’s journey is certainly inspiring but the essential message isn’t altogether new. The great wisdom out of Voltaire’s polemic Candide was—and I am paraphrasing—to tend to our own gardens. If the message holds, perhaps somewhere buried amongst the weeds I can find myself. With a little grit and some focus I might even be able to draw it out.

It comes to me now, as I sit in the disturbingly cramped cabin of an AirTransat 747 that I am practically homeless. I have places to stay but no home of my own. The stability of living in the city of my birth, the “nation” featured in my education and around the people that made each of those real are fading from view.[2] I am moving on.

Without a physical home I seek hallowed ground. The only place left to turn is here.

My mind always circles about the idea of virtual worlds and identity. Despite the intangible nature of a Klout score[3] or a hastily written tweet, they form a part of me no less real than the sausage-like fingers that I use to type these words. There is an intrinsic link between the who I am online and offline. Even a gonzo-esque character schtick on Twitter points to something about you. Our actions, regardless of place are indexical. They point to certain features or properties and are borne out of our peculiar circumstance.

Shed of its former analog counterpart, this online home may be the only tangible signifier of my identity. Sure, I actually exist somewhere but what does that matter to the few people who stumble upon this site? Or to my friends and family who in the meantime can only connect to me through digital means? I am a collection of pictures, a jumble of words and a dial-tone. The longer I stay this far removed the more comfortable everyone involved becomes with thinking of me this way.

Far from being something to become depressed about, I've found the idea comforting. So long as I can keep this song and dance going (i.e., this silly website) I have some mooring for my identity. I can point and say, “this is what I have been doing”, or better yet, “this is what I am about”.

  1. Spreading out and arranging the individual pieces of an object or collection into perfect 90° arrangements.I first heard the term from Jason Kottke. ↩︎

  2. Don’t worry, my partner—the love of my life—will be there to keep an eye on me. She deserves so much praise and thanks for the last 9 years it’s unfathomable. Thank you from the bottom of my soul. (Bonus: she enjoys hidden love notes for her future self to discover.) ↩︎

  3. An online popularity/influence score that clever humans tout ironically. Sadly, even used ironically, its mention always rings of desperation… including this one. ↩︎


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This is the weblog of the strangely disembodied TRST. Here it attempts to write somewhat intelligibly on, well, anything really. Overall, it may be less than enticing.