Birthday Greetings, California Weirdness, and the Internetz and Personal Privacy

A disjointed, wholly unedited and largely pointless post today (so by all means, READ ON).

First of all, a very herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag to my number one home slice Franz Kafka, who is 130 years old today. There is a whimsical and very libertine Google doodle in his honor, that depicts an unusually cheery and functional Gregor Samsa, briefcase in hand. It’s extremely unfaithful to the Kafka, but what can he do about it? He’s dead.

Today I am writing from sunny (but not too sunny), warm (but not too warm) and largely perfect California, where I am on a one-week “sabbatical” (more on that in a second), giving my someday-new-homeland (maybe) a trial run. I am subletting a lovely room in the Echo Park house where my ex-boyfriend and current regular-friend Jacob lives.

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The arrangement is, in the words of my current partner, “kind of weird,” but the reason I chose to sublet and not just stay with a closer friend is that I wanted to be left largely to my own devices, and not feel like I was being hosted by anyone. I didn’t want anyone to be beholden to me, nor did I want to feel like I had to conform to the version of LA anyone wanted to show me. Jacob and I are friendly, but no longer close, and he feels no obligation to me here, so he was the only person I told I was coming (and I am paying rent).

I figured I would see how I felt about socializing once I got here, and surprise everyone if I did feel like seeing people. I realize this is kind of a weird way to be. I am like this largely because I am quite sensitive to stimulus at this point in my life, and also because unlike the vast majority of financially-stable Angelenos, I loathe driving, and I also loathe riding in cars in general. This is because I get violently car-sick, and also I just happen to enjoy the adventure of getting places in an unconventional fashion. I am in the process of trying to write about this for a legitimate publication, though, so I’m going to cut my meditation on car-free-ness short and move on to the next thing, which is:

LA is a pretty big culture shock compared to the flyover where I currently reside–and even compared to my ancestral home of Oregon, where my parents live and where I was just on a short visit to meet my precious new baby niece (who is indeed precious). The first thing I did when I got here was go to an 11 p.m. (!!!!!!) show a the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and as I waited in line with my friend, he met up with a few of his own friends from the LA improv scene, and they proceeded to talk shop. At one point one of them asked me if I did improv, too, and I became extremely self-conscious. No, I explained, I am a mild-mannered college professor from the Midwest. This is a self-designation I would never in a million years have predicted, but it’s one I’ve grown into.*

*Quick digression. I’ve been offered two courses for the fall, and I took them. Does this make me a traitor to the post-ac cause? I’ve posed the question to my Twerple, who were all very supportive and roundly insisted that a gal has got to eat. As much as it would have been great to stand on principle and refuse to set foot back into the hallowed halls, this is work I know how to do, and the small honors college where I’ll be doing it is a great place with terrific students. Plus, it’s two units of the same course (“one prep” for you edumacators out there!), and it’s a course I’ve taught before (saved lesson plans, for you edumacators). So it truly will be a part-time job that will allow me to focus the rest of my time on writing, consulting and post-academic activism. I do still consider adjuncts who refuse to play the game (to research for free, for example, or to continue the conference circuit on their own dimes) to be postac, so I do hope my postac homies, whom I count now as friends, will not consider me a Schumanict Arnold. Digression over.

All right, anyway, so, being in LA as a mild-mannered college professor/writer/general ambitionless nobody is overwhelming. Like, I almost feel as if because I don’t have the burning ambition to be a star, I’m not worthy of having conversations with people. This is all coming from me, by the way–the guys who live in this house are all extremely nice, I don’t really have any tangible evidence of burning ambition…I just kind of feel it in the air here. Like everyone’s got a spec script and everyone’s got a standup show and everyone’s got something. That is incredible to behold, coming from a place where a lot of people just sort of exist, and if you have ambition, it is to get Cardinals season tickets (not that there’s anything wrong with that! I went to a Cards game a few weeks ago and it was terrific fun, especially because my seats were Little-League close and I didn’t have to pay for my ticket!). But I guess that at this point in my life, I find being surrounded by energy and ambition and starry eyes to be a little overwhelming. I’m thinking that perhaps LA might not really be the best path for me. But we’ll see.

Now on to the third thing I’d like to talk about with no context. First of all, I got some devastating news about someone close to me (and I can’t and won’t say anything more about it), so my shock and grief are understandably overwhelming my every thought today. So, with that in mind, I have been thinking a bit about the consequences of being a rather sharey, loquacious person online.

I do a lot of very honest Facebooking about my life and my emotional state–to a point. I share exactly what I want to, to exactly the extent that I want to. I am sure most of my 500-ish Friends have now hidden me because I am rather verbose on there, but those who haven’t are sometimes (and understandably) curious about what is going on in my life, since this is a time of such upheaval. And I know it seems weird, because I do share so much, but I get very uncomfortable and sometimes even a little angry when people think they are entitled to know more than I share. I recently got into a mild argument with a good friend about this–the friend said basically, how can you expect people not to be curious about your next steps when you share so much? And I get that, I do. But I also think that the great thing about Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all that shit is that you can share as much or as little as you want, and then leave it at that. I really do believe that I owe nothing to anybody as far as the “whole story” of my life is concerned.

So I post something vague about living in the Midwest. Does this mean my fourth-grade classmates and former milk man are entitled to know exactly where I am, and what I’m doing there, and when or if I will leave? No, no it fucking does not. They are entitled to exactly as much or as little as I wish to reveal. I don’t give a fuck if it paints an incomplete picture. And it is my right not to give that fuck.

So I post something else vague about being angry with academia and leaving my job. Does this mean my tenth-grade classmates and former colleagues at Dance Teacher Magazine are entitled to know the intimate details of what it was like to be in a long-distance relationship for two years, and exactly how and why I “got fired” from my job, which I did not? I am extremely surprised and flattered that anyone gives a shit, really I am. But that doesn’t mean that anyone is entitled to a word more of my story than I choose to make public (and I assume that everything on Facebook is public).

My future is still up in the air, and its up-in-the-airness is equal parts exhilarating and painful (although not as painful as the news I got today, which again is extremely private). It is not the Facebookiverse’s job to understand that, but it is within my rights to rankle when people ask me, “So what are you doing now? Where are you going? What are you doing next?” when every single one of these questions is like a tiny little spike through my heart that reminds me of the failures that got me to this place of uncertainty. These feelings of pain are mine. I get to have them. I get to express them to exactly the extent that I choose. I get to teeter on the line between extreme privacy and extreme overshare for no reason whatsoever.

All right. So, now, with yet another total lack of transition, I’ve got to get going. I’m going to meet someone for lunch in Burbank, which is eight miles away from Echo Park, and I’m going to get there without a car. And I’m going to like it, and I don’t have to tell you why.

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One thought on “Birthday Greetings, California Weirdness, and the Internetz and Personal Privacy

  1. What, you haven’t gotten any commenters on this yet throwing random takes?

    As an individual with a long and distinguished history of oversharing (12 years, since the days of LiveJournal and Xanga, see) I kind of recognize the story you’re telling at the end here – and the dangers of throwing so much out there that every even slightly vague status updates can bring a host of “OMG ARE YOU OKAY WHAT HAPPENED THIS TIME” and the like.

    I’ve hit a point where nearly all my Facebook/Twitter posts are links of interest, because (a) I READ DAD-GUM EVERYTHING and if I don’t link it I lose it (corollary: I decided long ago to let the vast majority of my political links die, because my friends are from all political persuasions and I tired of the endless debates I’d inadvertently trigger) and (b) the links mean I don’t have to say ANYTHING about my current life state. That might make using social media more boring, but it also means I can use my time for more entertaining things, like course prep and programming and hanging out with family and all that.

    Being at the point where I know exactly where I want my professional life to go (not that it will get there, if all the independent, teaching-centered institutions keep finding ways to implode or run out of money or the like), it’s also a lot easier to keep the links focused on professional issues and not personal ones.

    OH AND THIS SHOULD BE SAID TOO: It’s entirely possible to be personable, kind and generous without oversharing. Why, if a Rebecca Schuman had not been so pleasant and gratitude-filled when I simply linked her Slate article on Twitter, I would not be aware of a breadth of conversation on Twitter as I am now (or else, it would have taken me a lot longer to have pieced together that conversation), and I wouldn’t respect said Rebecca Schuman anywhere near as much as I do.

    By the way, how does it feel to be a shill for Old Navy and Boeing? Rolling in that dough yet?

    Like

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