Fool that I am, I used to think I was impervious to regret. The logic I employed to prop up that delusion at least had a patina of credibility: I reasoned that since I was, at any given moment in my life, doing my best (or bestish), looking back with regret would amount to an act of self-flagellation that would be useless at best and harmful at worst.
Conceits like that are representative of the defense mechanisms I use to try to delude myself into thinking I am somehow exempt from the vagaries of being human. Of course I have regrets! Of course I look back and wish I had made different choices or followed through on things I abandoned too quickly -- or even more simply, and taking my own influence out of the equation, I look back at certain things in my life and just wish they'd turned out differently.
Regret is, I think, another word for heartbreak. I'm in a phase of life where I'm pretty locked into my circumstances -- my wife, son, dogs, career, friends and acquaintances in our circles -- in a way I now realize I never was. Before my son was born a couple years ago, my way of life as an adult had been characterized by transition.
There were comparatively minor transitions, like renting a new apartment; and then there were the seismic events, like extracting myself from my career (and, honestly, life) as an actor without an idea of what was to come next; or, after an extended period of vocational and existential uncertainty, picking a graduate program, only to go on to repeat the pattern of extraction I'd played out as an actor; or, you know, getting divorced. Things like that.
As hard and as far-reaching as those transitions were, they were my way of life. There was a lot of good that came from living that way, too. But after a time, I think I grew a bit too comfortable with my barely subconsciously held understanding that if something wasn't working out very well, I could simply pull the ripcord and parachute into something new.
That reality stands in stark contrast to the one I'm in now. Living in a mode of comparative stability so that, among other things, I can help provide a stable foundation for my son to do his own growing and changing and transitioning from one phase of life to the next has proved to be really good for me. There's a big part of me that feels like I've finally grown up, and it's a relief.
It seems clear to me now that my previous refusal to acknowledge regret was a method of self-preservation. The stakes were high: I was in a quasi-permanent headspace of such uncertainty that I couldn't afford to indulge outright regret about the choices I had made or was avoiding or was actively considering. It would have been tantamount to ego death -- too painful for real life. So, it made sense for me at the time; but, eventually, it became high time to outgrow it.
So now that my life is comparatively stable, and now that I have a new set of worries and challenges to deal with as I try to create a nice life and a loving home for my young son, I can afford to look back at certain things and shake my damn head at them. I suspect I'll be thinking similar thoughts about certain things I'm doing and not doing now that, done differently, would put me in a perceived better place than wherever I'll be some years or decades hence. C'est la vie -- I'm doing my best (or bestish).
Regret and heartbreak are inevitable. The question, then, is what do you do with it? Do you just leave it there and mull it over periodically as an indulgence? Do you grow bitter and closed-minded? Or do you try to learn from it and keep the lesson handy in the event you have a chance to apply the lesson anew? I can see the challenge in doing this, but I think the latter question indicates the road I want to travel.
There are few experiences that force me to confront the aspect of my personality that is forever 11 years old and painfully awkward than that of being on Twitter. There are so many people who are good at Being Online — people who are invariably witty, insightful, and interesting — that they have made careers out of it, or have used the platform to significantly boost their visibility, whether just for fun or in such a way as to enrich their livelihoods and create new opportunities for themselves. (The same goes for YouTube, but I'm so far removed from even attempting to create #content there that I'm not even going to bother with talking about it here.)
"Twitter success" is a wildly unfamiliar experience for me. I have discovered over something like five or six years of regular Twitter use that I am, at best, a pretty boring content creator on that platform. I can see what makes for the Good Content; I can see the traits and skills that others with much wider audiences have that I do not. I can see it, but I can't replicate it. Ultimately, it's fine. My real-life life is good: I have a family, I have friends, I have a job I enjoy most of the time.
And yet, frustratingly, my Twitter ham-fistedness touches a nerve. It exploits the weaker part of my ego — the needy part that desperately wants other people to think I'm funny and interesting and cool. It's the part that can never get enough praise. Basically, it's the part that makes adolescence the vortex of self-conscious agony that it often is. It's the part we're expected to outgrow and overcome with age and experience.
That's just it, though: it never goes away. Overcoming the bottomless pit of attention-seeking neediness is an ongoing process — it's that parable about the wolf you feed and the one you don't. And Twitter is tailor made for us feed the one you probably shouldn't.
Lest I go full edgelord with this, it's important to note that Twitter is also, or at least it can be and often is, just silly, inconsequential fun — but also, a place for people with like interests to connect and share their work and ideas.
It just so happens I'm not the best at it.
Title says it: I wrote an article on LinkedIn about non-profit fundraising. Here it is.
Here in the future, in the year 2019, blogs are pretty thoroughly passe. The good ones have either shuttered altogether or transformed into something else: something tidier and optimized for visibility and revenue. Personal blogs obviously still exist, but they've been subsumed by the same forces that have shunted large swaths of internet-browsing traffic to a handful of the usual-suspect platforms.
I've been in a bit of a creative rut. I've been a bit dissatisfied with my writing practice and felt a bit unfulfilled by my work, most of which I've kept to myself. I sort of just muddled along in that general frame of mind for a while, holding onto my erratic practice of writing in a journal or reading a book or long-form magazine at night as my sole preventive tactic against becoming fully unmoored from any semblance of a personally satisfying creative practice.
Blogs are so thoroughly passe that it didn't even occur to me until the other day that I could use this site — this site that literally is my first and last name dot com — as a creative outlet. I could just write things and post them here, and even share them with other people if I wanted to. In realizing this, I feel I fully and finally embraced the zeitgeist: I stumbled into a repetition of history in an utterly blinkered, unintentional way. I rediscovered a discarded form that's actually never gone away. And with that, there is freedom.
I can just write whatever I want. It can suck; it can be boring; it can be irrelevant or banal; my posts can be all text if I don't feel like finding a clever or pseudo-profound picture to include somewhere in the body of the piece; and it really doesn't matter. My livelihood doesn't depend on anything I put here. It can just be whatever it is. That feels oddly novel, and totally freeing.