Twenty years

The “till death do us part” component didn’t work out as planned, but it’s still pretty cool to have been there twenty years ago today for this major event that was a direct precursor to marriage equality in the U.S. I’d actually forgotten until I found myself having to type today’s date a few minutes ago.

So happy anniversary to all four thousand of us!

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve:

  • 1979-1980: I get drunk for the first time. I also get caught by my parents getting drunk for the first time.
  • 1981-1982: Someone hits my car just as I’m getting started on what turns out to be the last heterosexual date I will ever subject myself (or anyone else) to.
  • 1984-1985: I spend the night with a boy I have a major and obsessive crush on. Nothing happens. Sigh.
  • 1994-1995: I’ve just broken up with someone. I go to a quasi-legal party at a warehouse down the street in San Francisco. It gets raided.
  • 1999-2000: Millenium party with accordion accompaniment.
  • 2008-2009: On a very cold night, the ex and I find ourselves on the wrong side of downtown Pittsburgh for the fireworks.
  • 2010-2011: Most depressing New Year’s Eve ever. Enough said.
  • 2012-2023: Done with this shit.

Other than 1974-1975, when I was ten years old and at Disney World, I’m hard pressed to think of a single New Year’s Eve that was memorable for actually being enjoyable. Maybe that’s why I pretty much just say “fuck it” at this point. I never liked New Year’s Eve. It’s nice no longer having to pretend to. I was even sort of faking it in the photo above from 35 years ago…and who the hell are those people?

For the record, this year I invited a Spectrum tech over for an early date at 4PM. His repair didn’t “take” and now I get to see another Spectrum tech at 9AM on New Year’s Day. Good thing I won’t have a hangover.

I do have collards, Hoppin’ John, and pork things for tomorrow. Nothing changes New Year’s Day (to coin a phrase).

Socially mediated

I’m an introvert. Hardcore. I play the game well and a lot my coworkers in particular might not even recognize it, but I’m not especially “social” and I generally am quite happy with my own company most of the time. This has a lot to do with my being an only child and probably has even more to do with the fact that I had very few friends in general until I got to college and have always felt very socially awkward. I never really absorbed that whole social interaction thing correctly, though I have gotten really good at “faking it” particularly though my long past working in retail and my current career, which involves a lot of collaboration, interaction, and public speaking.

I’ve been communicating online (often as my primary medium) for more than twenty-five years. In the late 1990s, back when this site was really popular, I carried on regular email correspondence with many, many people in many, many places. Seriously, there were few places in the U.S. I could go where I didn’t know someone within on or two area codes. Even then, though, it was all asynchronous. I was not hanging out in AOL chatrooms or message boards or IRC (except maybe to download pirated software or porn on the latter). It was all sort of “old school”: email using complete sentences, etc.

Things changed a bit when I got partnered. Frankly, I neglected a lot of friendships because I really only had so much “social” in me and I felt like I should probably be giving most of that to my partner. That’s not an unusual or bad choice but in retrospect, I do have some regrets about it. Between neglect and the fact that the website because less and less of a medium because people weren’t really interacting that way so much anymore, I found that I had a much smaller social circle ten years later when I found myself single again.

I tiptoed into social media while in grad school and eventually got pretty active on Facebook as a way of keeping up with friends, which was nice for quite a while. I also did Twitter, but that was always more about using it as a reading list and a place to promote content on the other site. I generally avoided much engagement in general on Twitter and didn’t really join in on arguments and heated discussions very often on any platform.

Mid-pandemic, in the summer of 2020, I suddenly swore off Facebook. There was some specific interaction that pushed me in that direction (oddly enough, I don’t remember exactly what it was) but it was something I had been thinking about for a long time. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore; it started feeling like work. I liked the aspect of keeping up with friends, but so many of my friends were no longer posting anything personal to begin with. It was all either politics or memes about how awful everything was. And I already knew how awful everything was. I didn’t need to spend time doom scrolling my friends’ posts to realize that. About the same time, I swore off news sites for a good while too, and was basically only watching The National on CBC every night because it was less awful. I tried to unfollow or mute the friends who were the worst “offenders” but after a while I just hated logging on, so I stopped. And I sort of regret that too because I lost touch with a lot of people I really like. But I couldn’t do it anymore.

I stuck with Twitter, oddly enough, just because I could tailor it to my needs and curate what I read. And it was great for a few years. But then, as the Muskrat took over, that functionality went away, and with it went most of the small group of people I interacted with there. Twitter basically just blew up one day and was never quite the same. I stuck around for a year, not posting as much and not spending as much time there. There were still things I followed regularly (most of them related to history, architecture, and urbanism) but increasingly people who used to post interesting material were abandoning ship as Twitter became more and more of a sewer.

I should have joined the exodus last year. I didn’t. I’m doing it now. And I’m not sure which platform comes next, if any. I have an account on Mastodon, but I mainly repost things from Twitter and Flicker there to an audience that’s a fraction of what I had on Twitter and I don’t otherwise engage. Threads does not impress me and Instagram never did, so a return the Land of Meta is not in the horizon. I do Flickr sometimes, but that was always more about sharing photos (and hosting them for the site) than about socializing. And BlueSky? Who knows? Maybe I’ll just start getting better about adding content here again and conversing by email. Probably not.

The social aspect is hard. I’ve sworn off most social media, I hate talking on the phone, and no one corresponds by email anymore except for work. What’s left?

All of this is not to suggest that I don’t have friends whose company I enjoy and with whom I still interact regularly (in person, even). But I’m increasingly worried that my isolation may be growing, particularly since many of my closest friends live nowhere near me. I think this is a pretty common worry for us introverts and other “non-joiners” for whom online communication worked well until it didn’t.

 

No fair

It’s been six years now since the chain of events that led to the collapse of my nine years of coupled bliss. It was an astoundingly difficult period, but I’m largely over it now and I’m pretty danged happy with my life as I’m now living it. I’ve let go of most of the little frustrations and resentments, I don’t hate my ex, and I have some perspective on the while thing, although I’m the first to admit that this perspective is a bit skewed in my own favor. But I’m pretty well past it.

There’s one nagging thing I can’t let go of, though. He ruined the fucking fair for me.

I always loved going to the the fair. It was one of the things I was most excited about when we moved back to North Carolina. The fairs here are in October, which is the only correct time of year for them. It’s cool out, and I always used to go at night, just like my family did when I was a kid. I loved it all, from the Methodist barbecue tent to the giant pumpkins to the midway to the weird booth-size dioramas in the exhibit hall. It was always my night to feel like a kid again.

I haven’t been to the fair since 2010. The ex and I were already confronting some big problems at that point and were trying to negotiate some compromises. Unfortunately, the ex chose “fair night” to do something that made me very sad in general, and also revealed to me that even though I was trying to make some compromises, a few of the lines I’d drawn were going to be crossed whether I liked it or not. It made me feel like my wants and requests were not really being acknowledged at all, which in turn made me suspect for the first time that our relationship was doomed.

This was something that probably needed to happen. I just wish it hadn’t happened at the fair, thus pretty much casting a pall on something I’ve always really kind of loved and making me associate it with one of the saddest nights of my life. It’s  like asking your spouse for a divorce on his birthday, or running over his puppy on Christmas morning. It sucks and I’ve never quite been able to forgive him this one thing. The whole night bothered me so much that I even deleted all my photos and videos of it so I wouldn’t run across them by accident…which is something that I just don’t do.

It’s funny the little sad things you hang on to even as you manage to eliminate most of them from your life: a song that reminds you of a failed romance when you were twenty, a note from your dad apologizing for something that both of you still remember vividly though you don’t want to admit it, your last photo of a friend before a fatal argument, etc. That this should be the one heartbreaking thing I take away from a failed long-term relationship is both surprising and completely appropriate. As a couple, we both felt and acted like big kids. This was the night that pretty much ended for me.

Happy anniversary to me (another one)

It may seem an odd thing to celebrate, but as of today, I have been single again for five years.

Today in 2011, I was in a pretty rotten place. I’d pretty much known where things were headed for several months; deciding that we weren’t going to live together anymore (or even live in the same time zone) was a pretty unmistakeable sign. But I was still unprepared for how hard it hit me on that Wednesday night when I realized that it was really over after nine very happy years and six really shitty months.

Being “coupled” has never been my natural state, even though there were some times that I really wanted it to be…and even though there was one time where it really did feel right. By the time I met Mark in 2001, I was pretty comfortable–hell, even enthusiastic–about the prospect of remaining a confirmed bachelor for life. One very serious case of love changed all that and I do not for a minute regret that it happened. All in all, it was a very happy time in my life and I was very sad when it ended.

The fact that it ended at a time when there were a lot of other things going on in my life made it much harder, and the fact that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable talking about most of it even with close friends made it even harder.In the end, I was not prepared to make one really big compromise that might have (at best) delayed the end, but would have done so at the expense of my sanity and my emotional health–which looks in retrospect like the very moment I started my recovery. It didn’t seem like it at the time but ultimately, I realized there was a bigger problem in my life/brain/body chemistry/whatever and I began working on that. Pretty successfully, I think.

But I’ve also spent the past five years learning how once again to be that single person I used to love. I think I’ve been pretty successful at that, too. Frankly, I like myself better as a single person. I think most of my friends like me better that way, too. I’m more adventurous, I generally have more fun, and I don’t have to have anyone else along for the ride when I travel (which in itself is justification enough). And the introvert in me has more time for my friends now that most of the limited time I’m willing to allot to other people is not dedicated to just one other person.

I’m also more independent. In retrospect, I gave up a lot of that when I was coupled, just because it was easy to do so, and he was willing to take over a lot of things and make a lot of decisions. And, of course, that really wasn’t fair to either of us. It took me a long time to get back in the habit of taking care of things on my own. I’m still working on it. I think the task of building a very successful and satisfying new career while I was pretty much in “the depths” is what saved me. In fact, I didn’t even miss one day of work, which either means that I really loved my job or that I was scared to stay home the next day. Or both.

Again, I don’t regret having spent nine-plus years in this relationship. Not for a second. I do have some regrets about the end and the aftermath, but that’s to be expected.

Five years later, though, I also don’t regret where I am today. I’m happy, I like my life, and I finally gave the goddamned chair to Habitat.

I think that’s worth celebrating.

Otherstream at 20: 2011

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I thought this one was going to be harder to put together than it actually was. which says, I guess, that I’m finally over the worst year of my life. Or that I’ve gotten better at ignoring it. Or something.

In 2011, I lost two of the most important people in my life. Neither of them actually went away; they both just changed in ways that drastically altered our relationships. My ex and I split up after almost ten years, and my mom developed dementia. I’m not sure the website ever quite reflected how devastating this was to me. I actually wrote more about the latter than the former, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the proportionate effect of each. Sharing specific details about the breakup didn’t really seem fair or appropriate, although it is possible to read between the lines de temps en temps.

Despite everything, I was very successful at establishing my new career during 2011, and my October trip to Canada (the start of a new tradition) resulted in a lot of positive changes for me, not the least of which was the fact that i started listening to lots of new music again.

For the record, some of these posts were made public after the fact and did not originally appear in this same order (basically I “sneaked” them in retrospectively) so regular readers may have missed them.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2010

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In 2010, I got my first tenure-track position (which is working out quite nicely, thanks), my ex and I recommenced living together full-time after five years of the bicoastal thing (that didn’t end well at all), and I didn’t write much of any consequence. Highlights follow on the march to the big anniversary on 13 January.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2009

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In 2009, I got my master’s, got my first professional library job, thought a lot about cities, and bought a house in Pittsburgh. It was perhaps a more interesting year than I gave it credit for at the time. Anniversary in six days. Highlights from 2009 below.

January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:

Otherstream at 20: 2008

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There was better reading in 2008 than in 2007, maybe because I was tying (at least for a little while) to generate content for four different websites, all of which eventually landed here. I’d call this year “reflective” and “hectic” with grad school and all. I also worked a very odd part-time job, continued with my freelancing, and migrated the site from static HTML to WordPress. I’d sort of forgotten what a busy year it was.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2006

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Ten years ago I was celebrating ten years of the site. 2006 also brought homeownership, a slight case of cancer, and more travel. Highlights and favorite posts below.

January:

February:

  • That word
  • Triangle weekend (the “something that was bothering me” was the early-stage cancer I’d just been diagnosed with)

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December: