Tom Nook is not a crook. He’s an entrepreneur.

I was thinking about the regret I felt after buying Animal Crossing and not enjoying it. Perhaps because I never played any of the previous console versions of the game, only the mobile version, I had a misunderstanding of what I was getting into. What I found, what I got into was a whole lot of nothing. It was cute, but boring. Utterly, terribly dull.

Perhaps it was the real-time clock, the one that mimicked the endless March that we still find ourselves in, pumpkin spice not withstanding. The short times I played the days seemed interminable and I wondered if part of the draw was just checking in on a daily basis and seeing how much oranges were going for that day. After a few days it felt like one more thing on my to-do list, one more thing I don’t get credit for.

Next, the crass capitalism of the thing confused me. Was it supposed to be ironic, satire, educational, dystopian? When I finally paid off my initial loan to inhabit the little island, I felt no relief, no satisfaction. The debt never weighed over my head, but perhaps by that time I’d realized I was never going to love this game. The magic, if it had ever been there, was gone.

I always forget Rule 34 when I do image searches. Never forget Rule 34.

What I did feel was jealousy when my two island mates got better starting houses than I. Why was mine so narrow? Why wasn’t that yellow roof brighter? I got frustrated trying to manage my inventory when I needed to collect “all the things” in order to get paid. I wasn’t buying accessories, or building furniture, or tricking out my too-narrow house — a problem Ian Bogost’s son appeared to have earlier this year — I was just trying to get a long and finding myself leaving the game earlier and earlier each time.

I didn’t like those feelings and I didn’t like the me that had them. I didn’t like how managing stuff soon took over my gameplay. I didn’t like how I was encouraged to check into the store for points. It felt too much like real life and real like was what I wanted to escape. I wondered when they were going to start offering Starbucks stars for shells. There’s a tie-in waiting to happen. The game quickly became drudgery.

It’s been at least a week since I’ve played and it’s only crossed my mind because I left a note to myself to write a post about Animal Crossing and capitalism, but Ian’s article is better. There’s no sense doing duplicate work, not when there are oranges to pick, trees to shake, and the grind of perpetual debt.

Note to self: Stop hoarding and start reading

The very first step of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is Capture, grabbing items that are pertinent to you, whether they’re emails, articles, new ideas. The purpose of Capture is the curate the deluge of information coming your way at any given time and separate it into doable “boxes.”

Next you make a decision on its “actionability.” Is it doable now? Is it urgent? You’re sorting through your digital inbox determining the temporal worth of everything you’ve captured.

Finally, there’s organize, where you place all the items into their appropriate spots. You’ve probably heard the rule “if you can do a thing in two minutes, just do it.” That’s the best rule from the whole system, I think. In fact, I just crossed something off my long-term to-do list this morning because it only took a few minutes. Great advice. Good job me! Or you can delegate work to someone else, which for me, doesn’t work, because I’m it. Solomente. Hitoride. Alone.

Here’s where monkey hits the wrench for me. I’m great at capturing items. Whether I use apps like Raindrop or Pocket or Instapaper or Google Keep (and I’ve used them all), I’m awesome at collecting Tweets and articles from Feedly and various tidbits of interest from all over the Internet and social media. I’m a practiced hoarder.

I tend to skip the Clarify part, skipping straight to organization and dutifully, once a week or so, adding tags and moving into folders, in general (as I list it on my to-do list) processing the information I’ve collected over the course of the week. I can organize like no one’s business.

Which is the appropriate idiom because all those articles and ideas that get organized, stay unread, unused, underappreciated, underground for all that it matters to my research, writing, of life in general. With each realization of failure to consume the information I want and with a steadily increasing pile of digital texst waiting for me to read, I would empty the particular app I was using of its collection, blame the app’s shortcomings for my own, and then switch to an entirely new system that will surely work with my style and this is just the thing I needed.

Two months later…

The Philly Trash Strike of 1986 – that’s the Vet in the background.

So as with all things, when you realize the issue isn’t the software, or the marriage, or the job, or the presidency – but YOU. You are the thing that makes it all broken and bad, then its time to fess up and change the one thing you can change. You.

Or me, in this case. You are perfect. I’m in progress.

I stopped collecting. For the last month, I’ve stopped collecting and curating like I used to. I have some bookmarks on Twitter, but only a few and I know they’re all teaching related. Occasionally I add something to my GQueues To-Do list, but only with a date and time so I can take care of it quickly.

Now, when I see an article that I think would benefit me, my research, or my students, I just read it. Honestly, that’s it. I just stop and read the article.

I mean, it doesn’t take that long. I’ve read this investigative work by the Orlando Sentinel called “Laborland” about the plight of theme park workers. That was on the tail end of reading the Washington Post article about families living in motels in Kissimmee. I’d seen a tweet from a reporter at the Sentinel that highlighted their own work in light of the Post’s reporting. Both were worth my time, and yours.

Recently, I read this piece from Edgar Gomez on Narratively about the subculture of “Gays with Guns” in the aftermath of Pulse and the rise of homophobic and trans violence. It’s a terrific piece of experiential reporting and left me with mixed feelings about how we feel and deal with threats differently.

A friend linked to an article via social media, so I took the time to read “This Isn’t What We Meant By Hybrid Learning” at We Are Teachers and instead of just getting mad at the headline, I was able to have my anger be more informed, nuanced. An unending ember instead of a quick flame.

And I think that’s the ultimate result from forgoing collection: I’ve slowed down. Taken the time to read more fully when it comes to current issues. I’m a bit less inclined to “react and move on.” Even in Twitter, even with this tweet, I read the thread first before commenting:

Ultimately, wide-forehead aside, I feel less cluttered mentally, less inclined to switch on and off, and more receptive to diving into articles in the same way I would research. I think giving up Collecting will ultimately improve my comprehension and retention when I’m close reading and give me the clarity to assign urgency to what matters, not just what’s loudest.

Is it okay to blog about me on my blog in this economy?

What would you call a flock of caveats? An “apology”? A “press release”? A “special message to my fans”?

I didn’t sleep well last night and that’s part of this. There was no end to the tossing and turning and limb pain and just general shifting about that I think I managed about an hour of sleep total. But this isn’t about that, thought that may be the start.

I pulled into the grocery store parking lot with tears in my eyes. It’s a short drive from my home, about a mile, and in that time I took the dismissal from my mother about my sleep issue and transformed it into a meditation on my general sense of malaise. Where had the motivation gone? By the time a slid into a spot near the carriage return, I understood and I was ready to cry.

There are two types of people in the world: those who separate the world into two types of people and those that don’t. Normally I don’t, but in that long street strewn with Trump signs and autumn flags, I changed my mind and decided to binary the crap out of this. This isn’t about Trump, though he’s part of it.

There are two types of people in the world: those that express their feelings and those that reserve their feelings. At the very least, we tend to skew one way or another, and I fall into the reserve category. This causes two problems for me: I don’t get the help I need easily and, well, the “express-os” tend to take all the air in the room, and the energy from me. No, I’m not sub-tweeting you, though that’s part of it.

I composed myself, as I do, and did the groceries, (obligatory “like the good capitalist I am” statement that recognizes I willfully take part in a disempowering scheme in order to have turkey and coffee creamer – only humanities majors are required to write this caveat). I came home. I went upstairs to my office. I did no work.

In doing no work, I had to find something to distract my brain, so I found an audiobook to listen to, giving me the illusion of production (“there’s that creeping capitalism again” disclaimer) while meh-ing myself down to meh-town. I’d first picked a book on narrative, but this isn’t about that book, though that’s part of it.

The book I settled on is Write No Matter What by Joli Jensen, all about dispelling the myths of academic writing and developing a healthy habit of scholarship. It’s great and I ended up buying a hard copy too because I found it helpful, though it didn’t actually get me to work on my writing. I did stop partway through to post the upcoming week’s work for my composition class. This isn’t about teaching, though you know the pattern by now.

What brought me to tears, to reserves, to meh, to here is the fact that I’m totally fucking lost when it comes to my PhD program. Pandemic aside, though that’s part of it, I feel like I need some hand-holding right now. Yet I also feel like the department is just waiting for me to finally flake out and quit. That’s unfair to the department, but not to my feelings, which I generally keep to myself. The colleagues I normally talk to about this are gone. I didn’t get to say good-bye. That’s not fair. That’s why I was crying this morning. I’m gonna cry again.

Hold up…

I am reserved and twice the age of my colleagues and there may be an assumption I know what I’m doing and part of that comes from me. I have no clue. I don’t know how to even start a discussion about my comprehensive exams. I don’t know how my language test will work now nor how I’ll pass. I don’t know what I should focus on. I don’t even feel like I have anyone to talk to about it and even if I did, I don’t know what questions to ask.

Hold up again…sorry…

When you don’t know what to do, all the problems seem huge. I know how it feels to help minimize something into workable chunks for someone else, someone who is overwhelmed and anxious. I just have a terrible time trying to do the same for me. And that pandemic, the one that’s part of this, doesn’t help me prioritize my needs, particularly when I’ve spent a lifetime being told to minimize them. This is edging into territory that I don’t want to get into right now, though that’s part of it.

I suppose I could end on an optimistic note, something you can take away with you. A life-lesson learned. A bit of advice. A quick little pep talk that says “it’s okay to fight for you, ya know.” Then we can part ways and you don’t have to worry about me because in the end I realized my problem wasn’t that big at all, really, it’s loaded with privilege, right? I mean, there are larger problems in the world I probably haven’t read the scholarship on and “fuck off with your bullshit, Karen.”

OK. You’re right. It’s fine. I’m fine.

I almost ended this there, after “I’m fine,” like some postmodern bullshit essay that wants to leave you questioning the purpose of the whole piece or some amateurish attempt to make you self-reflective about judgement and priorities and now I’m mad I’ve used bullshit (italicize that crap) twice so close together but I’m not changing it.

The fuck am I doing? I am thinking about (worrying about) the audience for this piece, knowing that I’ll put it up on Facebook (with another caveat) to be read, but generally it not being read, or if read, not reacted to, and I’m not lamenting though I am using the language of lament. I am not fishing, I am just frustrated.

I don’t know how to ask for help.

I can feel my fingernails hit the keys on my keyboard so I’m writing this in a sustained sense of the heebie jeebies. But this isn’t about that.

Though…

a post about a post

During my writing group meeting this morning, I wrote roughly 1200 words in tears. I didn’t know what to work on so I just started free-writing about my feelings, thinking that somewhere in those 30 minutes I would find a thread to one of my projects. Apparently, that project is me.

But now I don’t know what to do with it.

I had planned to write a post today about my need for invisibility, the ability to just exist without much comment. I had pretty mediocre examples of what I meant (one involving my desire to wear mascara without someone saying “you’re wearing make-up”) and dove-tail that into some larger discussion, but I’m pretty sure I’ve built a much smaller cabinet than expected.

I’m trying really hard to not mix metaphors anymore.

So now I have 1200 words of what I think is deeply personal but important writing about myself and I don’t know what to do with it.

I don’t even know what to think of it now, 20 minutes later. I’ve edited it, fixed some spelling. Is it still authentic? Raw? Real?

If I post it here, what am I expecting? Am I fishing? If I link it on Facebook or Twitter, am I asking for comment? Am I looking for sympathy? How can I remain invisible and still get clicks? What is my goal?

When do the words stop being feelings and start being text?

Let me know in the comments.

A Wall of Sound

I wonder if I should preface any post that isn’t about the current chaotic state of the world with a statement that: “I am aware of the current chaotic state of the world but for this one moment have chosen to write about something trivial with the full awareness of its triviality and me, writing this, and you, reading this, does not mean we are not thoughtful, caring, and concerned people trying to do the work needed to help and heal and herald in a new equitable society.”

I have been having some very first-world problems associated with the way sound is delivered to my head. I have the privilege to have a choice of ear-based devices:

  • Set of large Bluetooth, noise-cancelling headphones – great for focusing but not great when you feel the need to listen for stray noises and shouts in your home
  • Set of Apple Ear Buds – well used, from a phone before this one, so it has the proper plug bit, old faithful with a cord that gets in the way
  • Set of Regular over-the-ear headphones – been with me a while and are a little awkward, currently residing downstairs as a way of calming a fight, though they are currently unused
  • One Brand New Set of Air Pods – excited to get these, though it took six weeks and I thought all of my audio needs would be fulfilled, I’d be cooking while listening to podcasts, chilling to some lofi beats while doing laundry, able to Zoom and move my hands while I talk without violently ripping out my ear buds as my arm gets caught on the chord – you know, normal stuff

Since remote learning began and the outside world boxed itself into a gallery view of my colleagues, friends, and family, I have found regulating my audio a never-ending sense of frustration. I think part of this is because of my overdeveloped sense of responsibility to not completely block all sound from the rest of the house. If I lived alone, I’d probably just wear the heavy noise-cancelling headphones all day and never have saved up for the Air Pods.

Obviously this makes me totally vulnerable to all the baddies that stalk me in the silence.

The variations in hardware, their settings, their usage of microphone and volume controls, have so thoroughly confused my Windows 10 machine that it’s quite possible the keyboard that stopped working on my laptop may resurrect itself just out of sheer frustration. (Wouldn’t that be nice, Lenovo Yoga – don’t buy one).

The interesting thing, for me – maybe not for you, is how important sound has become in this new isolated world. The funneling of it, the volume of it, the staticy feel of it, the blocking of it; the wall of sound is part barrier and part passage way for my professional and creative life and my hardward is making things difficult.

I have a two monitor set-up (the laptop and then a 8-year-old monitor that was my father’s). The difference in resolution plays a bit of havoc with my eyesight. The large monitor is glare-free and slightly dimmer, making it easier to read for long stretches. The laptop screen (also of the touch variety) is crisp and bright and usually plays second fiddle. If I prioritize that one, my head starts to hurt. The other way around, no problem. I got the visual part sussed. Why is the audio so hard?

The trouble is with me in thinking that the Air Pods (or any piece of hardware) was going to solve a problem that doesn’t necessarily exist. A hard lesson I need to learn is to allow myself space to retract from the rest of the house and to set boundaries. There is not a constant assault on my time or attention, but my own sense of the possibility limits me and the amount of concentration I can put into any one task. Pre-pandemic I could escape to a library, coffee shop, my office, any place. My options are limited (as are everyone else’s and please, see my privilege disclaimer in the first paragraph because I know kids make things tougher). My hyper-focus (a symptom, not a feature) is stuttering and I’m adapting to a new way of thinking and processing. Getting the sound around me to work on a consistent basis is just one more way I can delude myself for a while and get at least one thing accomplished.