Here is how it begins:
I was working on updating the Caravaggio Project and I was having difficulty remembering if I had been to a particular museum when I was in Rome in ’05. Since I, thankfully, have been cross-posting content over to Livejournal since 2001, I no longer have to depend on my often wrong memory.
As I read through the archives, what piqued my interest in this research was not necessarily finding a definitive answer to my question1, but that many of the people who were commenting on my posts at the time. I either lost contact with them over the years or the relationships had shifted in focus; where we may have once been super close and were now mere Facebook friends who wished each other “Happy Birthday!,” every year not because we genuinely remembered but because Facebook told us.
Since our move (back) to Grand Rapids in late 2010, my friendship status has changed dramatically. Friends who swore we would always remain BFF forever when I left the city two years previously, I rarely saw and those friendships that were much more casual, have surprisingly deepened. Some friendships have just plain ended, either due to their reasoning or mine. But the boisterous relationships that I had hope to cultivate when I get back to the city has never really materialized. A few times when I attempted to pull together a girls’ night out, have ended nearly disastrously. Is it me? Is it my choices? Is it something else entirely?
A recent article by The New York Times suggests, quite logically, that our friendships shift faster as we get older since our needs/values/lifestyles change faster then when we’re in high school or in our early ’20s. We bond with those who complement and celebrate us and since our needs change, so do the importance of those friendships. If we’re looking for a deep friendship BFFs like we did in high school, if you’re over 30 – forget it. It’s not going to necessarily happen.
I’ve been struggling with variations of this for most, nay all, of my adult life. I have always felt, and still continue to feel, alone. The choices in my life have placed me out of sync with peers my age. My interests often place me out of sync with others in those fandoms, mainly because I don’t prescribe to the self-imposed hierarchy of rules that fulfill those fandoms. For example: I love Jane Austen. I’m a member of JASNA. I watch the movies, read her titles, read the paraliterature, and look for her in pop culture everywhere. But I don’t LOVE Austen in that kind of frightening creepy way that many fandoms tend be populated with.
But if I am anything, I am at least self-aware. Could I have cultivated, better? easier? stronger? faster? more?, the relationships that failed? Yes. Could the fact that people with the passion that many Janeites tend to have might intimidate me? Absolutely. I can’t very well sit on my high horse and decry that those who are not worshiping at my alter are not worthy of my time. It takes two to tango and if anything the last few years have taught me, I’m a terrible dancer.
A couple of weeks ago, the writer Mary Robinette Kowal wrote about the A+ pledge, an intiative started by Monte Cook. In the tl;dr and Wil Wheaton parlance, don’t be a dick online. To further expand on that idea, the goal is not to be negative online and to only say positive things. This is a heightened challenge indeed.
A couple of years ago, Bobbi Newman wrote that she wanted to be remembered for what she contributed, not what she criticized, and that post has resonated with me as well. I would be disingenuous if the lead for this essay led you to believe that these thoughts have been new, but the honest truth is, they haven’t been. I’ve been aware that much of my success/failure on cultivating relationships, professional and personal, have always laid within me. I just choose to ignore it. Bobbi’s post, which I read shortly after she wrote it, has made me more cautious on what I say online though I’m finding myself slipping more then I like to admit. I don’t want to be known as the curmudgeon, even though my talent and interests is not for trolling but calling people out on their shit, but I’m not actively giving back to the community either. I’m far more concerned about the later, then the former.
I’ve decided I’m going to the A+ challenge for August, but with a few particulars:
- Refrain from saying anything negative online, public or private.
- Keep track of any infractions, think of a “punishment” for each infraction (a quarter for each negative thing, donate to charity, that kind of thing)
- Try to say/do at least one positive thing a day
- Refrain from saying anything negative professional, on or offline.
- Try to cultitave at least one personal and one professional relationship
This is going to be really hard, and I accept that. What will be even harder is finding only positive things to say. But if I can be the friend I expect my friends to be, then was this not worth it?
1. Research points to “No.”, but as I did not keep written notes beyond the digital realm, it may be more of a “Maybe” since I kept alluding to “doing full write up of the trip,” and never did.