Last Friday morning I flew out to Ontario, California, met up with my friend Maggie and drove up the mountain to MaxFunCon at Lake Arrowhead. It’s a two day conference featuring a variety of talented comics and podcasters situated in the middle of a beautiful nowhere:
Not sure I’ve ever been more intimidated by a group of people, and that really is saying a lot more about their credentials and less about the blurry, vulnerable state I’ve been in lately. Maggie has this phrase she uses, and I’m going to steal it to describe how the last several months of my life have snowballed and flattened me in their path: “Her eyeballs aren’t playing as a team.”
I had the pleasure of sitting next to John Hodgman at dinner on Saturday night. He is one of the organizers of this event, and you might know him from the time he spent on television playing the PC foil to Justin Long’s Mac:
(I want to mention that the night before I had a rather heated argument with David Rees about Led Zeppelin/Radiohead/Oasis/and how mainstream media is going to react when Bob Dylan dies, all while John Hodgman sat between us, shook his head and stroked a ukelele. I’m sorry, David, but the mainstream media is not going to freak out more about Bob Dylan’s death than it did when Michael Jackson failed to wake up from an overdose of propofol. I agree that Dylan’s influence and legacy in music history are far more layered than that of the King of Pop, and the tributes and retrospectives will be epic, filled to overflowing with iconic black and white images and proclamations of his godhood. But we’re talking about Michael Jackson. The guy who lived with a chimpanzee, dangled his baby out of a two-story window and sold over 750 million records worldwide. Whose death is going to sell more commercials about laundry detergent? I bring this up because Hodgman exhibited a kind of patience not unlike that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I owe him a huge thank you again.)
At dinner the conversation turned to blogs and tumblr and comments on blogs, how many of the readers of these sites have taken their comments to twitter or facebook. And Hodgman whose twitter account has almost 720,000 followers casually mentioned that he’s noticed a strange, somewhat uncomfortable shift in how people interact with each other through this medium in particular. And then he articulated exactly what I’ve experienced and tried unsuccessfully to explain to people about twitter: it’s a very weird reality to live in when you can read what thousands of strangers are currently thinking about you, both good and bad. Weird mostly in the fact that people who are saying the bad things either don’t realize that, you know, HEY! I’m standing right here and I CAN HEAR YOU. Or they just don’t have the generosity to realize that they are talking about/to a human being, one whose creative success was probably made possible because she has mined her own insecurities, shortcomings, thin skin and pain. That’s just the reality that I now live in. I accept it, but that doesn’t make it any less strange and at times unpleasant.
I felt a rush of relief knowing that he, too, found this phenomenon incredibly weird, that rush of feeling less alone. I also found it timely because I spent much of the weekend in the fetal position on the bed in the hotel room. Not because of any interaction on twitter, but because I’m just a total mess. That’s the truth of where I am, uncertain and anxious and terrified about my future. A brand consultant or PR firm would probably tell me that I shouldn’t share this with you, but there is it. I’m in emotional shambles, overwhelmed with worry, chained to the bottom of the deep end of a pool. That all sounds very dramatic like I’m fourteen years old, misunderstood, and underlining unnecessary adverbs in my diary. But I don’t know how else to communicate how hard it is to breathe when my family and everyday routine and entire life are all going through this type of upheaval.
I want to write this down so that when time and distance and wisdom have pulled me up and out of that water I can show it to myself and to someone else who is just as anxious and submerged in grief and tell them that I know how awful it is to feel like that. Tell them that, hey, it’s going to be okay. Your family? They’re fine. Your everyday routine? It worked itself out. Your entire life? Don’t be so dramatic. You got to meet the PC, after all.