I never wanted a flying car that much, anyway…

UPDATE:

If you happen to look below, you’ll see that this post sparked a lot of commentary, not all of which had to do with the post itself. Some of it did – and I want to say I’m so grateful for the words of encouragement and understanding, and for everybody who shared a story of figuring out their place and climbing a mountain. Also, thanks to friends who go to bat for me, and thanks to those who are brave enough to share their feelings honestly. Although it can stand some tinkering, honesty is a pretty great policy, even when it can be a bit of a bludgeon and cause some bruising.

I believe what I said here, and I believe in the people I mentioned. One of those people is Sarah Dopp, who helped me step into my futuristic world, and who I promised myself in March I would give thanks for on Thanksgiving (and I did), and who is amazing every day.

She said what I wanted to say, and you can watch her say it. She made me cry.

***

The other evening I was with a friend and I looked at him and said “We live in a  wonderful world.” And he laughed at me and said I was a cornball.

Which is true, I am. But that doesn’t make what I said untrue, either. We live in a wonderful world. For all intents and purposes (and as a girl who grew up on Science Fiction from every era of Science fiction writing, I’d know) we live in the Future.

I, specifically, live in the Future. When I say I have a meeting, what I mean is that I will have a video call. Like that have on Star Trek, when they’re talking to Star Fleet Command! My clients live all over the country, I can do work from all over the world, I schedule my work around time differences, I store my important information in the cloud. There’s a cloud of information, and massive amounts of the knowledge of humanity, not all of it but so much of it, is available instantly. I wanted to find a poem about blow jobs, for instance. Now, I failed – forgot the name of the poet, you know. You still need to know what you’re looking for. But with a little information, now, I type it into Google and I don’t even need to hit enter to get the result. (Google’s algorithms are easily fooled by poetry. They can try to block porn all they like, but castles and honey slip right by.)

I can learn about meteorology. I can help build communities. I can listen to Rachmaninoff. I can find out how to spell Rachmaninoff. I can find the right people to help me take over the world. I follow the Dalai Lama on twitter, you know, and somebody who does nothing but tweet quotes from the Dervish poet Rumi. I get my reminders to walk the earth and face the sunlight when I am sitting still facing my computer.

I know people who do this, and I know of people who do this. Amanda Palmer, my current rubric for how to be Very Alive In The World, does this. She has an army on twitter. She can raise hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, on kickstarter in a matter of hours. She can make magic happen, she can take beautiful things and broadcast them to the world, she can up the signal, she and her magical band of web-savvy friends, they can do anything. And they know it, and they do, and they make the world more beautiful, and they give away music for free and broadcast shows live over ustream, and I sit there watching the Dresden Dolls from my living room drinking wine and thinking ok, this is the world I want to live in.

If you go to her blog you will see that her army of admirers, the brilliant crazy people who feed on her and who she feeds on in utter symbiosis, are there. In the comments. Sharing the stories of what she’s done for them, which she takes and uses to do more for them. Her feelings, their feelings, raw and amazing, a whole community of art-punk-cabaret-we-never-fit-in-anyhow-now-we’ve-got-eachother folk, there. A community I never thought to see.

And there are others. Think about Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. A bunch of people who worked in the television business and didn’t want to break the Writers’ Strike but also didn’t want to stop doing what they loved or making people happy got together and took to the Net. Just like that, and their fans rallied around them. They’re just a group of friends, Mr. Nathan Fillion and Mr. Joss Whedon and Mr. Neil Patrick Harris and and and, and they make us smile.

A few years ago I would have seen all that and been sort of inspired and also sort of sad, because they could do those things and I couldn’t. But then I realized that was all the lies we tell ourselves. I had help. Maymay taught me first that computers and the Internet are made to be used, even if they’re not made well, and that I was smart and I could figure it out. Sarah Dopp taught me how to reach out and connect to people, and I watched her make her dreams happen, and make other people’s dreams happen, at Genderfork. And when she noticed the way that she brought people together, and realized that she loved it, she took to helping other people do that very same thing. When she knows where she wants to go, she jumps, and she falls, and she believes in the net (the Net) that will catch her.

I don’t believe in the net, though I haven’t told her so. I believe that when she falls, she flies.

What more is there to want? If you learn the tools and have the resources (and I must mention here that in so many towns across America and so many places across the world, people don’t have the resources. There isn’t broadband access everywhere. We can’t all look things up on Wikipedia. I speak from my privilege here) then you can do anything that you think needs doing. You can help other people get the resources. You can improve the resources that people have.

If you want to. If you’re interested. If you’re driven. And if you’re happy.

And if you’re not happy to do what you’re doing, if you’re not full of that belief that you are living in this wonderful future world and you can take it by storm, well, this isn’t anything new, but you can’t. You can’t do what you don’t think you can do, and I suggest that you walk away from all the poison that is there in this Future (non-Utopian), the addiction of TV-on-the-Internet, the things that can break you apart, you turn away and you actually look at the sunlight.

Find your belief. Find your joy, right? And when you’re all jazzed up on happiness, come back and do what needs to be done, because by that time you’ll know what it is, and because we live – corny though it may be – in a wonderful world, you can do it.

(NB: I do realize that we do not have flying cars and are not transported Jetsons style up through our high-rise sky-towers via pneumatic tubes. Whatever, that wasn’t really the cool part of the Future anyhow.)

19 comments

  1. I don’t believe in the net, though I haven’t told her so. I believe that when she falls, she flies.

    “Sometimes you must leap and grow wings on the way down.” -Unknown

    I think that’s what Sarah’s doing.

    For the record, I don’t believe in the Net either. And also for the record, if you want to know why I am angry so often, it is precisely because you are living in the future and I am not, despite your very accurate accreditation of it being my help to get you there.

    That feels like big fat “fuck you” from that so-called wonderful universe you live in and it pisses me off every damn day.

    And with that said, I am late for my day job, which is in a building, that I don’t get paid for unless I am there.

    • What a sad comment to leave. Though I appreciate the “growing wings on the way down” part. That definitely feels true.

      You live in the future, too, May. So much more so than most people. You make things out of nothing, out of internet bits, out of ideas, and out of other things. You do it from the middle of the night, on a glowing screen. Emma is still learning. And so am I. And so are you.

      There is no fuck-you here. Just a series of games we’re all playing. Your job is a mix of circumstance, ability, and choice. You get to change all of those whenever you want, as soon as you decide to put energy into that game. Right now you’re focused other games.

      Being mean shuts down options in the games. This comment was mean. Stop it.

      I love you,
      Sarah

      • Your job is a mix of circumstance, ability, and choice. You get to change all of those whenever you want, as soon as you decide to put energy into that game. Right now you’re focused other games.

        With respect, no. Big fat fucking no. Because what, exactly, is the mix of those things? You are telling me, in this reply, “you are not trying hard enough.” And I am done hearing that bullshit. And that is downright insulting. So, no.

        Being mean shuts down options in the games. This comment was mean. Stop it.

        That was an interpretation based on your own mix of circumstance and perception. You don’t get to tell me to stop expressing how I feel. Not here. Only Emma gets to say what gets to be put here or not. And if she feels right and justified in doing so, she will delete that comment, and that will be that.

        But no. Not from you, Sarah. I’m done being chided for my inability to “smile from the wrists down” from folks who tell me if I just did it their way things would be better for me. Fuck. That. Bullshit.

        • You are telling me, in this reply, “you are not trying hard enough.”

          No, I’m not. I’m referencing what you told me the other night: that you’re comfortable enough with your job that you don’t need to look for a new one. If your job went away, I have absolutely no doubt that you would find a new one. You have told me more than once that you are “eminently hireable.”

          Maybe no job is good enough, though. The systems that are broken. I agree.

          • If your job went away, I have absolutely no doubt that you would find a new one.

            Oh, I’m sure I would find another job, but not one that fits Emma’s description: “When I say I have a meeting, what I mean is that I will have a video call. […] My clients live all over the country, I can do work from all over the world, I schedule my work around time differences, I store my important information in the cloud.”

            I have worked for technology companies at times—for some world-changing ones since I was 19—and for myself at other times, and yet it is Emma, working for you, having gotten the opportunity to do so through me, whose work more closely resembles Star Trek than mine ever did. Whose work time-warped from the relatively prehistoric (and, IMHO, utterly ridiculous) Americorp position to the one she describes in this post in a fucking fraction of the timespan I’ve put into actively trying to create the working reality she enjoys.

            When I was a teenager, I resolved to “learn computers” so that I would have a livelihood in the style Emma describes, and I have been working towards that goal since I was a teenager. Emma has not. And while there is a kernel within me that feels happy for her for the empowering nature of what she will tell you I urged her towards (see also: away from ridiculous Americorp position), I flat-out reject the absurd insinuation that I have little reason to express anger and bitterness about the differences in the, as you would so carefully put it, “mix of circumstance, ability, and choice” that has led to this.

            The systems that are broken. I agree.

            If you actually understand that, then please don’t chide me with specious assertions like “your job is a mix of circumstance, ability, and choice. You get to change all of those whenever you want, as soon as you decide to put energy into that game,” as though I’m not putting energy there, as though I haven’t been for a fucking decade, as though if I’d just fucking grin and bear it for another goddamn decade, if I’d just be all “nice” about things and not project some kind of less-than-optimistic “tone,” things would be magically better.

    • Another perspective.

      The apartment building I was living in had a major fire, and we lost 8 apartments, one of which was mine. I had to start over with very little. I got cut out of a job I had for 16 years and started over as a freelancer. One landlord evicted me so they could remodel my apartment and double the rent. I ended up having to leave some of my furniture and appliances behind because I didn’t find a new place in time and couldn’t afford storage. I didn’t make much money freelancing last year because I spent most of the year being the caregiver for my dad who had terminal cancer. He died in March, 2010. We play the cards we’re dealt.

      I am about to launch a new project for indie filmmakers and film students that will be something I’ve dreamed of doing. I’ve cut my overhead to the bone by simplifying my lifestyle, because the less money I need to survive, the easier it will be for a tiny startup business to support me. I’ve spent nights learning video editing and the other skills the new project will require. I’ve built a demo reel I’m proud of, and am building a killer website to showcase it. I’m probably going to have to do some work for free or nearly so, to start building a rep and get my name out there. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m shuffling the cards.

      I store my important information in the cloud. A free Backpack account and a free Box account. I stash stuff out there that I’d be totally screwed if I lost. I spend more time trying to avoid meetings than setting them up on video calls. And while I probably could live or work anywhere I desired, I choose to stay right here in Los Angeles because it’s home.

      Emma sat on her living room sofa with a glass of wine quietly singing along to “Coin Operated Boy” on ustream and said ok, this is the world I want to live in. Last weekend I stood on a sound stage watching a guy wearing a Steadicam navigate his way through a group of extras in tribal costumes and war paint, and by the time the director, barely half my age, yelled “Cut”, I was saying to myself ok, this is the world I want to live in. Two very different worlds, but both made possible because we found out you can shuffle the cards partway through the game.

      • Hell Yeah.

        Mark, that’s a great story, and thank you for posting it. Perhaps what’s so amazing about the Future is not what it is (whether working in online communities or on sound stages), but that we find it at all. Because, in many ways, the future is completely unpredictable. And we only get there if we don’t try to predict it, if we don’t try to plan for it – but if we just embrace what comes. There will be good things with the bad, but there’s no way to just have one or the other. Either we accept both, work through the bad times, and enjoy the good ones, or we hide from good and bad alike and miss out on a lot of the world.

        I remember many moments of stepping into the Future, but one shines most clearly – my first year of grad school. I was a class of one, living in the middle of nowhere. I went right after college, and all of my good friends whom I had seen as recently as that summer were now far away. I was dating a wonderful young lady and distance (among other things) pulled that relationship apart. I am not afraid to say, I hurt inside.

        I refused to give up. I remember walking into my advisor’s seminar first day second semester, and spending thirteen weeks sitting there almost open-mouthed as he talked about absolutely impossible, unrealistic things that were not only possible, they were proven scientific research. I remember learning about Thomas Schelling’s model of segregation (1978) and finding out how even the least bit of intolerance can over time polarize society. I remember working harder and coding more than I had ever worked in my life, and loving every minute of it, loving every graph, every result, every lab meeting.

        It did not magically get easier. There were hard nights, and long nights, and one memorable night I was in some pretty serious danger of being stranded outside in a snowstorm, but I kept going. I learned to beg and be humble because my stipend depended on it. I learned to work multiple jobs and still have time for school. I learned more about myself, and slowly, slowly, I became happier. And then, one day, I was living in the Future, studying social processes in their very infancy, with tools that social scientists used to only dream of, and discovering brand new things every once in a while. That’s how I intend to keep it. The Future is not good and shiny and happy all of the time; it is Life, but life lived in a way that one could have never, ever expected, and that’s what makes it so damn special.

    • As my own personal tipping point goes whooshing by,

      Maymay, the problem with your reply is not that I do not sympathize with the frustrations of your work, life, and love situations of the moment. It sounds (and in my different work arena, has been) absolutely infuriating and stifling to go to an office you’re not enthusiastic about, follow rules, codes of conduct, and hours that do not maximize yours or anyone’s productivity or happiness, and be expected to be overwhelming grateful for the opportunity. The system is totally, totally broken.

      However.

      The way you are writing it, you are 1) treating happiness as a zero-sum game, 2) implying Emma’s happiness and success at her current job are in some way taking away from your potential happiness, and 3) stating that you deserve Emma’s job, and happiness, and she does not. I do not think this is what you are meaning to say. But your frustrations are absolutely coming across as bullying and belittling of Emma’s accomplishments.

      Love,
      Lilly

      • Maymay, the problem with your reply is not that I do not sympathize [….] However.

        The way you are writing it […].

        Y’know, it’s really too fucking bad my tone is a “problem” for you, Lily. So I’m only going to say this one more time: I flat-out reject the absurd insinuation that I have little reason to express anger and bitterness.

          • Eh, actually scratch that, I take it back. It’s not content — it’s implication and context. Which is kind of tone, but more than that.

            You get to express all of the bitterness and anger that you want, but in doing so, you also get to to take responsibility for the social consequences. It affects people. And it’s disrespectful to do it in a way that overpowers someone’s expression of happiness.

          • I withdraw my previous two comments and am done with this thread. I am not okay with how much this conversation is fucking with my head and my heart.

            May, I’ll be happy to engage with you again anytime in person. But no more in writing. Not for any angle of this conversation.

            Love,
            Sarah

  2. This is a truly beautiful post. I adore it. I adore you. And I am in awe of this strange future you seem to live in. I’m glad you like it.

  3. Emma, I’m sorry (i.e., I feel sorrowful) about the pain my comments caused you. I’m sad and angry and resentful, and you already knew that, and I am, actually, happy for you and—I’ll dare—proud of you for your accomplishments. Good job and congratulations.

    Fare well.

  4. “A few years ago I would have seen all that and been sort of inspired and also sort of sad, because they could do those things and I couldn’t. But then I realized that was all the lies we tell ourselves.” I think this is incredibly beautiful.

    Maybe particularly because I have known you for a long long time now, and I know that a solid belief in yourself and your own capabilities is something that you have clawed your way too, with years and years of work into having the kind of perspective that you do. I know that you have been down, and you have gotten back up, and you are standing outside of the pit shouting directions down at others to climb up the path with you. And yes, it is 1:30am and my hackles are up from reading these comments, so forgive me if this is emotional, but I just wanted to say that you are an inspiration to me always. Please know those were lies that you told yourself, and that the truth is in this post, the truth is in the faith and belief you put in yourself and others. You are drawing emotional boundaries, you are taking care of yourself, you are blazing a trail of functionality. I love you, and I am not that big but I am fiesty like a motherfucker, so if you need a bodyguard and/or hit man, holler.

  5. What a beautiful post. But yesterday’s future is tomorrow’s past. You don’t live in the future. You can’t…

    Let’s BE in the present… let’s DREAM for the future! Both are equally important… And there are many futures, anyway. Like there are many presents. For each of us, separately, and for all of us. Your present is real, of course, but so is the present of a Uganda child walking several hours a days with a gallon of water on her/his head, and because of that being deprived education, health, etc.

    Most days, my present resembles yours. But some other days, it’s something completely different. In both cases, we’re privileged. It’s not about better or worse. Just different. Volatile. But I embrace the fragile, volatile nature of our lives (and exchanges). And the present technology & society we live in (and nurture). It’s what allowed me to find you. It’s what allows this exchange. It’s beautiful.

    All love!

    @cdn

  6. I like this post. I like the appreciation of life for what it is that I see here, the sense of wonder at the strangeness of it all, and the feeling of agency in your life that you are attaining.

    Coming to appreciate life for what it is and really claiming as much agency over it as possible has been a long journey for me. It’s one I think you are getting a strong start on at a younger age than I could have done it. I’m very excited for you.

    I love to see people in my life making the most of their lives and enjoying the process. Congrats!

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