Small People Got No Reason to Live

by anna on August 2, 2008

Let me tell you something about Los Angeles: things are possible in Los Angeles. Just ask that beauty queen fresh off the Greyhound. Los Angeles has a way of making you think big, even when you like to make fun of people who think big. I guess because when things are so clearly constructed, and artifice is not only employed but expected, it is easy to feel like you can carve out a place for yourself. A mock-palatial, multi-storied, fabulously furnished place for yourself. With fuck-you hedges and a security gate.

Los Angeles is like a beautiful, glossy magazine filled with luxury goods that you fall in love with even whilst suspecting–nay, even though you know all of it is heavily photoshopped.

There is something about being in LA, even if it is not my favorite city (it isn’t), or even my second or third or fourth favorite city (it’s not one of those either) that makes you feel like you are at the center of things. And that is a powerful feeling. So sometimes I forget, when I talk to people, that not everybody is under the delusion that everything is possible, just as long as you find the right angle.

Which is a flowery, roundabout, overdetermined and indirect way of saying that I am having a hard time navigating this whole public/private sphere divide.

One of the things that appeals to me (creatively) about a blog is the potential for innovations in genre that it presents. A blog blurs the traditional lines of fictional character and real-life person, and does away with some of the limitations presented by more traditional forms of writing and other creative expression. These formats are challenged by hypertext: here, you can literally weave other texts into your work, making it multi-dimensional in a manner that is accessible to everyone, not just people who are well-read or make it their business to know literary allusions and critical theory. Plus, you can play around with photography, add music and art to your entries, comment on popular culture, and interact with your audience. Etc. Etc. The production goes on forever and is potentially without limit. I truly believe electronic media will be studied someday just as we study the novel today.

But what is annoying is the fact that every time I sit down to write here, I keep tossing aside material–GOOD, choice material, because I worry about what people will do/think/say if they read it and figure out I am using them as inspiration. I have an understanding with Mr. Right-Click that I will run stuff past him before I publish it, and we have mutually decided to protect his and Mini’s anonymity to the extent that it is possible on this website. This is fine by me.

But what about everyone else?

Oh, the stories I could tell. But are they mine to tell?

The person I present in these entries is me, really and truly, but it is me in my own idealized form–undoubtedly I exaggerate and aggrandize, and what your perception of me is from my writing does not necessarily match what you would think were we to meet in real life. Kinda like the people from reality shows who say they are “edited” to be bitches View definition in a new window or whatever.

Except I’m my own editor. Wait.

But I do wonder how much of my real life material I can/should use on this blog. Is it fair for me to discuss things that happen with my friends and family in a public space, even if nobody who is reading this actually knows my friends and family (with a few exceptions), or who they are, or where they are?

For example, I do not think my dad reads this blog. Or perhaps he does, but sporadically. [Hi Dad!]. I hesitate to call my father a luddite, since he does own a computer, but by way of introduction I should tell you that I don’t know that I have ever received an email from him that wasn’t in all caps, even though I HAVE TRIED TO EXPLAIN TO HIM THAT IN AN EMAIL, THIS IS CONSTRUED AS SHOUTING. Then again, he writes the same way on paper, and with heavy strokes, so perhaps this is intentional after all.

But like I said, though he has a computer I don’t see him randomly surfing the net, except maybe to look at stamps or something like that. So, is it fair for me to discuss him here? Will what he doesn’t know hurt him? Is my “take” on him really him, or is it a character? Would he recognize himself if he were to read it?

Dooce View definition in a new window wrote a hysterical entry the other day that I could have seen myself writing, if I were not such a chickenshit. I suppose she has had a bit more experience in navigating this divide, but I thought–this is so funny and honest, and that is what makes it worthwhile to read. But what does her dad think? Does he care? Does he read it? Does it matter? And if he does read it, do they have an understanding about how to handle these kinds of things? Maybe that is also part of the appeal–feeling like what she is saying is risky or likely to stir shit, even if I never hear about it.

These questions come up because the other day I was fielding questions from some people–let’s just call them two acquaintances of mine–from someplace else. I know these two friends know about my blog because Mr. Right-Click emailed them about it a few weeks ago. But I had not heard any kind of commentary from either one of them about it, and so I assumed they were not interested. Or hadn’t got the email. Or whatev.

But then, they’re over at the house the other day and they’re saying, “Tell us about your blog,” and so I do and I find myself doing my very best to not sound excited about it. I am being very blase about it, in fact. This is good, too, because in the face of my explanations I am getting mostly blank, confused stares and, as my tweets reflect, questions like, “Why would anyone want to read that?”

So I keep on playing it down, changing the subject, dismissing it. This is not the first time I have done this with people in real life when discussing the blog, or anything I am doing, or trying to do, either. It is a learned response. Learned I don’t know where. I keep my dreams quiet, my expectations low, and my public confidence level even lower, because the less you share of yourself with everyone around you, the less they can tear you down later.

Is this a healthy way to go through life? No. But you are talking to somebody who used to snort crystal methamphetamine in order to spend all night reading Absalom, Absalom! So “healthy” is relative here.

I don’t want to sound excited or enthusiastic about anything because I have a picture of certain people in my mind, towering above me in a tight circle, pointing and laughing at my failure at . . . something, whatever it is that I really wanted to do and couldn’t. Like these people could shapeshift into Nelson from the Simpsons in the wake of my disastrous foray into [insert name of endeavor here].

So, yeah, I guess you could say that I live my life in fear of being the target of a Heh-Hah.

When I think about things I can do with my life, it is always handicapped by that small feeling. Keep it small. Like anything I dream will be unrealistic and–let’s face it–most people’s dreams do go unfulfilled. Things are not possible, so why try? When I first joined AA, they were all about “be a worker among workers,” and this philosophy suited me for a while, in fact. I thought, “Yeah, I just do the very humdrum work that is put in front of me, and do my best to be of service to others.” And I was happy for a while, because it was novel, and there was a security in that.

But fuck that.

I am not a worker among workers. Unless the rest of the workers have BAs from Stanford, two masters degrees and a PhD. So what the fuck am I doing with myself here? I have spent the last few years kind of lost in terms of my career ambitions. I used to be happy with the prospect of staying on the academic track, revising and resubmitting, eventually putting myself on the job market, crossing my fingers, and praying for a job somewhere, anywhere–hopefully not too far away from some kind of metropolis. The work itself I found to be interesting and fulfilling, and in some ways it seemed attainable. Like it was a grandiose goal just because why in the hell would you stay in school that long.

Then I moved to Los Angeles.

So now, I find myself trying to explain to people who do not care or understand what it is that I want to do. And it is big. Without revealing to them that any of this might be important to me. And they are looking at me blankly, not understanding? doubting? or just pensive? However they react I will assume the worst. And I start thinking one day I will show them, like I am in fourth grade again, and somebody stole my argyle printed pencil from Salzer’s. Because I cannot think big around them. And thinking small to suit them brings out the latency-period child in me.

{ 8 comments }

Seaspace August 3, 2008 at 6:45 am

I love the Simpsons.

SportsFan's Daughter August 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Before I post anything on my personal blog I ask myself 3 questions:

1.) What is my true intention in making this information/story/idea public?
2.) My intentions aside, what do I honestly think the reader will interpret or take away from it?
3.) Am I using this blog as a substitute for real relationships?

I think that if a story or an idea about someone or something in your life (including yourself) is funny enough, thought provoking enough, whatever enough to be shared, and your intentions in sharing it aren’t malicious, then share it. I’m just saying.

Lorrie August 3, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I TOTALLY GET YOU Sister. I also believe tangerines are oranges that just didn’t want it bad enough.

I believe there is room for more than one dooce. I also believe there is room for more than deux dooce. Having also handed over some of my HARD EARNED CASH to Ad Brite in order to ride those snarky coattails, I think you should TOOT YOUR HORN AND BANG YOUR GONG. This is a kick ass blog you have built here.

That said; my own experience with my crappy little blog and the fall out that occurred after I confidently began my own post with “I KNOW my dad doesn’t read this…” would lead me to advise you to save those choice stories for a book; not the blog. I think you can refer to an Aunt with Flatulence in a book and everyone is like “THAT’S ME! SHE WROTE ABOUT ME IN HER BOOK!!!” Whereas you just ALLUDE to someone with chronic gas in a blog and nobody talks to you for a week-especially your boss–who pops beano like breathmints. I’m just sayin.

I know it’s tough. Somedays it’s all I can do to stop from screaming into the face of total strangers: PLEASE DO SOMETHING REMOTELY INTERESTING AS MAMA HAS A BLOG TO WRITE. And Google Analytics say Mama’s Readers need NEW SNARK. My Gawd, the pressure.

Everyday I Thank the Heavens that I had children before i discovered blogging so that i have someone to exploit that gives a minimum of crap back.

J. August 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Well HEL-LO Dr. Anna! I can totally empathize. I have always been a big dreamer, probably due to the horribly fucked-up way I was raised. And there are some great quotes about being fabulous and not hiding your light, not that I can remember who said them. I don’t have a “servant’s heart,” and yet, that’s the position I’ve put myself in. The job I have, like an ill-fitting pair of shoes, chafes and constantly rubs me the wrong way, I can’t be myself. I’ve made myself small, and grey, and dull.
So the question for both of us is, how do you get to where you want to be?

anna August 3, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. I like the tangerines comment. I do think that talent has something to do with success, of course, but I don’t think it is the most essential thing. I think just showing up is. Every day. Building a readership one person at a time. There are so many people in the world, I only need about 50,000 of them to think I’m interesting enough to show up every few days or so, and we would have a real business on our hands here.

I have always struggled with questions like, “What have you been up to?” I always feel like I’m not doing enough.

Now I am doing a lot. A LOT. Much more than I’ve ever done. I’m a mom and I work on this blog every spare second I get–design, photography, writing, programming, promotion, etc. It fulfills me. I would do it for free–more or less I am doing it for free. I have never had that before–but I guess it’s not real until it’s something that translates to the value system of other people, or something.

Now I have hijacked my own comment section with my blowhardry! Top that, Susan Sarandon.

anna August 3, 2008 at 6:05 pm

PS My dad is in Belize for a few weeks, so I can use him as fodder right now–I don’t think he has internet access there. Better get cracking. [Just kidding, Dad.]

Souther' Mother August 7, 2008 at 3:15 pm

I have come to admire that emotional bravery some people have and the truth that it reveals; I aspire to it myself. And I am tired of dumbing myself down in real life and being embarassed when people don’t understand me. They’re the ones who should be embarassed. So I blog.

I feel exactly like you do about not wanting to admit to having big dreams so you don’t have to admit to failure later on. I, too, was an extremely ambitious and depressed girl. Circumstances forced me to change my course earlier than you, but the old perfectionism dreads failure of any kind. So I don’t really try.

I still think that, in order for my life to be a success, I need to swim in the deep end, as pleasant as the shallow end is. I may not be able to dive in right now, but I can still get there eventually by starting to wade. Seems like you are ready to hold your breath and take that leap of faith.

I have been looking at a quote by the great Theodore Roosevelt a lot lately:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

I am adding you to my bookmarks. Best of luck to you.

anna August 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm

That’s a great quote! Very inspirational. Glad to have you as a reader.

Comments on this entry are closed.