Feeling good in my own (if not so young) skin

Friday night I had dinner with someone I haven’t regularly spent time with in twenty years. We are now the age our parents were when we knew each other.

Realizing this was a bit unsettling.

I was surprised at how easily we fell into talking to each other, telling the stories of how we got from there to where we are now. It was a compressed version of events, told over dinner, with lots of laughing and recognition.

Something about reconnecting with someone I have a shared history with — not just the personal history with each other, though that was obviously part of it — but coming from the same time and place felt very good. A strange sort of confirmation, that yeah we really did come from there, and we really are here now. (Being queer kids in Maine in the 1980s was mostly a whole lot of not fun.)

Here is a good place, much better I think for either of of us than where we were then. It seems we are both comfortable with who we are now, and have grown into the lives we are supposed to be living.

The Power of Unplugging

First, I went away for a week and didn’t bring my computer. Then I decided to turn off my phone — no constantly checking voicemail, no sending text messages. No responsibility to check in, no pull to respond to other people (except my sweetie, and she was there in person with me), no hurrying.

Being out of touch felt awesome.

I was surprised I didn’t grab for the computer the second I got back from Rockport, but I didn’t. I was enjoying my sense of peace and quiet a little too much to jump back into the online fray. I checked very few things online before heading out without the computer again for a few days, this time to NYC.

I didn’t have withdrawal fits, I didn’t get all twitchy needing to look up things, I didn’t feel left out that I wasn’t twittering events. Yes, there were folks that I missed — but I knew you all would be here when I got back. And isn’t part of the fun in going away catching up with folks when you return?

As much as I love the web, I think completely unplugging is a great sanity check. Working with a computer every day, with a fabulous bunch of geeks, is something I’m lucky to do — yet I didn’t think about software even one time when I was on vacation. Which is probably how most people go about their day, every day: not thinking about software, not using the web the vast majority of their waking hours. So what did I do?

I took photographs. (Some are even on film, so I have to be patient and get them developed before I know how the new and new to me cameras are working.) I went to bed when I was tired, and got up without an alarm clock — still pretty early — just about every day. I went beachcombing and gallery crawling, finding unexpected treasures. I listened to waves, floated in the ocean, and let my head empty of the everyday noise noise noise.

Now I’m back, and rested (and pretty damn tan), and convinced I can carry some of this quiet back with me to the web and to work. I’ve got a lot to do — and I’m saying this even before I see how many messages are sitting in my work inbox — but I think I’ll feel better about getting it done if I don’t give in to the noise and the hurry. I want believe those things are optional for the other fifty weeks in the year and I can still accomplish good work. Call it the jedi vacation mind trick, but I’m going to try.

How naked are you willing to be?

I started thinking about this in the context of facebook and flickr and twitter and blogs and all the various places online you can share what you are thinking, reading, doing, and seeing so I almost called this post how naked are you willing to get online?

365 days project: day 296 and yes this is all you can see

See, new platforms for socialization have many asking new questions: Do you friend your boss on facebook? Do you post the same photos on flickr if you know your in-laws will see them? Do you twitter what you’re really doing at three in the afternoon? Usually the way these questions get asked make it clear that conflict is expected. That you don’t really like your boss, and certainly don’t want him or her to see pictures of what you did last weekend. That what you did last weekend was somehow wrong or inappropriate or damaging to your career. That your in-laws so don’t see the world the way you do, you’d never want to show them how you see through the lens of your camera.

Now, I realize in many ways I’m lucky. My day job counts on me playing with social software. I’m friends with my boss, and not only on facebook. I love my in-laws, and will vacation with them not under duress, but because I genuinely think it will be fun. I will twitter about work or with flickr friends during the day and not think twice about it. If I’m really pissed about something, I have enough sense not to name names. Unless it’s the T, in which case those bastards have it coming. In other words, there isn’t a giant disconnect in my life between who I am at home, at work, and with other people.

I have no tolerance for intricate social maneuvering of the sort where I have to worry about how saying X to Y will effect Z if they find out. I do not miss junior high, not one bit. Other than the obvious naked means:

unarmed, defenseless
lacking confirmation or support
devoid of concealment or disguise
defenseless; unprotected; exposed
plain; simple; unadorned
exposed to view or plainly revealed
plain-spoken; blunt

True, not all of this sounds very, er, appealing. Defenseless definitely sounds bad, but defensive doesn’t sound good. Plain, simple, and unadorned sound good. Exposed to view is okay. Blunt… well, now we’re talking. Plain-spoken. I take that to mean talking like a person because you are one. So if you are willing to do that, I guess that makes you naked.

That not happening at work may be my number one aggravation.

I don’t mean my team. (Yes, really, and not just because sometimes some of them read this blog.) I mean stupid powerpoint decks. With their obtuse, obfuscating jargon and endless acronyms crammed onto slides in tiny point type. I mean the whole operationalizing, moving the needle, getting shared vision, boiling the ocean bullshit.

I mean the worrying about who you are facebook friends with stuff, too. The who can see your photos, and what they’ll really be seeing if they look. The loving or hating or freaking out about twitter’s simple what are you doing?

Why does everyone put up with this crap? It’s insane. It’s annoying. And it’s not really who we are. Cause if that’s true, hell, we all need more help than I thought. Yet we often choose to stay quiet, we fail to call bullshit, because we’re afraid. But naked is who we are. We just forget that sometimes.