Blogging without responsibility

Last night I re-watched The Social Network. I fell asleep the first time I watched it, because I’m a bad person and don’t do movies well. But since then I developed a love for Aaron Sorkin’s work, I needed to rest some old injuries, and the do-over was long overdue.

I started blogging in 2002. It was a pretty active hobby, I wrote a lot, I messed with my layout and theme a lot, I was active in communities a lot. It’s a major reason why I do the work I do now, albeit a fortuitous one. But in 2008 something happened, I backed up everything and deleted it off the face of the internet as much as I could. From 2011 to 2018, I kept a local instance of WordPress, blogged privately here and there, but it was never the same. By then blogging had transformed into a way to make a living, get published elsewhere, get promoted, get famous. Also by then, it had become fashionable in some circles to call up swat teams to the homes of people folks didn’t like.

So when I made my blog public again, I did so only after I was 99% sure I was detached from all of those fears. And this blog, Digging. It made a big difference to seek out blogs that were unrelated to what has become my work life, to rediscover blogging as a standalone hobby, and stop feeling guilty about not wanting to use it as a proxy for something else in my career.

When I first started blogging, it was a hobby for most of us. It was natural to mix in our personal lives in the middle of working out a CSS kink, or to design your website in the open to share with friends. That is not the case anymore–and most people in design or tech who claim they’re doing something purely as a side project with no ulterior motives are probably lying to you or themselves. People either keep their lives guarded for good reason, or are curating what you see, hard. This culture really soured my own existing hobbies and motivation for seeking new ones. Not only that, it made me feel like I had lost a sense of community and potential friendships.

That’s why you haven’t seen posts like the ones that I closed out 2019 with, or these kinds. It’s not the pandemic, I have not run out of ideas, it’s not because my 100-day project is over.

I just don’t care. I like that the topic of my posts vary, I don’t schedule posts, I intentionally do a half-assed job at cross-posting, and I don’t check my stats page unless something gets triggered. There are lots of serious, silly, and memoir post ideas I draft out, but I am detached from them. Primarily for reasons I described above, but if I do decide to write, it produces a much better post.

The last thing I held off on though, were the comments. I wouldn’t turn the comments back on. All fear.

F* that. I’m Mexican. I’m from Santa Ana, for goodness’ sake. My so-called “Jesus year” ends next month and so far, it’s included:

  • absolutely no plane rides
  • giving birth to a baby
  • burying my cat (three days later, too)
  • driving cross-country with said baby, her 2-year old sister, and the spouse
  • going back to work
  • all of us almost dying in a car accident
  • a new cat
  • the beginning of a wonderful mentorship
  • a totally voluntary, very well-discerned, aka heartbreaking job search
  • the week I take off between jobs there is a pandemic
  • starting a new (also distributed) job during a pandemic
  • people very dear to me almost dying in the pandemic
  • the beginning of a wonderful mentorship during a pandemic
  • catastrophic job loss across my extended family of 99.9% low-wage essential workers who cannot work from home because of the pandemic
  • my marriage turning 10 years old during a pandemic
  • three bottles of tequila, one shitty bottle of mezcal, and many bags of Barrett’s coffee, because of the pandemic
  • thank God for plants
  • Texas being Texas in spite of the pandemic
  • [update later] despite a pandemic and [update later] during a pandemic
  • and no schools or daycare for the foreseeable future because, pandemic

I didn’t even think of not seeing colleagues in person or wondering when I’ll get to meet my new ones. And most ironically–I’m certain that posting this here, today, on my own public domain, will end up being more private and civil than posting it over there.

I can definitely turn the comments back on.


Why does this have to do with The Social Network? Our misunderstood little anti-hero allegedly posted to his blog as a little warmup to “wiring in” while the rest of the kids went out. Albeit drunk and angry, because he has no friends (because he is an asshole). But this was the nerd zeitgeist of the early aughts before everyone moved their personal lives over to Facebook. I was part of it, and I’m glad this aspect of it has largely come to pass: blogging without responsibility–trashing the lives of others masked as the sharing of one’s interests and personal life.

If that’s your thing, though–there are new places you can go.

Hobbies, side projects, making–all have consequences. There is no such thing as doing something for its own sake if you want people to find it on the internet.

Birthdays

Every year when I wish my dad a happy birthday I ask him how old he is and every year he tells me 25. When I turned 25 he turned 25 too, and when I turned 26 it began a tradition to look forward to every year.

So over the weekend I called him up wondering what reason he was going to give this year. After the usual banter and the visual tour of wherever he is because it took a pandemic to get him to learn how to video chat, I asked how old he turned this year.

“Sesenta, mija!”

He finally gave up the act after thirty years.

This year has really done a number on all of us. Or more like three—my dad’s only turned 57.

Lincoln Center at Home

A couple of days ago I was having coffee with some friends over Zoom and we were talking about music (all of us are/were/are musicians). We started talking about jazz and I mentioned how I sometimes felt like I wasn’t “into jazz enough” to be into jazz. I like jazz. I feel it, I dig it. I know what I like and what I don’t. But I’m not sure I get it, and there’s where the issue is. What does that even mean? Is that even the point? Should it be necessary?

People feel this way about classical music too. Sometimes, it’s the result of gatekeeping. You like a certain piece? Prove it by naming some obscure work and profess to loving it with a straight face. Other times, people just don’t enjoy it, but there’s a certain pressure to do so because it says something about you. Nah. You like it, that’s all that’s necessary. Share music between people.

Electronic music is a great analogue for this. People have no problem telling you they hate that shit. Likewise, you run into someone who can finish the sentence “In the beginning, there was Jack–” and you just made a new long-term friend. That’s it. There isn’t a social something associated with the genre the way there is for other music.

Orthogonally–jazz is also just difficult for me to play. If one trains classically, improvisation isn’t taught at the same foundational level, probably to our detriment. That’s where some of the insecurity might come from too. I’m at peace with that. If anything, it makes me enjoy and appreciate jazz more to know that I am free from the desire to want those abilities.

This is the same approach I take as a designer in the work I do, by the way. It’s irrational to think one can learn everything and do it well enough to do it for a living. (This is a form of gatekeeping, too). I know what I’m good at, and I have a confident sense of where I can deepen my craft or new areas to grow into. There are also the areas that would be foolish of me to spend time on (and a bad investment for my employer). Being free from these temptations and desires helps me value and celebrate the colleagues I have that are very good at these other things. Finally, they remind me that I am a human being, not a human doing, and that I am subject to the constraints of time and space.

I will one day die. The fucks I have to give are finite.

If words in this post made you wonder if I meditate, sure. So let’s enjoy some jazz. No need to have a degree in it to do so.

If you can, and want to “go somewhere” right now, putting on full concerts is fun. There’s nothing quite like live music, and the kinship between jazz musicians doing their thing onstage imo is unparralleled among musicians.