(1) You prepare yourself psychologically for the caprices that Lady Fortune may indeed have in store for you,
(2) You wake up from your self-imposed nightmares with a kind of survivor's euphoria, to the effect that you cherish the opportunity to change a diaper, and the river of brake lights in five o'clock traffic is just, well . . . beautiful.
This practice works for me. (Though I do have a particularly weird and cheesy constitution: one of my early childhood memories is of being reduced to an almost tearful thankfulness over having been born a man and not a raccoon.)
So today I found myself thinking about who I would have been if the internet never existed. You should ask yourself too. It's fun. But me first:
- Without the internet I would have never discovered the art, music, and books that I live through. Holy Lord. If I hadn't found Danny Schmidt, would I know what a poem was? My local bookstores and libraries don't carry Schmidt. They also don't carry out-of-print hedonistic commentaries on Chuang Tzu. And nowhere, ever, have I seen a poster of this:
The internet's ability to enable profitable business models catering to geographically dispersed long-tail customers created a world in which I could be me, and not just some grown-up extension of one of the five locally available stock models of high school personae (prep, jock, stoner, geek, cowboy.)
- Without the internet I wouldn't be able to do much. My high school didn't have courses in computer programming. They also didn't teach me that you can make Arabic sounding music with Phrygian scales.
- Without the internet I would have never gotten jobs. When I gigged as a textbook writer, I'd send thirty emails a day to folks in various countries offering my skills. I made the process semi-automatic with form letters and a craigslist-to-OPML program. I've been told by my workmates that the resume bullets from that season in my career are what got me out of the dark mire of adjunct professordom and into college administration. How on earth did people find gigs before? By looking only at their local papers' listings?
- Without the internet I'd be missing out on some amazing friendships. When you first meet someone, even if you really like them, it's just plain weird to say "Hey dude, I click with you. Wanna be lifelong friends?" Calling someone days after an introduction and a 30 second conversation to propose hanging out is even creepier (unless you're making a romantic advance; then it can be cool and gutsy.) But friending someone you barely know on Facebook is easy. And then commenting. And then corresponding. And then hanging out...
- Without the internet I wouldn't be able to write. In the realms of pre-internet media, one either comes to the publisher/editor/gatekeeper with mad skills and gets published, or he gets a generic pink slip with a one-line apology. You can't use this system of rejection to make yourself much better. But with blogging, things are different. If every time you write a more sarcastic post you get double the pageviews, you know that the sarcastic thing is working for you. You can try out different voices, registers, and angles, and see what happens. You can literally chart the effects of your different approaches. And when five guys on Hacker News call you an ass, you're probably being too much of an ass.
We're lucky. Know that.
And tell me about who you would be. Your turn.
Buy me a coffee to support posts like this.
(Or, you know, a house. If you're just like a bored billionaire or something.)