happy 2010

It's been a while. Longer, in fact, than what honestly might qualify as "a while." In blog-time, it's been eons.

But I've been busy. There was juggling two jobs, quitting them both, and starting a new one. There were several bouts of out-of-town company, nursing a sick dog, and helping a once-out-of-town friend get settled here in Madison. There were Thanksgiving travels and baby showers and recommitting to our old routine of regularly going to the Y. There was the month of December -- including Christmas and New Year's -- spent in South Africa.

Then there was readjusting to the return home. I landed at Chicago O'Hare wearing shorts and a t-shirt; the ground was carpeted with two feet of snow. As I got back into the swing of things -- buying a much-needed winter coat; sifting through mountains of email; reacquainting myself with the electric coffee maker -- the daily rituals of home and work suddenly seemed rote and dull, in comparison to the shining, bursting wave of experience that defined my brief time abroad.

Before I left for my trip, I set up a blog, with the intention of linking it here and using it as the repository for travel-inspired musing. I didn't post once. Part of the time, it was because electricity outages or downed Internet connections or being in a rondavel in the middle of nowhere kept me from going online. But mostly, it was because I felt absolutely no need to share my experiences with anyone outside of the people who were, in real life, sharing those experiences with me.

I know myself well enough to know when I've skirted close to accidentally believing, "I blog, therefore I am." After all, I am a writer. It's practically part of my cellular makeup to believe something is only as valuable as how well it's documented. There were moments in South Africa when I was disappointed I couldn't capture in real time all I was seeing and doing, so friends and family could travel vicariously alongside me. But a deeper, larger part of that disappointment came from the worry that without writing about them in a way that was publicly and immediately consumable, those experiences -- my experiences -- would somehow become more fleeting and less significant, something that could be put away, set aside, forgotten.

So really, it was about me, and my own fears.

And with that realization, the pressure evaporated. I traded my traveling companion's sleek MacBook for the solid, hard-bound journal a good friend gave me the day before I left. I was my only audience, the keeper of stories for the sake of memory, with no obligation to enlighten or entertain. A month without the ephemeral highs of Facebook-induced uber-sharing, and I remembered what it meant to experience for experience's sake the real things in real life that bring joy, challenge and provocation.

"Writing this down is enough," I wrote, from the deck of a stifling hot chalet in Botswana, overlooking the Limpopo River. "I don't miss Facebook or email or my iPhone. Actually, I want to chuck my phone in the river, or at least trade it in for a land line. I don't need the world to move so fast. I would rather experience and appreciate the small slice of the world in front of me -- the parts I can see and touch and breathe in -- than attempt (and fail) to focus on a thousand things at once. 24-hour news and Twitter feeds and Sudoku apps don't make life better or easier or more content. They just make life more cluttered."

When I got home, I wasn't sure I wanted to blog again. I contemplated getting rid of my Flickr account, ditching the iPhone, and not replacing the recently departed laptop, to which I'd developed an increasingly unhealthy attachment. Imagine life without Facebook or that damned new Google Buzz. Imagine all the extra time we'd have to think or talk or hell, just be.

No comments: