Holston lifted his virtual headset and the voice of his Monitor filled the room.
Holston Pritchard, 622 Analogous Way, Bluffton, IA, return to your virtual classroom immediately.
He huffed and flipped the mask back down. The tropical jungle he’d been running through had been replaced by his virtual homeroom. Cameras were off, so his classmates’ feeds had disappeared, replaced by organized lines of the capital letter “B,” representing an ocean of judgmental eyes.
By now, I am sure you have heard the news. I have been “cancelled.”
I know you are confused about what this word means. I know there has been talk, even around our own supper table, of the ridiculous things people claim happen to those who are “cancelled.”
Like, maybe you have heard the biggest lie of all – that when people are “cancelled,” it means they are exiled to some far away land. Like. Actually…
Can you imagine our government getting away with something like that? I can’t believe the things kids pick up at school. Am I right?
Or maybe it was Uncle, um, sorry, can’t seem to recall his name since with the passing of time, you know, relatives grow distant…but you know, Mom’s sister’s husband? That guy? Ask him. Ask him if he was the one who maybe heard the silly rumor, the superstitious rumor that “cancelled means exiled.”
Ask him exactly that. In those exact words. I mean, why don’t you. Then, write back and let me know, his answer, okay? I mean, don’t loose the envelope. Keep it in a safe place because too many have lost their correspondence to carelessness with indoor fires.
Anyway, about those rumors…you know – the ridiculous idea, the super-silly idea, that the “Government would exile a people.” Over unpopular political opinions! I mean. Please. Allow me to reassure you – the government is simply sending me to work.
They say, “it is a new infrastructure project.” They say, “You’ll come back when all of this blows over.” I say, as the Great General Xi said on the eve of his execution, “it is wise to say ‘goodbye,’ and trust the rest to almighty God.‘
I hope you understand.
Next time you go home, you should look up my friend, Meg. She’ll know what to tell you. I mean, she will have the words I would say myself if I could see you face to face, which one day I shall again do – whether it be on this side of eternity, or the other, I know not.
Remember, I’ll come home to you when this all blows over. You have the government’s word on it.
So when you start a blog or a new venture of any kind, really, you start thinking about how you are going to represent yourself in the world of social media.
My friend (and 1/7 of my writing group), Jenifer, is helping me figure out how to navigate Instagram. So far, we have gone through and looked at how others who are doing what I am are handling the Instagram thing, and I have to say, man, everyone is killing. Excellent photography. Polished pictures. Beautiful font.
ANd then there’s me.
Poor Jenifer. She’s trying really hard to get me to where I want to be and yet I am unwilling to do the work necessary to get there. I’m like the old grandpa who spits and fits about “newfangled technology”. I don’t WANT to properly light something before I take the picture. I dont’ WANT to worry about “shadows.” I’m a curmudgeon. And basically she deserves a medal for dragging me along.
OKAY, So, thus far
I’ve decided I want a “handwritten” font. Like, my own handwriting. And that’s pretty much all I’ve decided. The rest of it has been a bit of a puzzle to piece together.
I’ve played around with lighting and backgrounds. I’ve fiddled around in GIMP* to try to create the right aesthetic.
But then I realized, I’m looking at this all wrong.
BIG SHOCK, I KNOW
Like, instead of playing around with my pictures, trying to make something I like, I need to think about my brand, and what I want it to convey.
Like, what is the “feel” I want for my Instagram board? To know that, I realize, I have to know what am I actually doing with this blog…this project.
WHAT I REALLY WANT
It’s funny, because what I thought I wanted was an aesthetic that matched what I am doing over here at writing shorts. But that’s not so. Writing Shorts is my studio space. Messy. Sloppy. Disorganized.
What I want is for my Instagram and other social media to “woo” people over here.
WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY
It sounds like a case of “bait and switch”. I don’t mean it to be that.
I guess what I want from social media is to invite folks over to look at what I am doing. This is my virtual studio, where I spend time digging deep into something that is more polished and simplistic on its surface…something I feel I’ve discovered or just noticed…something that swims its way to the surface of my consciousness and demands some attention. I bring it back here and explore it, eviscerate it, re-create with it, play with it.
I want my social media to welcome you, introduce you to an idea. I want the blog space to be where I explore these ideas.
That’s why I like the simplicity of the grey newsprint. It keeps me clear, so to speak. The words work, here, not the ambiance.
OKAY OKAY SO how does that translate into A social media AeSTHETIC?
Here is the aesthetic that I want:
You push through the heavy wooden door and the first thing you notice is that it is dark. There is some natural light from a window, perhaps partially obscured by some drapery, and in that light a million dust particles whirl and dance, like a microscopic welcoming committee.
Then you are enveloped, as if into a warm embrace, by the familiar smell of the room.
Pipe tobacco. Leather. Aftershave.
And that one fragrance you can’t quite name but is at the same time known more intimately by you than any other smell.
There is not another smell like this particular combination though you will capture glimpses of it in various moments throughout your lifetime. You breathe deeply, and now you are a part of it and it is a part of you, and you are more aware than ever that you are present. You are present in this space and that you are safe.
Safe. Such a simple word for such a complicated feeling.
You pass a table upon which sits a Newton’s Cradle.Though you would not dream of fiddling around with most of the objects in this space, you know this is meant to be explored.
After interacting with it you move on, and venture to the place you came into the room to explore.
THE BIG DESK
Here you know you are destined to find a curiosity, a treasure, a puzzle.
Like the Newton’s Cradle, but for your mind.
And on that desk, there it sits – a little glimpse into the mind of the keeper of this wonderful place of good smells and great conversations.
It is but a trifle, surely, written on scrap paper in a careless hand. This is a whim of an afterthought, jotted down as though in passing.
You don’t dare pick it up and take it with you, though, in your heart of hearts, you want it to be true that this note was left here just for you to find.
You might reach out, and touch the paper with your finger. You might trace the lettering, and wondering how similar your own handwriting is to this.
The one thing you will do for sure is remember what is written there.
WHEN YOU COME OUT FROM THIS SPACE
You feel you are taking with you a treasure.
This “point to ponder” becomes a piece of mental play-dough, which you can knead and prod and shape and poke throughout the rest of your day, or even throughout your lifetime.
Minimally, you have something to turn over inside your brain while your meat skeleton is dealing with boring things to keep you alive, like your lunch of SpaghettiOs with hotdogs cut up into it. Or in those endless moments when you are made to sit around and nothing is happening, like in the waiting room at the dentist’s office.
The final thing I will say about my desired aesthetic is this – there are some paintings done in a style I am not educated enough to be able to talk about intelligently, in this moment, but before I push “publish” I will find an example of such and paste it here. It is a good demonstration of the kind of “feeling” I want. I don’t know what the proper way to talk about this sort of art is, but it is art that stirs up what is “romantic” in me**, but not in a sexual way. I don’t know if that makes sense, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
*GIMP is a photo editing program. It’s free and cool. Check it out, maybe. I’m not sponsored by GIMP. I am open to discussions about that particular point.
** In fact what I thought I wanted was a piece of art from the “romantic” era but it is not, as when I thumbed through those they did not seem “bold enough.” Go figure.
Of course the moment I typed these words, my mind attempted to sing them to the tune of, “I’m going to hire a wino*.”
It is January, and is thus time for all the good little boys and girls to carefully document and outline their goals for the new year. To make things extra-special-fun, it is also the beginning ofa new decade.
Is there anything more full of promise?
Picture the moment you discovered your last planner:
As you stood in the Barnes and Noble, juggling your Venti Mocha-chocha-buttercrunch with two extra shots, flipping through the pages of “Mrs. Sassy’s planner for cat lovers,” you stared in gape-mouthed awe at the moments spread out before you, like the first glimpse of the first real snow of winter, as yet un-trampled by Father Time’s ungainly footsteps.
Yet here he comes
Less than a week in to things, when your planner still has nary a crack in the spine, while every page is still securely attached to its pre-perforated self – Father Time comes a-sneakin’ up from the depths of the decade you’ve left behind, dragging along not just death – who seems a distasteful yet apparently necessary companion – but also piles of laundry and stacks of bills and long lines at the gas station and an inconceivable amount of trifling inconveniences and pettiness-es, all poised to distract you from what is really important as you make this journey through a decade of promise.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Look, I’m not one to disappoint a gal. So, take it away with the planners. It’s your time, Boo – it’s yet another holiday, and one that is well-kept indeed by those of you with organized desks and piles of pretty craft items to beautify your life in advance.
Go on, you rascal! Color in your days! Turn all of your Wednesdays orange because orange is your least favorite color and on Wednesdays you meet with your personal trainer! Color Sunday’s your favorite color, if you’d like! And Easter and Christmas, too, while you’re at it.
Planner calendars consist of little squares of potential, just begging for your printed promises.
Alas, those of us cut from my particular bolt of fabric see your delight in these festivities and merely give the side-eye to our pile of abandoned planners from decades past, and with our new 2020 vision, we observe nothing but a heaping pile of condemnation.
This is not a complaint. It is not a problem for which I seek a remedy. It is merely a statement of fact. I state it to help you understand why a gal like me can’t celebrate planner season with you all. What gals like me need is a whole lot less of that sprinkle-dust called “expectations.” I know, I know. I could preach a five point sermon on the benefits of goal setting and proper planning. Could give you a list of reasons long as the day is why mapping out your career journey is “a wise plan of action.” I can make a case as airtight as any attorney would like about why I should have a planner.
And maybe that’s right. Maybe, I should have a planner. But maybe I should re-think its purpose.
Imagine, A planner that doesn’t expect quite so much from you.
What I need is a planner that says, “You’re right, life is full of promise and potential, but things don’t always work out the way you thought they would, and that’s okay,” as opposed to a chronicle of all the times I failed to meet my own expectations.
Maybe I do need to get myself a planner. Maybe I can color each of my Wednesdays red, and arbitrarily remember the shed blood of Jesus Christ when I dust off my forgotten planner in July to see what the day has in store for me. Maybe I can open it up to a random page, and make myself some edifying artwork.
And then do it again. And again.
I can send messages to my future self from this day of ultimate optimism.
Maybe since the year is fresh, and so is my mindset, this is the time to prepare against the buffeting of the sin in this world. Maybe now is the time to scatter seeds of remembrance throughout the year. Reminders of who Christ is, and who I am in Christ, and that every second, every moment, can be the beginning of something new. Maybe I can see the potential of each and every moment.
Well, maybe not this first year.
“But wait, wait, wait,” cry the voices of the detractors. Traditional goal-setting has built-in rewards! You are missing out! Aren’t you giving up the opportunity to clap yourself on the back for keeping a promise to yourself?
Yes. Yes I am. But I find personally I take a lot of pride in that. And it isn’t a good kind of pride**.
Couldn’t you achieve a lot more for the Lord if you were more organized? Yes. Guilty, as charged. I mean, I’d say “definitely,” but not “positively.” Oh, well.
Maybe it’s sinful to say “oh well,” and not particularly strive to be more effective in the work I do for the Lord. But I’m feeling more like being a Mary than a Martha here, choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus and moon over his absolute wonderfulness than to work super-hard to please him. And as a child of The Most High King, don’t I get a free pass to do that, just whenever?
At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Look, a very valid case could be made that the “correct” course of action would be for me to “whip myself into shape,” or “get my act together,” or even “make a commitment to my career and my future,” by mapping out my career goals, putting dates in a planner, using the planner, you know, in the way it was intended.
Why won’t I just buckle down and improve my life?
But I’ve tried that. over and again. Remember that side-eyed pile of planners?***
I’ve never really not-tried. I’ve never really surrendered to the idea that I am sort of chaotic and random. I have good intentions. I show up when I remember. What happens if I simply embrace that?
I’m going to try that this year. Try less, trust more.
Let’s see how that works.****
*kind of inappropriate in hindsight. Sorry, honey.
**Is there a good kind of pride? This is a discussion hubby and I have been having.
***I feel I must confess that no such pile exists. I’ve never purchased an actual “planner.” All my attempts to organize my life are of the digital variety. However I do have many an abandoned journal hanging around to haunt me. Same difference.
****I feel like I’m going to be worse at this than I am at keeping up with a planner.
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