Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Joke That Isn't Funny Anymore (Note to Self (Whatever That Is))

It happened while I wasn't watching, which has been pretty much my whole life.

I became that guy I used to make fun of -- the doddering, far-sighted, rumpled old teacher. He is not so quick, out of touch, as dated as a corded phone.

It's a new experience, this deferential condescension from 19-year-olds. They roll their eyes and share sidelong glances at my lack of familiarity with Tumblr, Snap-Chat, even Twitter. I am dismissed as having little cred in the world of flash living, one scene morphing into the next before I can focus on the fading image.

It's cliche to say I thought this would never happen to me, but that is true.

And I don't mind the change of the guard so much except that I have to be the joke I used to tell.

It would be a fine thing to be let out to pasture and not have to continue to relate to this brave new digital world, but it is quite another experience to be the walking, talking anachronism in a sea screen-obsessed adolescents, to be relegated still to the trenches of teaching freshmen. Anachronism and incongruity.That's me.

I didn't spin the right dials or play the best cards in my career, so am stuck teaching first-year comp even though I "should" have moved on to bigger stuff. Now, it would be easy enough to point fingers at bosses and department heads who made it their business to block my advancement, but that is not helpful.

I didn't do the right work. I tried to balance the personal with the professional; I didn't schmooze with stars and the check writers; I wrote memoirs and personal essays when I "should" have been doing scholarship and research. I based a career on magical thinking. I thought if I did what I felt called to do that I would get recognition. Ha!

So now I am stranded in a digital world, not a native, but a refugee, or a hostage.

My ideas of writing and teaching, of language and politics, of face-to-face interacting, of trying to capture life in words, words crafted and won by sustained attention and patience and quiet all see so quaint.

I want to call it tragic, but just think it's part of living and letting go, of meeting one's impermanence in a changing and somewhat indifferent universe. The word is part of, but subordinate to bigger, louder, more flashy media. 

I hope that someone sends out my ransom note soon. I want to be with my people, my tribe. It's not so funny anymore being who I am, here.

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