On being okay with fading slowly into the blur of the background
A few disparate, loosely-connected, unedited and unrevised thoughts on being okay with fading slowly into the blur of the background:
My inbox isn’t as full as it used to be. This is, of course, good news; I no longer feel the anxiety of an inbox filled with emails that require lengthy responses. I have not received an email from someone asking me to speak to their group, write for their publication, or advise on their project in a few years. I have not had to say no in a long time; I have not had the chance to say yes, either.
In my late twenties and early thirties, I was busy. I was a regular columnist for various publications, I debated on panels or delivered talks at least twice a month, I was a member of a few boards and project teams. I had things to say, and I found places to be heard. It seemed as though people wanted to hear the things I wanted to say, but you never really know.
Our city is a small one, a quiet one. My life mirrors the city: it is small, quiet. My hours these days are filled with reading and listening and watching and walking and thinking. I take in a lot more, and I say a lot less; I am not sure I have things to say, anymore.
One of the things about being an early adopter to the social web means that people noticed you, back when there were fewer people to notice. Having a blog twenty years ago meant people read what I wrote, and wanted me to write more. Being on Twitter (and Flickr, and Pwnce, and Jaiku, and Tumblr, and LiveJournal, and FriendFeed, and identica, and…) early on meant that more people could find you, that more people would seek you out.
I’m hard to find, these days. I’m not located in a major urban centre, and I don’t travel as much as I used to. Online, I dip my feet into fewer places, and wherever I am, I don’t say as much as I used to. I’m not hiding, but I’m not looking to be found, either.
Some people say their lives peaked in high school, or in college. Mine certainly did not—life gets better as the years go on—but my career did peak some years ago. I was lucky to have been part of some big projects, to be have had the opportunity to do career-defining work that I’m extremely proud of, over the past fifteen years. I was on teams that helped break new ground, that ushered in new ways of thinking and new ways of working; I had a lot of interesting work to talk about, and a lot of people who wanted to hear about that work.
It wasn’t a conscious decision to move from doing work to supporting and nurturing the people who do work, but it was a career transition that was right for me. It means that my work is quieter, smaller, hidden; it means that the impact of my work is more subtle, but also more personal. I’m not trying to change the world anymore, but I am trying to help somebody feel better about who they are and what they do, every single day—maybe one day, that person will change the world.
When I was younger, I cared a lot about what people thought of me, cared a lot about what image I was projecting to the world. This is, perhaps, a common marker of youth: the constant worry to be seen the way we want to be seen. These days, I am content in the person I am. These days, it doesn’t matter how I am seen; these days, I care more about being okay with the person that I am.
Someone told me the other day that I speak more slowly, more softly now than I did some years ago. Someone else told me the other day that my writing was shorter, more internal, more reflective than it used to be some years ago.
The weather is getting colder; our pool is scheduled to close very soon. Two nights ago, I had what was perhaps my last nightswim of the season. As I stared up into the dark sky—as is my habit during my nightswims—I thought about how each star shines so bright, but also about how each one fades into the background, into a blur above me as I float along; each contributing, in their own small, oft-unnoticed way, to the beautiful canvas of the cosmos.