taking the time to see
"id like to give myself the permission to fill my time with attending to the things and people i love"
I'm sitting in Le Phin, one of my favorite cafes in New York. The past few weeks have been hard. I feel like I aged several years in the process. I've been house hunting, flying between Seattle and New York and soon back to camp in the woods to talk about a better web. I've been more scatter-brained lately than ever before, losing track of where I left things from one minute to the next, switching between tasks and topics like a moth caught between a million fireflies.
I've felt pretty insecure about my answer to the question of "what have you been up to" lately. Existing? Living? Adulting? is what I would like to say, or the series of answers that automatically cross my mind. I come up with some answer that weaves ideas that have now grown weeds without the proper care and attention.
Yesterday, I was talking to H, who is also on a new independent journey, about our dreams and questions and creative yearnings, and it made me wonder how long would it actually take for me to answer / fulfill all of these in a satisfying way? Originally, when I started on this journey, I had thought that finishing my original rough list of bullet point questions would mark the end of this independent period. I thought 6 months would be enough time to at least get to some sort of new confident answer or direction for all of these musings, but diving into research has been much more than I expected. It’s no wonder that people spend 4-6 years focusing on a single area of research or entire lifetimes on progressing the knowledge of a given field.
the original bullet point list of questions from my announcement post
That hopeful naïveté didn’t forsee how many new questions would pop up with every new question that I answered, how trying to answer even seemingly simple questions like: why do people collect? quickly become knotted. With my research, it felt like trying to slay a proverbial hydra. Even after all this, I hesitate to form opinions on the core questions that have kept me going. I’m naturally disinclined from forming hard opinions on things, but maybe I should be pushing myself to do so continuously. Of course, when I talk to people, I can see how much my collective knowledge and thesis has grown. I can feel the natural rush of energy and conviction growing, where before there were only strong yearnings with less substance to speak to them.
Separately, beyond research, living surprisingly takes a substantial amount of work. After a nudge from ML and in the absence of capitalist achievement-driven dopamine, I’ve been trying to feel more fulfillment from the simple acts of existing that have become so radical now: learning the names of the plants and animals that catch my eye, sitting with the sensation of wind and sun and moon, appreciating how people can be so naturally loving, careful, and funny and how the world dances with abandon—all the time—even when you’re not looking.
I’d like to give myself the permission to fill my time with attending to the things and people I love, to obsess over the things that call to me with a primal gravity, to find joy & deep satisfaction in the everyday moments, in which, life frequently, stubbornly announces itself.
As my internal churning wrap up in the next couple weeks and I’m able to settle into a new home, I feel a renewed sense of hope and excitement to tend properly to all the things calling to me. I still want to make gathering places. I still want to make things that make people feel something, that help people to pause and reflect and tend to what they care about. I still want to make tools and infrastructure that empower people to create what they want to see in the world. I want to make the strata for “futuring” (borrowing from H and Le Guin) and maintenance and care. We must be able to imagine radically new futures while still nourishing our existing ways of living and relating to one another.
I’m also reminding myself that I’m building a practice, not a career. This year I committed myself to cycles and nurturing rituals, and so I should dedicate myself with as much vigor towards gentle living as I used to towards climbing a career ladder or building a product I care about or bringing an art piece vision to life. I keep reminding myself that the privilege to have this time is a responsibility to stay true to it, and not give in to the scarcity mindset of the corporate grind.
I thought about why I’m doing all this at all. I tried to interrogate myself with the “5 why’s” for this entire journey. Why am I doing independent research? Because I felt burnt out and I want to have the freedom to do whatever calls to me. Why am I focused on computers and art and the internet? Because I want people to feel things and love computers the way I love them and love each other through computers. Why do I care about this? Because they gave me a source of hope when I felt like I had no one to connect to. Why do computers give me hope? Because they reflect all of humanity. Because they would be nothing without people. Because they resonate with a light energy of potential that offers the world. Because they offer a place where everyone can explore freely and find others who care about the same things they do.
visa gave a great prompt that was a natural follow-up to this introspection
I think I should maybe revisit this motivation every month, to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place, and that I deserve to go at my own pace. Georgia O’Keefe says “To see takes time.” As long as I can answer the question “am I practicing a way of being I love?” positively every day, all that’s left is to keep moving—listening to the voice in my heart and making, gesturing, grasping at the fuzzy dreams—clarifying them one pixel at a time.
i signed a lease in SF again! excited to settle in for the year and spread roots after many many months of sporadic migrating
let me know if you’ll be at DWeb camp?
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