On the metro, my head stuck in my crit partner’s chapter, a woman slipped into the empty seat next to me and asked if we knew each other. A touch irritated from being pulled from a great story and behind in my promised delivery of the critique I grudgingly looked up and lo and behold, we were…acquaintances. Our kids used to be on the same sports team although hers were older, so no friendships among the children had ever developed. Even so, I put my work away, not without regret, and we chatted about our kids and local schools until the metro delivered us to our stop.
Why am I wasting time discussing a common, everyday style occurrence? Because I felt really resentful that I was pulled out of my real world, the important one, to spend time in a space and conversation whose value alluded me. I didn’t want to talk, I wanted to stick my nose back in the chapter. Doesn’t that just generate some disturbing questions?
In a nutshell, I’ve developed some important relationships with some on-line folks, scattered throughout the world, that I’ve never met in person, that matter, because we’ve built a community of practice and support around our
writing–an act for each of us that lives in our blood, and a part of our lives as integral as breathing. The woman on the subway, arguably a neighbor, I used to interact with at sports functions and meets. Our action was by virtue of place (not personal interest) and the one common element that held us together (kids sports) was now gone. I wished her well but she just wasn’t a real part of my life anymore. Good manners had me tuck my papers into my bag and give her my full attention.
Here’s the gist of my problem. Both matter but with time so constrained in life, its as if I have to choose between things that matter and that choice is neither easy nor obvious. With an hour commute to work, I changed from driving to taking the metro to carve out more time to support my writing life. My on-line world also nurtures that dream and my potential, it is one of the few things I do that helps me become who I aim to be.
My local world underpins my everyday life, and includes maintaining a wider set of aquaintances in a world of unknown challenges because local matters on a base physical scale when a storm hits, when a virus goes serious, and the internet and phone connections goes down.
Of course, they overlap, but the asynchronous nature of the web means that whole communities form with meaning and intent that have no relationship to physical space anymore. What does that mean when you’ve invested your time, and the storm hits, the electricity goes down, and you are disconnected totally and utterly from one of your worlds of meaning?
And with t
he competition for the scarcest of our resources–time–my resentment to sit with the acquaintence didn’t feel right. I should welcome all social interaction in the physical world with those who touch or have touched my local life, shouldn’t I?
Do you have feel like the infrastructure of your life is shifting? Like you don’t know which world you really live in anymore, and or how to balance time priorities with your need to interact in both worlds?