Keeping the “Social” in Social Media

Still crazy after all these years.

Still crazy after all these years.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Hours spent in class today: 3

New tidbits gleaned from the class: 42

Our social media instructor finds my classmates and me very funny.

I’m taking a class to find out as much as possible about social media, and as it turns out, I came to the right place. My teacher adores all things technological, while many of us press errant buttons with confused expressions on our faces.

One student behind me asks, “Did I do this wrong?”

Our instructor giggles, “There is no wrong way!”

She is a little bit like Glinda the Good Witch. Sometimes when she stops by your desk, the problem sorts itself out magically.

She is likely to exclaim, “Oh! I love technology!” as she clicks on various tabs and explains shortcuts with her Good Witch wand.

Technology makes her smile.

Things that make me smile:

1. A hug.

2. A baby laughing.

3. Writing.

4. Boots.

When things go awry amidst clicks and tabs and tags, I look to my good friend beside me. She also giggles, but it is a giggle full of irony. She has no wand.

She and I met when we were in college classes the first time around; she looks exactly the same today, which is mildly annoying.

We were in journalism school together, and we both won a coveted (unpaid) internship at a local TV station.

Interns back then spent a lot of time “brainstorming story ideas,” and we did not have the benefit of an Internet to surf. My friend and I sat in cubicles and stared into space a fair amount. Sometimes this made us giggle.

We had a kind of Glinda the Good Witch boss while we were there, although we were never sure exactly what it was she did. One day that I remember in particular, we watched a full episode of Oprah’s “Good News.”

Today, as my friend and I stroll the community college hallways together at break time, she wonders at the youthful types with wires spouting from their ears that we share the space with.

“Did we really look this young when we went to college?”

“Absolutely. Maybe younger,” I say, as I think back to my long shorts and huge, untamed curls.

“Nah. I don’t believe it. That would mean we look old now.”

“Yeah. We do.” I nod and crunch on lightly salted almonds, a snack I would have pooh-poohed as too healthy as a 20-year-old.

“That stinks.”

As we head back into class, the teacher splits us up into groups, presumably so that my friend and I can’t giggle anymore.

I feel better, because even though Dropbox and Twitter and Google weren’t around 20 years ago, I guess we haven’t changed all that much.

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You Can’t Escape Your Themes

How much have you changed? Or have you?

How much have you changed? Or have you?

Miles run today: 0

Cookies eaten today: 0 (big improvement)

Blog posts read over Christmas break: 0

My parents moved from my childhood home when I was in my 20s, so returning “home” for the holidays is to a different home: no ghosts of 10-year-old Annes greet me as I climb the stairs; no boy band posters cling to bedroom walls.

But many, many things from my childhood haunt the closets, the bedrooms, the bookcases… One night, cozy under my mom’s quilts, raindrops pattering on the windows,  I woke from a nightmare where someone was calling my old name, my maiden name. And when I made my way in that direction, no one was there.

Because my sister and I want my parents to move up to our area in the not-so-distant future, we cleansed some of the spaces of our junk over Christmas break.

My sister, Dancer Extraordinaire, went through boxes and boxes of old dance costumes: ruffly can-can skirts, sailor-girl get-ups, swirly ballet skirts and funky jazz shorts.

I finally packed up my middle and high school yearbooks and put them in the back of our minivan. I’m surprised that the covers closed: you would not believe the amount of Big Hair photos contained in those pages.

But as you can imagine, the things that stopped me cold were the written things… my tenth grade English journal, my AP English papers, the letters.

The letters, for someone sentimental like me, were heartbreaking.

People used to write letters! I can picture these younger versions of ourselves spending time sitting out on The Quad, balancing a notebook on their knees, writing four pages, back and front, about boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, school, work, the weather. And wow, did we write! How did we find the time?

Of course, I only had the letters from other people; I have no idea what I wrote that prompted the letters or what I wrote in response. In some cases, I prayed that I had responded: one acquaintance from high school wrote from her first semester at college saying that everyone else had opened their mailboxes to get letters or care packages from home. She got nothing. She begged me to write to her.

Did I? I don’t remember.

I was busy falling in love. I was juggling too many class hours and, unfortunately, Calculus (aka Bane of My Existence).

This past week, my family and I sat around my parents’ dining room table, and I read them snippets of their letters from when I was away at college: they often described the same mundane weekend events in very different ways.

My parents’ letters often opened with, “I’m worried about you. Are you feeling better?”

And my sister’s: “Mom and Dad are mad that you haven’t been to the doctor yet.”

I must have picked up every cold the freshman dorms offered that semester.

Most touching were the ways that we have not changed: my mom still searches for the perfect home phone, simple and indestructible. My dad still gets baffled by home improvement projects. My sister is still in pursuit of the perfect haircut.

But here is the letter from one of my best guy friends the summer after we graduated, the one that showed me exactly how little I have changed in 20 years:

Anne,

Ah yes, the glorious summer–that which we longingly wait for each spring. Too bad it kinda sucks, huh? You didn’t sound too excited in your letter. What’s wrong?

So you don’t have a job… big deal. Jobs are just time-consuming anyway, you know. I mean, I can see how you might get a little stressed not having one, what with jobs being the popular thing to be doing these days…

He went on to get a Ph.D. and is figuring out how to wipe cancer off the face of the world.

I waited tables for six months while I looked for a “real job.” And when I got one, I made less money than I had while I was waiting tables.

And here I am, 20 years later, looking for a “real job” after freelancing for years. And like before, wondering if it will ever happen.

Where are all of those pep talk letters and the young people who had so much time?

And why can’t we escape the themes that keep coming up in our lives, over and over, as evergreen as the three basic arguments we recycle with our spouses over a lifetime?

What are your personal themes? And do they show up in your writing?

Quidditch and Carolina in My Mind

What would you choose to do with your life if time had a more liquid quality?

Miles walked today: 2?

Percentage of students at Carolina who study abroad: 40

Slices of pizza eaten at Pepper’s, my old haunt (artichoke and sundried tomato): 1

When my dad and I went to orientation at my college the summer I left for school, I had a sinking moment when I thought: oh, shoot. They’re leaving me here for four years? Like, to live?

My dad was also having a whale of a time at orientation and couldn’t stop giggling with another dad in the back of the auditorium when the speaker talked about stuff like security and classes and meal plans. I suspected he might be having more fun than I was.

I had been trying to get the heck out of Dodge for the previous three years, at least. Atlanta wasn’t big enough for me. I was ready for bigger things… in a smaller place. So when I arrived a few days before school started to do Freshman Camp, I knew no one. Not a soul.

And I loved it.

There were lots of boys, lots of pizza and independence in spades.

I dated one boy, ate lots of pizza and called my parents in desperation when I had spent too much money on pizza and also made a stupid subtraction error, to the tune of $100 ($100!), in my checkbook.

We didn’t have cell phones back then, so plans to meet up with each other often went awry back when time was a more liquid entity.

Time? That’s for old people. I remember seeking out free phones in campus buildings to call empty dorm rooms.

There were huge parties and endless hours with friends when you had nothing better to do than fill out a crossword puzzle or watch “Guiding Light.” And there were times when home felt much more than 450 miles away.

College is a different place today.

Everyone has a laptop, a cell phone, an iPod. They are connected. Students start small businesses and eat in newly renovated cafterias with Subway sandwich cafes and modern architecture.

Today, my BFF and I took our four kids to my alma mater. Her daughter is a freshman in high school, and I subscribe to the belief that kids can’t shoot for a goal unless they know it’s there.

We went to the old business school building, which is now the new journalism school building, and we listened to the orientation speech.

The speaker talked about out-of-state students, studying abroad, the honors program and about 500 clubs you could join.

“The Quidditch Club?” My friend’s daughter perked up.

The admissions counselor/daytime comedian talked about students on broomsticks in the Quad, trying to catch another student who had painted himself in gold paint.

Wow. I felt old.

And my friend’s daughter was ready to sign up. She might start filling out her application tonight, listing Quidditch as her major.

My son wanted detailed instructions about where to go to get food.

We took a tour, and when they saw the model dorm room, my son asked, “Where’s the rest of it? Where does the other person sleep?” I pointed up on the loft. “Oh….” he said, eyes glazed.

My daughter wanted to know where they kept the TV.

And I wondered what the mailboxes in the common area were used for anymore.

We used to wait for letters from home or letters from friends at other universities. If we were really lucky, a friend would send a mix tape with songs we had never heard before… songs that would become our favorites until the tape wore out from overuse.

Why would a student need a mailbox today? Texts from friends arrive instantaneously. Professors email answers to questions. Even bills are delivered electronically.

The buildings felt haunted with the person I used to be: a goofy dreamer with anxiety about the unmapped future, the one who met and befriended people who played Frisbee with me and went to aerobics with me and talked to me late at night and comforted me when things got tough.

Those people don’t exist anymore, at least not in the way I remember them. Every time I saw an adult my age or older, I had that kind of flash like on the TV show, “Cold Case”: they morphed into what I imagined they used to be.

There we were, parents who wish for our kids that they go away to college and have the same wonderful, heartbreaking, earth-shattering, lonely, friendship-ful time we did.

And maybe, just maybe, get to play some Quidditch.

Why Not Party Like It’s 1991?

Sure, I can’t get “Call Me Maybe” out of my head, but remember “Layla”? Or “Tennessee”?

Miles run today: 4.5

Words written in novel so far: 11,186

Food-related social occasions planned for this weekend: 4 (yay!)

The year was 1991. It was a whole new fin de siecle… and we were doing it better than the last time. Music was angry and indignant, Earth Day was cool again, and I rocked a lot of flannel. A lot.

For Spring Break, my boyfriend and I rode back to Atlanta (6 1/2 hours) with a friend, picked up my parents’ car and drove 7 hours to Florida.

Two of my friends who went to University of Florida had the hook-up: the use of a house right on a stagnant pond lake that was far away from everything conveniently located in the middle of the state. We were thrilled.

We rode around in my friend’s big yellow car that we called The Banana, hitting both Disney World and Daytona Beach within a couple of days. We were wild and free, and no matter how much I told my friend to wear sunscreen, she was simultaneously goose-bumpy and sunburned on 75 percent of her body.

I was in training for being a mom even then. I might have muttered “I told you so” in the backseat. I mean, look at Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth; they weren’t scared of being ghostly white. It was a new era in skin tones.

Not yet owned, and in some cases, invented: cell phones, iPods, CD players in our cars. We listened to my friends’ mix tapes, a whole new world for me. Back in North Carolina, Garth Brooks was singing about friends in low places.

My friends had had a rough year: since the first week they were at college, a serial killer was on the loose who cut off girls’ heads and left them on bookshelves. No wonder they listened to things like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction.

Fast forward to a couple of nights ago, May 2012. A friend and neighbor of ours (full disclosure: age–early 40s) went to the Jane’s Addiction show. I was jealous; while I don’t know the Jane’s Addiction oeuvre, I dream about hearing the steel drums in the live version of “Jane Says” actually live.

Our friend had a great time. He said all the people there were oldies like us, but maybe young ‘uns just don’t get it.

Oh, the scathing review by the local music critic. He said Jane’s “is still partying like it’s 1991.” He wrote other less than flattering things that make me infer that perhaps he is not a fan.

I have one of Chris Cornell’s (of Soundgarden fame) newer songs, and when that album was released, it was panned because he was basically trying to be something he wasn’t. Something new, something different, something evolved.

It makes me wonder what Elvis would be doing today or why The Beatles aren’t getting back together to release a rap album.

When bands (or writers) try to stay true to themselves, it seems they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Now… I’m going to go put on some flannel and listen to Arrested Development. Maybe I’ll even party like it’s 1991. You can laugh at me if you want to.

* All French terms in this blog post were looked up on Wikipedia because I can never remember exactly how to spell them or what they mean.