For several years now, I've been characterizing this little pixel-based rhetorical exercise as an Unauthorized Autobiography, and the more I think about that term, the better I like it: the sheer volume of stuff I produce makes it almost impossible to avoid the unintentional disclosure of deep, dark secrets. (This, any good writing coach and several bad ones will note, is why you, or at least I, need an editor.) What's most obvious here, of course, is that I am not actually deceased at this writing (duh), and therefore the narrative remains incomplete.

The next question, I suppose, should be "Is the end in sight?" No, not really; I'm definitely moving more slowly than I used to, and there are some things that hurt I didn't even know I had, let alone that they could hurt, but I don't think I've lost more than the standard number of brain cells, and if occasionally I find myself pausing to come up with the right word, well, it's not like that's ever happened before. And my typing, while no better, is also no worse.

I generally hate to quote Richard Bach, mostly out of a long-standing animus toward that freaking seagull of his, but I suspect he was spot-on with this one: "Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't."

Now: do I have a mission? I've never been entirely, or even partially, sure; in general, I play it by ear and hope I'm not deafened somewhere along the way. I mean, I never had an answer for the archetypal Kid Question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This should have been settled half a century ago, right? And at this point I'm about as grown-up as I'm ever going to be. I suppose I could always serve as a bad example, but a bad example of what, exactly? I'm a decent driver: one chargeable accident in thirty-nine years, for which they didn't charge me. I occasionally knock my writing chops, but it's inarguable that I get more than my share of practice, and even the dubious venture into fanfiction has been at least somewhat successful: of the readers willing to click the thumb icons at the repository, 90 percent have voted me up.

I should point out that what makes it "dubious" is not the fact that fanfic is the Rodney Dangerfield of writing, but that it's something I went into while strongly suspecting that it would play hell with my emotional makeup. Which it did, and then some: both the characters I borrowed and the ones I devised seem to be inextricably bound up with my so-called "normal" existence. (As some of you may have noticed, a growing number of routine posts make specific references to story passages — or maybe it's the other way around.) At one level, this is a Good Thing, because it provides a shunt for particular emotions I'd just as soon not deal with; on another, not dealing with something is seldom the answer.

Less dubious to me, perhaps more so to you, is my social-media activity, which has grown from mere dabbling to something vaguely serious, at least as regards Twitter, where I seem to have become part of the top 5 percent of the user base without even trying hard. This is probably explainable by the fact that I do have a marginal gift for the one-liner, and a 140-character space doesn't leave much room for more than one line. There are some people who follow me for no discernible reason, and I'm grateful to them even while I puzzle over their presence on the list.

To be fair, my own reasons for following people are often obscure or even obtuse. But some of them I can explain. For instance, I started following Annemarie Dooling because she had the temerity to live-tweet a bank robbery while she was standing in line; I stayed with her because she's been something of a globetrotter all these years, and because she lives on Staten Island, which for some inscrutable reason I seem to think is prodigiously cool. And she posted the following advice on her blog just yesterday: "You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one."

Welcome to 2014. Please have exact change — because change will almost certainly exact something from you.

The Vent

  1 January 2014

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