Strick66 asks: “Where did you go? If I may ask.”
Good question, Strick.
TLDR answer: Taking care of my grandparents and generally trying to hide from America. (Not in a cool “Snowden” way, more of a “I HAS ANXIETY” kind of way.)
The long answer:
For the past eight years I have been taking care of my grandparents. In the past few, it required a lot of my attention and energy.
Taking care of two people with varying levels of dementia in their nineties is hard. Doing that and trying to take care of myself was more than enough.
I left the blogging space around the time Donald Trump got elected. Comedy/humor culture was already changing, but it was becoming more apparent, although still only a suspicion, that people in the country were speaking two different languages. Identical words meant entirely different things to different people.
It may come as a shock to some readers, but I don’t aim to offend people with my writing. Accidentally hurting someone’s feelings sucks.
(Huge tangent alert!!) Some humorists have a very defensive, or outright aggressive response to people reacting negatively to their work. I believe this is a reaction rooted in the horrible feeling one gets when
- The thing you wrote to make someone laugh, instead made them angry/sad.
- You are confronted with evidence that you’re not as good at your craft as you think.
- You are confronted with evidence that you are not a Socratic gadfly, but just some a^$hole on the internet.
I felt then and feel now like the window for acceptable humor has shifted, and in a lot of ways it has narrowed. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Part of what we are saying is “no more sexist jokes, racist jokes, homophobic or transphobic jokes.”
Tangent within tangent alert: What I think has a lot of comedians up in arms is that the culture is also starting to say “No more sexist jokes. No more enforcing the gender binary with “women be like SDKJFHAK” and “men be like ASKJANCSJBASNCAK” material. This is also a good thing, but it should be understood that this is the premise of many comedians’ careers. It’s how they make their living, and is a legitimate threat to their livelihood. It would be like telling a pop musician, “Okay, no more C Major chords. The kids get upset whenever you play a C Major chord.” (Tangent over!)
I didn’t have the chops to keep my IRL responsibilities in order and pay close attention to the shifts in culture to stay reliably and consistently funny in a way that was up to my standard. I felt like I would write something that I would regret in a few years time. Looking back at some of my older pieces, I feel like if I were to publish them today, they would not be received nearly as well as they did pre-2016.
There was a part of me that wanted to devote more energy into writing longer pieces of political satire, but again, I had a lot going on, and to “do it right” would have taken more than I could give. While I don’t agree essentially anything with the current administration’s direction, I’m not willing to speak in a way which will ensure that its supporters won’t listen to me. Scorched earth criticism of Trump, however merited, doesn’t seem to change anyone’s mind nor does it encourage anyone to look at the plight of the other. Additionally, I think there are enough voices out there doing that.
To me, the joy of writing is finding ways of being succinctly understood, and connecting with a wide variety of minds and perspectives by way of a single idea, or a verbal image; even better, to be understood by the minds of those with whom you are in direct opposition. I think there used to be a larger space for critiquing social/political issues founded in duopoly or bureaucracy, but in my own experience of the past few years I’ve felt a tremendous pressure to “pick a side.” It felt like I would have to choose between being heard by half the people in a disingenuous way, or authentically by no one. At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing escapism-based, inane concept jokes about anthropomorphized animals in light of all the dramatic shifts happening around the world. It felt wrong, like a tacit endorsement.
So the dilemma was this:
In a situation where there’s so much noise and yelling
and you know you won’t be heard in earnest
do you yell and make as much noise as everyone else
or do you stay quiet and save your energy for something else?
Walking away from writing completely was probably not the best overall move I could have made, but it was the best move to make for me at the time. If blogging or forming a career as a writer was my top priority, I might have stuck it out and kept going, but it wasn’t. My grandparents did a lot for me when I was a boy. They raised me for several very formative years, and it only felt right that I be there for them.
If you’ve played through OK Boomer: The Game, (found here: https://poetrobot.itch.io/ok-boomer-the-game) you’ll see some reference to end of life care. You gotta write what you know, right? Caregiving is tough. It was a lot like having small children, but they’re 140 lbs and can turn on the stove.
When my blog started gaining readers, I made a conscious decision to try to keep my personal life out of the content. I would throw out anything that pushed past sixty words because I didn’t want to take up any more of your time than was necessary to get to the chuckle parts. As my grandparents got older and needed more help, it became impossible to keep up the pattern of escapism which helped me produce. I didn’t want to write about my grandparents in a humorous way because it wasn’t funny to me, or them. I don’t like mining my life for material, and I honestly assumed that my readers didn’t care. I didn’t really want you all to care about who I was. I wanted you to like what I was writing in spite of who I was. I hated myself. I assumed you would too, given the time.
Thankfully, I have grown. I had/have a great support network which was able to lift me up when I was falling. Caregiving has been the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Most of the time it was a struggle, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Changing adult diapers and helping someone from a wheelchair to the toilet every hour or two? That’s the easy part. Playing it cool when you realize the person you’ve been living with for eight years, who helped raise you, can’t remember your name or how you’re related? Medium. That’s the medium stuff. The hard parts are still ongoing, (and old habits being hard to break, I’m not really ready to jump into them here) but being a caregiver makes you strong enough to endure.
It might take me some time before I’m ready to write about certain things, but understanding how isolating and difficult caregiving can be, I’m happy to share whatever I can. If you are a caregiver, know one, or think you might become one in the near future (spoiler alert, you probably will at some point), and you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Or just ask me anything. F#*& it. I’d like to try connecting and communicating with you all on this different level as I work on my next interactive fiction project which will hopefully be done by Christmas. Don’t worry, it’ll be silly, casual and attempt to solve none of society’s problems.
Thanks for the dynamite writing prompt Strick,
and yeah, sorry for just plopping back into existence with no explanation like some bad ex-boyfriend.
Love you guys