I'm going to ramble for a little bit before I go to bed. Polyachka did an interview series with me a while back. It's mostly the raw IRC transcript, and it's long:

  1. Red Hat
  2. Academia
  3. OLPC intern
  4. Grassroots
  5. Teaching
  6. How to get started
  7. Recognition and getting paid
  8. Future

I read this and thought to myself - knowing it was an odd reaction to have - Mel, you're on a plateau, and you can't study your way out of this one.

My life now is, to some extent, what I dreamed of as a kid - making my own way in the world, information, inspiration, books and texts and conversations open to me, the ability to travel, the globe unlocked. I'm technically competent and reasonably up-to-date, can learn new things quickly, hop between societies and cultures and shape familiar communities and quickly find my footing when I dive into new ones. I have friends. I'm part of these webs of people that I choose, and people know me - they know me, and they accept that. I'm recognized for standing on my own two feet, any other demographic adjectives paling next to just goddamn proven competence. I know I won't be hungry. I know nobody can tell me to do something I don't want to do.

So the thing is, I didn't really dream of this as a kid, per se. I didn't dream of much that was particularly specific; I knew what I didn't want, and I went away from that, towards things that looked better, warmer. Brighter. I grasped at schools, fought to be allowed to go there - that's what I could visualize. Get in the door, and then somebody would take care of me - schools have programs, scaffolding, long conveyor belts that make sure you get from point A to point B and pick up learning along the way.

And some time later, you look up and go wait, why do people think I know things? And realize that you've allowed yourself to rest a moment on the past, and haven't done something clearly measurable that's gotten tracked over an extended period of time - because you don't have somewhere concrete to go to. You can't design a learning program without end-goals. You lie in bed and know you could make - with time and hard work - any future you wanted and could see... except you can't see anything but vagueness. There's no vision. Nothing. The ability you have to see the world, in all its complex glory, as it could be - the bits and pieces that you saw when you were younger, and brought into being... those bits and pieces are all you've got. That ability doesn't magically get better when you have more time to think. You're actually more apt to sit and look around, a little lost, slipped out of rhythm.

I've felt, the last few months especially, like I'm sitting around waiting for life to start. That I'm in a holding spot, waiting for - not quite sure what. Grad school is the easy answer, because then there will be a schedule, course requirements, a graduation target date again - people to tell me what to do, tell me I've accomplished something, and how well I've done it. I want that, but I want to move through it with my own grace and my own power; I don't want a mental conveyor belt, but I'm still getting slowly and awkwardly used to the silence and the noise of my mind when there's nothing but gentle awareness around it. I can't stay with myself too long yet; I've been practicing, more and more steadily over the past month, just lying in bed trying to be there, trying to think without forcing it into preset logical structures, trying to visualize something. Anything. The future that I want.

I've learned to go fast; now I'm learning to be still. I've learned to drive towards tough, far-off goals; now I'm learning to live without them, how to find and make my own and shape them. I'm learning things I can't see or feel or taste or touch; I'm learning things I can't detect and will never get credit for, because they don't show. It's a rearranging of something under the surface, in preparation for a growth spurt that will happen... at some point. Might be next week. Might be next year. I have no idea. But I'm staying with it, gently bringing myself back to it, riding and noticing and enjoying and appreciating the plateau, telling myself that this is also part of life, that winter and a white blanket is a part of life, that resting comes before renewal.

And noticing that somehow, words have floated back around and circled you into a poetry of puzzled peace. All right - so that's the way it is tonight, the words coming out from my fingers and my brain. I'll let them float here, hang here, stay here... I don't need to understand them in the way I'm used to intellectual understanding, I can let them hang in thinking-pictures, things to play with. There will be a time for logic and clear writing tomorrow, when I'm writing my section of a conference paper... right now, I think I just needed to let myself go and not make sense.

Good. Lesson learned for the night, I think. Bedtime.

(As a side note: I know, I know, sometimes my posts remind me of a random linkspam generator too. Honestly, I'm not sure quite what I'm doing when I write like this - I only know I need to write and publish, that it will get covered in a shower of other, more-coherent words over the next few days, and that I truly do love poetry and the feel of written language and its texture, and sometimes just need to run my fingers through its gritty silk and... play.)