The digitaleidoscope CIC is on the move!
If you’re wondering why the updates have been sparse, that’s why. We’ve left our old home and moved to a new one on campus, and it’s been a little more chaotic settling into a new location and a new semester (and a new job) than I expected. Never fear — the mobile battlestation is all set up and ready to roll.
We’ll be resuming your regularly scheduled programming this weekend — from our slightly more compact setup. Sorry for the brief hiatus, but the WAD reviews and bad LPs of obscure strategy games will be back in force in just a few days! From the new digitaleidoscope command center at UMass Lowell, this is scwiba signing off.
Some days are less good than others. I’m writing this at the end of one of those days, and it might be a bit too squishy a look into my life for you, but I’m going to write this anyway. The About page does advertise “unfiltered emotions,” after all; it’s about time I lived up to that claim.
It’s a less-good day for a slew of reasons. Some are things that happened and some are things that didn’t happen. Things I said and things I should have said but didn’t. And most importantly, some things I didn’t do.
I’m not sure what’s been wrong with me lately. At the heart of it, I think, the truth is that I’ve been afraid. Most creative people know what that feeling is like — the fear that you’re losing your touch, or never had it to begin with. For a while, I’ve been wondering whether I’m headed downhill. I put a novel on hold to work on something else. But then I stopped working on that — I couldn’t say why — and the longer I put it off, the more guilty and ashamed I become, and I want even less to go back to it. I wrote huge, compelling literary analysis papers last semester that impressed even me, and so far this semester I’ve been unsure how to dip into that scholarly well at all.
My blogging has taken a similar turn. More and more I’ve started to feel like it lacks any substance. Last week’s (failed) attempt at reviewing my very favorite Doom WAD ever left me with some big worries. I was honestly relieved to find that I’d missed the anniversary because everything I’d written up to that point had felt empty anyway. All I could do, it seemed, and it has seemed for a while, was say that something is wonderful — but not explain why it’s wonderful. That bothers me, to know that I love something but to be unable to find that core truth of why it matters so much to me.
In less than a week, I’m going to be back here. In this place, right up there.
Or somewhere nearby. I’m not sure I have any classes in Coburn this semester… but you get the idea.
I’ve written about this place once or twice. Made reference to it when I took some photos near the campus. But I’ve never come out straight-up and said it, so here it is for posterity: This is UMass Lowell, where I go to school, and this is one of my favorite places on Earth. For a year now, I’ve made my home-away-from-home here — off and on, obviously — but in six days, it’ll be on again.
A while ago, I posted about how I was looking for a job. I got one.
You know that “I have no idea what I’m doing” image macro? That’s me at this new job. There’s probably a list somewhere of the jobs computer nerds aren’t really cut out for, and I’d say selling power tools is on that list. There is nothing more out of place than me in a hardware store. How did I get this job, again?
It’s that time of year. Well, one of those that times. Time for a reset.
The stress of research papers, exams, final projects distracts you enough not to really see it coming. Then, suddenly, it’s right there staring you in the face: the end. The end for now, anyway.
Did you have the chance to say goodbye to everyone you met over the semester? To throw a thank you at the professors who inspired you and really taught you something? To just take in the atmosphere of the campus, the place — the community — that you won’t be a part of again for more than three months?
Well, I sort of dropped the ball on all of those. Except the last one, and that only reminded me how much I’m going to miss this place.
In my quest to better understand you humans and more accurately emulate your behavior, I have come across one question that has long stumped me.
What separates a child from an adult?
It’s a more difficult question than it sounds. My original data seemed to indicate two distinct groups: kids and adults; and telling them apart was easy. An unexplainable transformation clearly took place at some point, turning kids into adults by turning them big and boring and making them care more about work than play. The exact process was a mystery, of course, but the logic was sound and founded on empirical evidence.
But as I grew older and collected more data, I began to question even these basic conclusions. Was adulthood more of a sliding scale rather than a distinct category? How strange — but it seemed to be the case. After all, there was something called a teenager — which appeared to exist between the two extremes — and as I fast approached this stage, I realized it did not fit neatly into my previous dichotomic system.
If adulthood then was a scale, what determined where you fell on this scale? This is the question that has confounded me, but I believe I may have encountered the answer.
Over the weekend, I took a break from the rigors of college to get grilled on something even more challenging: first grade sentence completion and math equations. I had a pretty tough teacher but I think I did well, all things considered.
Did I mention my niece is one of my favoritest people in the world?
I saw a girl who looked just like you. Really — just the same.
I’ll set the scene for you. It was in the cafeteria, and she was sitting at that computer on the far right. At that school we used to go to, where I first saw you. I know, it’s like ancient history.
She had hair that perfect shade of brown. Just like yours. Glasses, too; you know I’m a sucker for glasses. She wore dress pants and a blazer some days, all serious business. Other times, those baggy jeans: the kind that are so ungirly that they wrap around the other end of the spectrum and become girly again. I’m not sure on the science of it.
So there we were, stuffed together into the same physical space, but that never does me much good, does it? I did try to close the distance, though, you know. I’d always snag the seat next to her if I could.
She may have thought I was a creep if she noticed. She’d probably be right. I’ll admit I got pretty familiar with her schedule too. Not that I meant to — just, I couldn’t help but notice that she always came in and left at around the same times. I got to look forward to it, and every time I’d say, “This will be the day. This will be the day that I say something.” I’d ask her if the seat is taken. That’s pretty innocuous. Or I’d ask something about the campus, maybe.
A very good friend of mine shared this the other day, originally from The Winter of the Air:
Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart. You’re just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning. And also more exciting things like books you’re reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence. Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting. And suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. There used to be the comfort of a number in your phone and ears that listened everyday and arms that were never for anyone else. But just to calm you down when you started feeling trapped in a five-minute period where nostalgia is too much and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign. When you realize that you’ll never be this young again but this is the first time you’ve ever been this old. When you can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done. You’re going to breath in and out. You’re going to be fine in about five minutes.
The numbers might need a nudge this way or that. The bits and pieces may not quite line up with my script. This piece doesn’t perfectly reflect my story, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how the words are arranged. No, it’s about the truth under the surface, and that truth resonated with a lot of people. With me. With my friend.
I have this problem. I hope I’m not the only one. Maybe you have it too.
You see, the internet has spoiled me. In a digital world, when I meet someone kind or interesting or inspiring, there is always some URL involved — or an e-mail address, a screen name, a gaming handle — some way to find this person again. Staying in connected, if you choose to, is a matter of a few keyboard strokes or mouse clicks. Easy peasy.
The real world doesn’t work like that, and that bums me out. I find that I always meet the most beautiful, charming people in passing, at the supermarket, at work, at school, and I have no way to ever find them again. Does this happen to anyone else?