I have a hard time executing goodbyes. I’m fine with the actual goodbyes, but initiating them on my own terms when the other people are otherwise occupied is sometimes too big of an obstacle for me to overcome. It happens every Thanksgiving. The rules of etiquette dictate (presumably; not like I’ve checked) that I should say goodbye to everyone, preferably personally. I know this. And yet when I see my friend’s aunt in animated conversation with her brother-in-law, it’s hard for me to feel like I am supposed to interrupt them to alert them of my imminent departure. It just feels so presumptuous. “I know you’re having a super awesome conversation right now, but obviously you wouldn’t want to miss saying goodbye to me, whom you see four hours a year.” I do it because as wrong as it feels I know I will be talked about if I don’t. But in other non-Thanksgiving situations, it’s a lot easier to just slip away.
About a year ago, I decided I would become a Public Person. I’m the sort who had my Graduate Student House Committee picture pulled from the wall because I hadn’t consented to the photo and they’d taken it without asking from someone else’s Facebook page. Tsk tsk. I only existed online anonymously until Facebook, and there everything was kept to potential friends. The decision to leave my comfort zone was a Big Deal for me. I started stating my opinions on public posts using my real name. Calling white people racist! Calling men sexist! I did this because I was planning on writing a book that I would have to market and I wanted the practice. I also saw engagement as a way to hone my skills and sharpen my views. Fighting trolls was my war games.
Then I semi-accidentally became a semi Public Person for a different reason than I’d planned. I accumulated like-minded or interested friends, I argued more in large Facebook groups. I sorta looked forward to the “White Nonsense Bat Call” that meant I could unleash my social justice sarcasm.
But people were dying. On the internet. On Facebook. Live.
Is this the real life?
I want to put myself into everything I do, but I’m scraping the sides of an empty pot.
A possible side effect of internalized racism, of internalized sexism, is a defective, walled-off heart. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I “understand” in my heart:
I “understand” in my heart that women who aren’t “careful” will be assaulted.
I “understand” in my heart that “criminals” will be murdered.
I “understand” in my heart that marginalized people do not have the same rights to life as white cis het college boys and their wealthy fathers.
For decades, these understandings gave life the illusion of sustainability. The alternative, separating myself from my white peers for a life of never-ending outrage, was too terrifying. These understandings worked, but now that I’m rejecting them—and it takes work—I’m finding I struggle to have a truly natural reaction to racist and sexist violence.
My entire internet life was violence, and I stand by that. Violence is serious and outrageous and must be stopped and for many of us our contributions to that fight will be through the dissemination of information and by staying engaged. I applaud my friends who know themselves, who feel their feelings, who can keep their friends/followers updated on tragedy, who sometimes must pull themselves out of their sorrow, postponing their own grief, to share news with the world. I hope to be there someday. To deal with the day-to-day without it costing me so much that I don’t have room for longer term goals.
The truth is, I think I can be a stronger advocate than I am right now. I think I can do more than scrape together passionate, topical status updates. But I need time away. I need to work on myself and my research.
Right now Facebook is a really cool party I stepped away from and then remembered I was an introvert and could totally just go home even though I was having fun and all my friends are still there. (And it’s not just Facebook, I have no idea what’s going on in the world or in politics and it is a wonderful privilege I’m cashing in on.)
I’m sorry I left so abruptly, especially for those who thought it was personal. I deactivated less than a day after I posted about it, and deactivation erased the evidence. I thought it would be a short break, but I don’t see myself coming back before the election, if I’m honest. I actually fantasize about not knowing who wins. Though I think I’ll be able to tell based on whether I start getting advice to apply for jobs in Canada. I miss hearing from people. I miss talking to people. In lieu of Facebook notifications, I just press refresh on my email in my downtime. I considered rejoining but turning off notifications, or starting a page for my blog so that I could at least share things. But is that one-sidedness rude and presumptuous? Or is it nicer than full departure? Somehow I can’t differentiate between arrogance and kindness when it comes to sharing myself. I guess that’s just another thing to work on while I’m away.