I hate to admit it, but I’m not very good about keeping up on national or international news, or even local for that matter. Every time something big breaks–a hurricane, a political scandal, some economic upheaval, a big issue in an election–I swear I’m going to be better, get in on the ground floor, and follow to the end. My best run of this was probably in 2008 with the Obama campaign (I even shook his hand!), and again in 2011 with SB5 in Ohio and the attempt to abolish unions. I read the blogs, kept up on CNN, had actual informed conversations with my friends and family. I felt pretty smug about the whole thing, I’m not going to lie, but eventually I’d be reading on CNN and my mind would wander and I’d wonder if anyone had written up the latest episode of Project Runway I’d missed because I was diligently following important issues, or I’d want to read a book rather than watching the news, and next thing I knew, I was as dumb and behind as I’d been before.
So much of graduate school boils down to trying to appear smart, of being too afraid to admit when you don’t know something, and yet because I’ve felt behind the curve most of my life, I was easier to admit this than some of my friends. I remember being in a conversation one time where a woman was caught not knowing what was going on and she said, “I just can’t watch the news anymore. It makes me too angry.” It took everything I had not to laugh. Did she really just say the reason she didn’t know what was going on was because she was too invested in politics?
I had a conversation recently about a friend of a friend who had stopped writing. She said she couldn’t deal with the whole image of being a capital-w “Writer” and had stopped. Again, I call bullshit. The only reason I’ve ever stopped writing or ever stopped working on a project is fear of failure. Fear it’s not going to be good enough or I’m not going to be good enough to pull it off.
I understand why we say things like we can’t watch the news because it’s so upsetting or why we nod as if we understand something we don’t, but be sure as you’re spreading the bullshit, that you’re at least honest with yourself. I recently purchased an iPad (then quilted a homemade sleeve for it and asked my dad to make me a stand for it in his woodworking shop, projects Barry refers to as folk-tech) and have vowed to watch/read the NBC nightly news highlights every morning, never mind that I picked this show because Brian Williams’s daughter is on the show Girls. So far I don’t feel any smarter or more well-informed, just more aware of the vastness of what’s going on and how little I understand, which is similar to how I feel starting a new writing project. Oh well, I tell myself. One article read, one page written and I’m bound to be better off than I was.
Here’s the iPad sleeve, available for order and small parties.