I just finished investigating how to protect my identity
in the wake of the Equifax hack. The exercise of trying to find out whether I had been hacked (odds are high nearly all of us have been) and how to protect myself felt silly, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how data is kind of like a psychopath. It doesn't care about anyone at all. It moves around according to rules that are in no way responsive to human emotions. It’s entirely unfeeling, and yet so many of our feelings are tied up in it.
I mean, c’mon data, why you gotta’ be like that?
It’s how data is. It’s 1s and 0s that, like a terrible relationship partner, never worries about you while you spend a lot of time worrying about it. There comes a point though, where we’ve gotta' let it go. If we don’t, it will consume our every waking hour and the fear will cripple us. So, this issue is dedicated to better ways for us to spend our time when our minds wend their way towards worries about data … or just about anything else.
Let’s go back to data, but instead of 1s and 0s, let’s talk about ink and paper. Let’s talk about reading. Apparently, a quarter of American children
do not learn to read even as reading makes us more intelligent and more empathetic
. I’ve started reading analog books in an attempt to leave my devices behind before bed. When it works, and I don’t spend the evening jumping around like a flea on the back of the internet, it’s a wonderful experience. It reminds me of the best moments of my childhood — the times when I slipped away to other worlds and saw imaginary universes through others’ eyes.
The idea that so many children are missing out on that experience is something I don't worry about. I mourn it.
Sometimes, though, when I’m reading, my mind will wander and start worrying about changes I’ve been through, changes I’m trying to instigate and changes I can’t seem to decide about making. It’s as if my mind becomes a train and the whistle is sung by (the very deeply missed) David Bowie, "Ch-ch-ch-ch-chaaangeeees!” There’s no question that change is difficult, and metabolizing, planning and initiating changes can be stressful. Remember, when your mind starts zeroing in on those changes that what you’re feeling is natural and you’re not alone in trying to work through them
Speaking of loneliness, one of the great cures for worry — particularly that existential type of worry for which there’s no real conclusion other than the active decision to stop and let go — is other people. Humans were not meant to live in little pods alone. We are not built for perpetual aloneness. In fact, it’s killing us.
I write this even as I struggle with it. Some of the more worry-filled moments in my life are the ones leading up to a social encounter. Rationally, I know it will be fine — more than fine, it will be great. I’ll learn something new; I’ll find common ground, and I will be able to find comfort in sharing with someone and, perhaps, give comfort. It will be healing, and it almost always is.
That being said, the period before I meet with someone still stresses me out. Why? Because I'm afraid of saying or doing something 'wrong' and falling short of making the best possible impression. There is a small group of people with whom I am used to socializing with regularly — the people with whom I let go and am truly myself. Those people now live relatively far away. So, I am not used to regular, non-work related social interactions. They feel odd and a bit uncomfortable, like a pair of shoes that are too small. That feeling fades soon after I sit down with someone, but it’s still there and, if it’s powerful enough, it can keep me from reaching out to others. Then, in that empty space, my worries tend to grow.
So, as you help your mind wend its way away from worry, reach out to others. If anything, they’re folks who can vouch that you are indeed you the next time the sea of data gets choppy.