In this world

There’s a post inside of me that I’ve tried to write probably a dozen times in the last few years, and I think I’m finally going to take a real stab at it. I won’t get it right the first time, but that’s okay. I’ll keep trying.

It has to do with why the work that I currently do resonates so deeply with me, and, in a way, it’s probably an extension a complement (or a bookend?) to my post last week in response to Gardner’s recent ER article.

Here goes nothing.

This story starts with a dream. Well, actually, it’s more like a nightmare. It’s a recurring nightmare that I used to have when I was a child, and, even now, it’s not a pleasant thing to remember.

I had the dream regularly for a while when I was probably seven or eight years old. I remember having it in the house I lived in from the time I was about four until I was ten, and I don’t remember having it after then. The point is: it was a pretty formative time in my life.

In the dream, however, I was distinctly older. I remember that I was college-aged, probably late teens, early twenties, which at the time seemed REALLY OLD. and VERY MATURE.

The plot (do dreams have “plots?”) of the dream is dim; mostly what I remember is a feeling of being completely lost in the world. I remember that the older me in the dream was searching for my family (usually my mom, sometimes my dad and brother). Everytime I would think I was getting closer, something would happen and they would disappear again. I remember that I was traveling in the dream, literally chasing my family around the world.

The point of the dream was that I was lost from the people who loved me, and, now, from a different vantage point, I can see that the real point of the dream was that I couldn’t maintain the connections with the people I loved. I was terrified of those connections being broken.

That theme — fear of losing connections with people — has followed me even as the dream has faded into a very dim memory. To this day, I have a hard time with partings — particularly parting from people I love when I am (or they are) about to go on a long journey.

Six years ago, my husband (who was then my boyfriend) decided to move across the country for graduate school. I remember an irrational week or so in which I managed to convince myself that I needed to buy him a beeper. It’s CRAZY to think about it now, but at the time, I was utterly convinced that if I didn’t do this, our connection would simply melt away. If I had a beeper, I was sure I could keep the connection alive — like a constant ping from my heart to his.

As I write this, I remember that another facet of my childhood dream was that when I lost connections with people it was like they jumped to some other, parallel plane of existence. I knew they were still alive. I knew they were still searching for me, as I was for them, but I also knew that across these two planes we simply couldn’t see each other anymore. When Erik left for Montana, that’s how I felt. I was afraid he was going to jump planes, too.

In a way this paranoia about human connection has frequently thwarted my efforts to be close to people. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with people, much of the time. And I chalk that up, to a certain extent, with an anxiety I have about losing people.

So, what the heck does this have to do with anything?

Well, I’ve thought a lot about this dream during the last two or three years. I think about it at the oddest times, usually when I’ve experienced a really profound connection online

It hit me plain as day, today, when I came across this YouTube video:

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I was having a bit of a rough day (for no particularly important reason) and this video (forwarded by an old friend — one of my only remaining childhood friends) just grabbed me. In a moment, I was reminded of why working with technology in this particular space at this particular time means so much to me. I felt completely connected to something, by a video produced by a perfect stranger, about a topic that is always on my mind, always troubling and challenging me. I tweeted about it, and in a moment had a response from a Twitter friend whom I really only know from online communications. And in five minutes, I went from feeling disconnected, out-of-sorts, unsure of my place, to feeling completely immersed in something that was simultaneously bigger than me and also able to focus me on what is most essential to who I am.

I wish I could explain exactly what this means — perhaps that’s for another post.