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September 27, 2023
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More than once over the past handful of years I’ve adhered to a contractual rule that my landlord didn’t realize existed.
It’s almost always a quibbling, silly little line-item of no interest or importance to anyone, included in the boilerplate so they’re not liable for some theoretical category of damage that could (maybe, possibly, in some reality) result from some unlikely act of god or war—but I try to work such rules into my thinking and routine, just in case.
I picked up this tendency of (arguably) over-strict contract-adherence when I first decided to try living in the US again after spending the better part of a decade on the road, popping around from country to country for months at a time.
It began as a sort of compensation for my lack of recent, in-country rental history, as my documentation and references from earlier periods of US-based housing had disappeared in the years I’d been gone.
The only credentials I could offer my new, would-be landlords was bank-provided evidence that I had some money socked away and the earnest promise that I wouldn’t set anything on fire, run a drug den, or do any of the other things I expected these lessors to care about.
More recently I’ve learned that renters mostly only care about your criminal and credit history (and I’m in a good spot in both of those regards), but I’ve lately noticed similar preemptive, presumptive counterbalancing attempts in other aspects of my life and habits, as well, primarily aimed at assuaging concerns I worry other people might harbor about my unusual lifestyle and career choices (and in some cases at my own anxieties about potential shortcomings).
In 2016, for instance, I realized that my professional work had become almost exclusively short-term, project-based, and thus incredibly feast-and-famine prone.
I wrote books, I gave talks, I periodically had other little projects here and there, but there wasn’t anything consistent or stable baked into that larger mix.
So when I came up with project I thought would benefit from constancy—a weekly news analysis podcast—I decided that I would release an episode every week no matter what; nothing would stop me from putting out a new episode every single Tuesday, come what may.
As it turns out, that sort of commitment can help one learn the ropes of podcast-making (and other things) fairly rapidly, and it has indeed served as a self-reminder that I can do difficult things, over time, dependably—even when I’m feeling less than capable of accomplishing anything at all.
It has also been a little much, at times.
I’ve made episodes while sick and barely able to croak comprehendible words into the microphone.
I’ve made episodes from locations where partitioning-off enough aural space to produce something other than a garbled vocal mess was all but impossible.
I made episodes the day after breakups, the day of birthdays and holiday parties, and during, leading up to, and just-following major life milestones.
Many of these over-exertions probably weren’t necessary (or advisable), but part of me felt like if I ever backed down from that cadence, that promise to publish a new episode every single Tuesday, I would be showing the world that I was unreliable, inconsistent, maybe even untrustworthy.
And that almost certainly wouldn’t have been the case.
If one of my favorite podcast hosts failed to produce a show because of sickness or grief or other such tumult, I might be momentarily disappointed to not have a new episode in my feed, but it wouldn’t negatively reshape my perception of them. If anything I would probably respect their (possibly difficult) decision to take a step back and get their house in order.
Over the past year or so I’ve started to address elements of my life that seem like they might be predicated on this sort of overcompensation, rather than rational attempts to balance legit weak-spots in the way I do things.
Efforts that—though ostensibly heroic and the good kind of self-sacrificing—actually probably diminished my capacity to make and live and learn and grow, rather than amplifying it.
I gave myself a week off from that aforementioned podcast at the end of last year, and that was wonderful and liberating and great for my psychological well-being, but also terrifying in an ineffable way.
I personally think it’s healthy to be honest with oneself about weak-spots and areas of possible improvement, and a sign of strength to acknowledge and shore-up these facets when possible (and to look for ways to sustainably compensate for that underperformance when it’s not).
That said, there’s a point at which this sort of self-reinforcement exercise becomes unhealthful and unhelpful, fueled by unwarranted anxieties rather than reality, and at times even wringing us out instead of building us up and helping us become more balanced.
I’ll probably continue reading (and attempting to understand and adhere to) contracts, as that feels like a generally reasonable, bulwarking flavor of gap-filling, but I do feel like I’ve proven my credibility (to myself) in many of the spaces I’ve previously flagged as potential vulnerabilities. And my hope is that this’ll help me work more give into some of the structures shaping my life that, up till this point, have been deleteriously rigid.
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Interesting & Useful
“Taken over seven years in ten nations—these include Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, and Tanzania—the aerial photos, which are compiled in a forthcoming book published by Steidl, present a dichotomy between a region irrevocably altered by humanity and one of immense possibility.”
How Movie Props Are Made (video)
“To make a movie feel as realistic as possible you have to have the right props. And there are numerous super specialized props that require a broad range of expertise behind the scenes, from paper bags that don’t make a sound on set and broken glass that won’t harm an actor to fake blood and vomit. Here’s a look at 13 you may not have known about and how they are made.”
“Mykhailo, a 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier from Lviv, was injured on the frontline of the Luhansk region by Russian artillery on April 24, 2022. Today, he spends 24 hours a day at the Halychyna Rehabilitation Center in recovery from the loss of a leg. He says he can’t wait to be useful again, and so, he practices using a drone from his hospital bed. “This is a drone war after all,” he says.”
I wrote the above essay a few weeks ago, but it’s only become more appropriate since then, as this past week-ish has been a lot more “flexible” than usual, work-wise, and for very good and appropriate reasons.
Thanks so much to everyone who sent well-wishes and kind words about my nephew and family; I’m hoping to respond to the emails I haven’t responded to yet, today.
Things are still up in the air, but there have been small signs of hope—my little sister was able to hold her child for the first time in what feels like forever a few days ago, and there are finally some theories about what may be going on, causing his many and worrying health issues, which gives us all something to hold onto and be optimistic about.
My girlfriend and I spent last week in Seattle helping out around the house, taking care of the pets, and running errands, as the whole Seattle-based family has been completely drained by this experience, and it’s been disrupting everything in their world, including their ability to work, sleep, or even leave the hospital.
My older sister, who lives in Florida, flew up to take on that helper role when we returned to Milwaukee, and now we’re all just waiting to see what happens next, hoping for more good news (and infinitely grateful the baby is in a children’s hospital with such great specialists and kind staff).
I’m getting back into the rhythm of my normal work schedule, post-trip, though my girlfriend is beginning a monthlong artist residency in Wausau, WI a week from today (and another based ON A SHIP chugging along the US East Coast soon after that), so I’ll be driving her up to Wausau, checking out the town, and then heading back down to Milwaukee to focus on some projects that’ve been sitting on my list of things-to-do for what seems like a very long time.
I’m hoping to keep to my usual production schedule for the foreseeable future, though I may miss a day or two of OSN next week, due to that mini-roadtrip.
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