Outlook March 2021

Strange moment, not that they aren’t nearly all strange anymore.

A little over a year since America’s shit-just-got-real moment for a COVID-19 pandemic, it looks at last like we can see an end to our long plague year. It isn’t here yet. But with functioning national governance restored (just barely, for now) and vaccine distribution in high gear, it seems possible that we can avoid another severe case surge. As of today I have hopes of getting scheduled for vaccination soon, several weeks ahead of my previous expectation. This amid a yo-yo few days, which of course have involved ups and downs, but feel overall discouraging of enthusiasm or effort.

So what now?

While I am not completely sans interest in resuming various suspended activities, I reject “back to normal” as a general theme for either society or myself. The former should not really require explanation. As for myself, I have not really had a plan or even a strategy for years. This seems like as good a time as any to explore the idea.

How, then, do I “build back better?”

I may post more about this when it’s done, but I have felt for many months that avoiding COVID-19 until I can attain the protection of blessed vaccination will constitute a significant accomplishment. It feels like I’m almost there now! But, fine, with or without an eventual victory lap, what follows?

I have options, but nothing stands out as obviously a correct choice.

I’m reminded a bit of when I lost my last “real job” nearly 15 years ago; my immediate priority was survival, of course, but eventually I seemed to have that in hand and began considering an open choice of where to live. Nothing against Elyria, Ohio, but I was only ever there to live close to one shortlived job, and after it went away it was never likely I could even find another one there. Once I decided (however prematurely) that I was ready to make a living as an independent professional I could go somewhere else.

I didn’t really know where to go, and never really reached a definite conclusion about the “correct” choice. I ended up in Lakewood, rather than any other place, mostly from a combination of peer hints and a feeling. I don’t regret the decision, but it doesn’t offer me any convincing model to revisit. Not least because even after I moved here, for years I scarcely even lived in Lakewood to speak of. It was only further chance that drew me into the strange patchwork life of activism and local politics which became the foundation for most of my present social and professional lives also.

Is there anything else I can do, though, about questions of where to go either literally or more figuratively? I have worked in many media but designing a life or even a stage of life seems like more than a three-pipe problem.

I chanced today on the interesting musings of Venkatesh Rao. Complex, deep, and abstract, I’m not sure yet how helpful they may be. But those related to “Act Two of Life” i.e. 40 through retirement feel particularly relevant. I’m 42 and it certainly seems like mainstream culture has little help to offer me or even interest in this period of life.

I have recognized that it’s largely rubbish, but there is only very limited difference I’m ever going to make to the overall scale or trend of the rubbish pile-up. If there is a far shore, somewhere beyond, I won’t see it.

What do I do, then?

A lot of what I have been doing in recent years has been fulfilling, but it’s now questionable how much that will remain the case. Lakewood is a good example in miniature. The term is only too appropriate for what I have thought of throughout the years of political warfare, over it, as a “postage-stamp kingdom.” When things were toughest, the fact that I can walk to two other municipalities provided some comfort. Now, it pushes the question of how much it matters to continue this project.

I am proud of having helped replace feral local government with a decent, functional alternative. It was not easy, it was not a guaranteed outcome. But it now feels like kind of a state of equilibrium may make further substantial improvement much more difficult. If I have fought a war for a postage-stamp kingdom, the result has been at most a truce on fairly favorable terms compared with the starting conditions. It feels like there is little enthusiasm to sustain the same effort toward winning the peace. Which may be entirely reasonable.

But what then for me? I’m appreciated and even genuinely valued, here, to an extent, but it’s a limited extent and I’m not irreplaceable to Lakewood, any more than Lakewood is irreplaceable to me. Both are fine.

But what else do I do? What do I want?

I have puzzled for years, already, over what if any is the intersection between what I want and what I have any real ability to do something about. That in mind, I guess the odds are not great that I will any time soon find an answer, let alone a correct one.

Maybe I can at least turn up some clue.

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