Friday, August 16, 2013

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

There have only been a few years (maybe seven, with four of them happening before I began school) of my life when I didn't operate on the academic calendar, so I suppose it is appropriate to encapsulate the summer on this last weekday before the fall semester begins. The past 10 summers have been relatively active ones for me musically because there were many weddings to play, and there were lots of students to teach. This summer was quite different: the weddings were sparse, and my students have mostly been away.

I am basically a restless soul, and I like to keep myself occupied, so this summer I felt like I was doing relatively little. On second thought, I might have accomplished a lot in spite of my inactivity (or perhaps because of it). I learned some things about efficiency and balance, which I have been able to relate to my tendonitis-prone forearms, and, in addition to doing regular exercises with the very nifty FlexBar, I have been able to practice more mindfully.

Michael and I went on two "road trips" to New Jersey, one for pure pleasure, and one for grief. We also had a huge virtual road trip by watching the whole run of Route 66 (here are Michael's posts). I made nine new arrangements to use for weddings (one person commissioned eight of them), wrote three pieces, and had a really successful Summer Strings session in June and July (I'll have recordings from the concert eventually). Michael and I spent a lot of quality time together (some of it in parallel play), and found ways to have adventures in an otherwise-sleepy town.

I read some books, wrote some reviews, saw some movies, ate many meals, and slept late sometimes. There were days when I wasn't even sure what day it was.

I also learned some things about life as seen through a computer screen, which is where I have spent far too much time this summer.

I joined Facebook (once again), and interacted (after a fashion) with people from my various pasts. I found my Facebook (and all Facebooks are different) to be akin to a party (a movable feast, perhaps) with a mixture of people I know and don't know, a lot of whom know one another. The people who are my "friends" may choose not to see the things I post, and I can choose not to see what they post. The beauty of the system is that you never really know. It feels like broadcasting, but it isn't really. (And I know the feeling of broadcasting from my 13 years as a radio announcer.)

There are some people (friends of friends) you can wave to across a figurative room, and if they are not "important people" (as many of the people I knew back in my previous lives are) they "wave" back. Some people engage in conversations about current events, and some people compliment one another on the way they look. There are also people at the "party" who talk about their shared pasts, and people who talk about their current projects. Some people use the space to share things that they have found of interest on the internet, and some people use the space to promote causes and connect with people they otherwise would never get to connect with. It is quite a lively place, without walls, without time, and without cost, except for the toll that it takes on all the emotions connected with past times, past places, and past failures, both professional and personal.

I find myself (once again) not at "home" in such a "place." I find myself far more at "home" in the blogosphere. There is more "buzz" over at Facebook, but I think that there is more substance happening here, wherever "here" is.

I inadvertently found myself participating in an experiment of sorts here in the musical quadrant of the blogosphere. I made a short post about the decline in my blog's readership over the past several months, and suggested that more people comment about things people write on Facebook. Several other bloggers with rather high readership linked to my post, and everything was all abuzz for a day or two: I had three times my usual number of visitors for two days, and a few people actually engaged in a bit of commentary (one post had ten comments, though five of them were mine). Now it's back to "normal," which is kind of where I expected it would be.

Things observed to be in decline seem to pique people's interests. I wonder why?

I really appreciate the people who come here regularly, and I really appreciate the handful of musical bloggers who still post regularly. I have learned from my Facebook experiences that I will never really feel at home among people who just like to stop, graze, and move onto the next shiny object, particularly when I find myself doing exactly the same kind of thing.

I'm not deleting my Facebook account this time (it doesn't really delete anyway), because it is a good way to see things that our kids share (our daughter and her fiancé have an adorable cat). If you would like to communicate with me (and I hope you do) please do it by e-mail, by phone, or comment on anything I write here.

[N.B. I just learned that fiancé is the term for a man who is engaged to be married, and fiancée is the term for a woman who is engaged to be married!]


Marjorie Kransberg-Talvi said...

I too have been thinking a lot about pros and cons of the Facebook culture. It's certainly not a deepening experience. Your analogy to a party or movable feast is perfect! Facebook certainly doesn't lend itself to the introspective personality type. But it is wonderful for staying in touch with long lost friends and family members.

I wonder how the shallowness and superficiality of the "Look at me, look at what I can do, notice me, 'like' me and I'll 'like' you" inundation will ultimately affect society as a whole. Narcissists are us.

I agree with you also that summers which may seem low key or less active might, in fact, be the most productive. For example, I have been home this entire summer diligently practicing the piano! It feels better to press those piano keys than simply the like button on Facebook, that's for sure.

Elaine Fine said...

Pressing those piano keys IS certainly a far better experience than pressing the like button. Excellent comparison. I'm looking forward to pressing some piano keys of my own tomorrow. The tuner (thank goodness, and at long last) comes at 9:00.