I was sitting in a café with a dear friend asking her advice on a community education project I am working on. We’re imagining the question, “What does it mean to be a citizen in the 21st century?” and we’re thinking of how to implement informal “schools” to develop poor people’s critical thinking and leadership skills. (I speak of citizen with a small “c” as in an engaged community member not related to national borders.)
During the conversation she asks me how long since I’ve been back from Kabul. I nonchalantly say, “about 10 weeks” and then in a split second I realize it’s only been 10 weeks! I stop short, my head snaps around and I say, “Girrrl, I can’t believe it.” She, of course, breaks out laughing as she just watched me think about what I said, change my mind, and surprise myself with my own thought!
Until this point, I had been feeling sort of bad, lonely, even lazy. I was feeling like I must not be doing anything useful because I haven’t written a witty Facebook comment or updated my blog. I was afraid of becoming obsolete!
The moment in the café helped me understand that I’m not a loser, I’m just not very good on quick chatty updates and brief synopses of my life. I need time. I need to relate to the listener (or reader).
I can’t write a tweet, but I can write a note. I love notes. Notes are wonderful ways of situating yourself in relation to something or someone else. A note is really about the writer and it allows you to get to know someone better. Even when people write more academic or professional notes, it’s a response that has been processed through someone’s mind at a specific moment in time. And notes can change. I can write a note about a note. It’s like the old fashioned version of a status update!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and keeping up with friends through email and such (hello, this is an e-note!). but I hate the way social media has been monetized and turned into a competition. We feel the need to have more “followers”; the things we share get graded by the number of “likes” or “retweets”.
I want to share things with folks and stay in touch – hey, I’m writing this now – but not because I’m in a competition, because I want to share what’s on my mind and what’s exciting me. So now that I have a little more of your attention, here is my most twitter-esque update which succinctly expresses those deeply meaningful ideas rolling around in my head for the last 10 weeks:
- I’ve been creating an exchange program between Afghan and Pakistani arts-for-change practitioners.
- I’ve been creating a curriculum for an online school which teaches critical thinking and anti-oppression methods for teachers in Iran.
- I’ve been preparing for my research in India this fall.
- I’ve been thinking about how to use an arts and culture framework for critical analysis of our society and community engagement.
- I’ve been helping a friend get an Institute for Oral Traditions started in Afghanistan.
- How to see my close friends and family more.
- I write this note to stay connected to you. I’d love to receive a note on this note. Let me know where your head has been in the last 10 weeks.