Analog Girl In A Digital World

Today I realized that a very important world is passing me by.  Call it confusion, call it hubris, call it a staunch refusal to be left in the dust, or even the last vestiges of my youth resisting the natural progression of succumbing to “middle age” (gack!).  It’s a terrifying feeling, but surely a feeling that we all get from time to time as life moves faster and faster, and our natural inclination as we get older is to stop and smell the roses.  That’s all well and good, but in the meantime, the  break-neck speed of the world around us continues to accelerate.

What brought this on, you may ask?  A website.  A simple (ha!) website I am attempting to design for a cottage-industry handmade jewelry business that operates out of my house, in the spaces between my duties as a stay-home mom of a 4 year old son, not to mention associated responsibilities that go with a husband, a house, a garden, and eight assorted pets, plus all the other little day-to-day responsibilities that life thrusts upon me.

The story is this:  I designed a website for my little business a few months ago, but felt very limited by the design…it was extremely basic, and relatively expensive for what little freedom I had.  So while at a playgroup with my son recently, I decided to pick the brain of another mom who also has a home-based creative business not dissimilar from mine. She explained to me how she created her site, which I had seen already and found to be quite impressive, and WOW she made it sound so easy!  Never mind the fact that she’s one of those people who makes everything look effortless…she runs her business, cares for her twin 5 year old boys, her house is spotless, and she’s always “put together”, even at playgroups.  In spite of all this, I decided to try designing a new website design based on my friend’s advice.  I wasn’t particularly intimidated.

Side note:  Combine this with the fact that I had just finished reading a very entertaining novel called “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore”, which was all about the juxtaposition of a secret society of bibliophiles and the brilliant young employees of Google, and their joined efforts to crack a 500 year old literary code.  Inspired by my newly-piqued interest in internet technology, I thought, “Hey, I can do that – it’ll be a little more challenging, because she has more experience with that kind of thing, but I’m an intelligent, educated woman too, and surely I can get my head around it!”


There are several flaws in my theory that I could just jump right in and do this.  One, this new site is not a plug-and-go site like the other ones I’ve used, and I have absolutely NO experience in website development or coding.  I neglected the important fact that, if a website looks impressive, then it probably took an impressive web-savvy individual to get it to look that way.  Two, I am a right-brained person…I like the creative side of life, and have very little patience for that left-brain stuff like…well, internet technology. Accounting.  Organizing.  That sort of thing.  And last, one major detail I neglected to take into account is that my mom-friend is in her late 20’s, and I just turned 43.  I am 15 years older than her, and thus 15 years behind.  I am convinced that people in her generation are born tech-savvy…my belief of this was confirmed on the day my (then) 2 1/2 year old figured out how to use my husband’s smart phone, and I couldn’t even answer a phone call on the bloody thing.

Fifteen years.  It doesn’t seem like all that much in the grand scope of things, but oh baby, it is.  When I graduated college in 1993, Windows did not exist as a commercial product.  Every report I did in college was printed off on a dot-matrix printer on 11×17 scroll paper.  If it was a super-important term paper, we had to go to the ONE Mac lab on a campus of 20,000 students that printed on 8 1/2 x 11 standard paper, and we had to wait in cue for one of the three printers.  The internet wasn’t even on most people’s radar.  Two years later, when Windows hit the scene and the technological world exploded, my mom-friend would have been 10 years old, and in 4th grade.  I was 25, a college graduate and in my third year as a  professional interior designer.  It’s no wonder I feel left behind, as do most people of my age group.  Plus, I chose selected a decidedly low-tech career, one that taught me Windows-based organizational skills, but that’s about it.  Had I been born even 5 years later, I am convinced that my life would be very different.

I have never been the kind to crave the “latest thing” in hot new tech toys…quite the opposite.  My parents brought me up to think that just because everyone else was doing it, that was just about the best reason ever NOT to do it.  (In retrospect, I think this was just a ploy to get out of buying me popular toys and designer clothes.)  This “shun the popular” mentality is deeply ingrained in me, as it is in many people in my age group.  I was the last person I knew to break down and buy a DVD player, to quit hauling CDs to my car and get an iPod, and yes, to get a smart phone (I do actually have one now, and I know how to operate it).  I was on dial-up internet for WAY too long.  You see a pattern forming, surely.

However, if you want to stay even remotely current with technology, “because everyone else is doing it” is just about the best reason ever to jump on a bandwagon, or at least to research what the fuss is all about.  I am not talking about being “cool” or “trendy” here…rather, just knowing what everyone is talking about.  To understand the lingo, to be able to communicate intelligently, and ultimately know whether or not I’m using words that are painting the words “old fart” on my forehead.

My predicament is also somewhat a matter of geography.  I have lived my entire life in the midwest, where it’s even easier to get caught up in the way-back machine. My husband and I married 5 years ago, and shortly before our son was born we moved from Indianapolis to a small town in southern Indiana, in the Ohio River Valley.  Mark Twain once said, “If the end of the world ever happens, I want to be in Kentucky when it does, because everything happens in Kentucky 20 years after it happens everywhere else.”  Not to disparage Kentucky – in my experience, Louisville is one of the hippest cities around, and Newport’s pretty great, too.  But in our neck of the woods, it’s mostly…well, woods.  In some ways, our new home town is very hip – lots of artists, artisans, writers, musicians, etc.  But it isn’t the kind of place where people stay current in technology…it just isn’t a priority here.  Sadly, most of our “best and brightest” tend to leave after high school to pursue higher education and careers elsewhere, taking with them that sense of youth and progressiveness.

So all this said…how can I possibly stay current in the world?  And is it even possible to get older, live a quieter life AND remain connected?  Maybe it’s not that big a deal, but I can’t help but feel like a spectator as the world flies by me, just out of my reach.  My life has become a yin and yang, a world struggling for balance…inner peace against an insane desire to keep up with the more modern, exciting world.  I find myself searching earnestly for what Buddhists refer to as the Middle Way – a way to live centered and balanced between one’s extremes.

Is it possible?

And why does it matter to me?  The reality is, I will never work for Google, and I will probably never be required to be up on the latest technology, beyond trying to build that website that will allow me to market my simple handcrafted art (which is yet another paradox).   I accept this.  But as a mom, I feel something of an obligation to know what’s happening in the world my son will inherit.  As he grows up, he will have to be current on many of these skills, and in our small community, I fear he won’t emerge competitive in the world without additional resources.  On a more immediate note, I still want my website to look beautiful and effectively market my work, and then I want to go back to my work station and allow my artist brain to retreat to a more native setting.

Maybe my “Middle Way” is just about peaceful coexistence, letting the 20-somethings be 20-somethings – tech-savvy and connected, and letting the artists be artists.  Without one, the other has no raison d’etre – no audience, no one to do their thing FOR.  If we all were musicians, there would be no one to come to our shows.  We all have a purpose.  There must be artists and appreciators, musicians and listeners, jewelry designers and jewelry wearers.  Yin and yang.  The Middle Way…balance.