Dearest Rachel –
You’ll probably remember, shortly after first setting up the office in the folks’ basement, I started to wonder why it was I was trying to get onto YouTube as an animator… especially when, as I came to discover, I had next to no talent in either art or animation. Did I even have a message – apart from the one that GenZers and Millennials were no different from what Baby Boomers and GenXers were at their age – that was worth conveying, or that kids would listen to?
Some of the obvious motivators simply weren’t there, after all. Fortune certainly wasn’t a guiding light; the whole reason I’d dropped out of work and its soul-crushing existence was because we could afford to (as well as the ‘official’ reason, to keep an eye on Dad as he recovered from his illness, and help Mom in any way I could). If a YouTube channel made money, that was of no concern to me. In fact, I loathed – and still loathe – the idea of advertisements, despite being painfully aware that advertising revenue was basically what the internet ran on, like it or not (and I didn’t). I had no desire to shill for a company, and little respect for those who did (although I will give Simon Whistler credit for his tongue-in-cheek approach on his Business Blaze channel – not to mention his absolute refusal to advertise for certain things, like Raid: Shadow Legends.)
Then, there was the matter of aiming to become “internet famous.” Did I really want that? For a while, I thought I did… although on a modest scale. After all, the reason I was considering animation was because who wanted to see some old guy like me on their screen? Best to have some kind of avatars standing in for me, and Daniel, and you, and the girls – something softer and more relatable than hard reality. But even then, I was watching those who had become successful deal with the impact their platform had – Jaiden, for instance, made a complaint about one of the hotels she and her friends had stayed at while on tour, and it was quickly flooded by negative Yelp reviews and the like from her fans, and she practically had to order them to back off – which went against character to a dissonant extent, but definitely needed to be done. It’s not just power: with great anything comes great responsibility. And I discovered that I didn’t want that either, much as I might have appreciated having a platform from which to tell everyone to “settle down, we’re all human when yo come down to it.”
So what was my motivation? The best I could conclude – and I know I told you about this even as far back as when we had been making plans to go to VidCon 2020 before everything blew up in everybody’s faces – was that I wanted to be a part of that group of people who made animation videos. To be part of the pantheon among the likes of Jaiden, James, Rebecca, Alex, SomethingElseYT, TimTom, CypherDen, PJ, and so forth.
But the more I’ve bothered to learn about some of these kids (for – relatively speaking, kids they are, most being in their twenties, or at most, early thirties) is how little I have in common with them. Even if I were to actually join this elite fraternity, what they enjoy and spend their time and attention on (when they aren’t, y’know, working on this animation project or that), wouldn’t be something I would necessarily find appealing. As much as my original theme might have been that we generations aren’t all that different and should be able to get along better, the fact is that our lived experiences, including our likes and dislikes and the like, are in fact different, to the point where, while we might understand and tolerate each other, being close friends turns out to be the exceptional experience rather than any norm one might expect. An older adult would have to make himself ridiculous in an attempt to blend in with the younger generations
or a young person would have to sort of ‘nerd out’ to understand (and prefer) his parents’ and their peers’ point of view. Either way, these living anachronisms are rare… and I can’t consider myself one of them.
Which brings me back to the original question: why do I still want to do this? And the answer, up to this point, lies in the fact that I have yet to produce a single frame of animation or create a single suitable avatar to represent any one of us.
In short, the answer is… I’m not.
Which brings us to the subject at hand: today’s get-together. Those who signed up to run the Marathon were to meet as a group at the local forest preserve and run – or walk, thankfully, as it turned out – for 35 minutes, together. The idea is to make what would otherwise be considered a solitary, almost lonesome activity, into a team thing, complete with an internal support group among us. And they do make an effort to be supportive: one of the organizers (with her husband) offered to pick me up and bring me to the meeting point, so I would be able to know where and when everyone would be meeting from then on each week.
The group – twelve of them when we arrived, and ultimately something like thirty by the time we started down the path – was friendly and welcoming, but I can’t deny that I felt ill at ease. Although I’m sure it would have been even more uncomfortable had I shown up in street clothes, I felt ridiculous wearing a neon green shirt and swim trunks for shorts. I understand that I wasn’t the only complete novice there this morning, but I’m fairly sure I was in the minority. And even among those who acknowledged having never run a marathon (or, as our leader Jim put “raise your hands if this is your first marathon:” it isn’t really so much a question of ‘if’ as ‘when’ it happens), either everyone else was better at faking it, or they were already part of the running culture.
I’d heard it before; running isn’t something you do as much as it’s something you’re a part of. And this, on top of the fact that, while I managed to run straight on for perhaps a quarter-mile at first before getting winded and having to walk the remainder of the time (pretty much the same as my attempt to run home from the supply store where I bought my shoes yesterday afternoon), is what made (makes?) me question my motivation. Why am I doing this, after all?
Look, I support World Vision and its efforts to bring clean water to places where people have to walk such long distances in order to get any water at all. Their evangelistic tenor only adds to that appeal – by solving a physical problem (and an urgent one, too), they have the opportunity to minister to the spiritual needs of those they serve. That’s fantastic. But I could just as easily, rather than handing over a Madison to cover my own fund-raising (because that’s another step in this whole process, and one I never was any good at in my high-school band days) I could as easily hand out a few Clevelands to other folks who need them (because I can’t imagine that process to be any easier or pleasant for anyone else) and leave it at that. Boom. Ministry supported. Why should I put myself out there?
Another organizer, Warren, who had been there on Sunday to sign people up, actually came up alongside me once I dropped to a stiff walk, and we walked together for the remainder of the time. As I do, I told him about my story and associated misgivings, and he asked me if you would be proud of me if I accomplished this. And while I’m sure you would be, I’m also fairly certain you would just as much be of the opinion that “you know, honey, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.” And I’ll be honest, honey, you know I don’t want to. And I do so appreciate the fact that you’d never oblige me to do this, even if it might be in your honor.
So what about the health benefits? There’s no question I could stand to lose weight, and exercise and diet modification would be a great way to do just that. Granted, it would require me changing my entire personality – you better than anyone know my attitude towards those things: it’s not that you actually live longer when you do them, it just seems longer. Like with the things you eschewed over those you considered more ‘fun,’ if it does not spark joy, why bother with it? This might be one reason to stick with the regimen, at least – but to make the commitment of actually running the Marathon? Again, with my motivation at this level, I don’t see it happening.
And then, there are the people. They do their best to be welcoming, don’t ever get me wrong about that. This is the place where I wind up going “it’s not you, it’s me.” I don’t know these people, and they don’t know me, and apart from the mere handful I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have names or faces down. Of course, it’s the first day, and we’ve been out barely an hour, but I don’t see them as my kind of people. They are interested in this; they want to do this. I don’t belong here. Even if we become friends, like with the animators I admire and once thought of following in their footsteps, what do we have in common with these folks who I might all the more literally follow and run alongside? We have this avocation that I don’t even (and, their insistence to the contrary, I can’t see myself ever managing to) enjoy. Where’s the connection to them?
But I am here, as I promised I would be, to let Erin (who couldn’t be here due to her work schedule) know what this is (was?) like. I will commit, on a day-to-day basis, to do what I can. I cannot, and at this point, I do not think I will, commit on any long-term basis.
That is, unless I can arrive at some compelling motivation, and soon.
Wish me luck, honey. I think I’m going to need it.