Caution, old dude writing. Some of my references are older than my readers. I’ve included links to Wikipedia so you can figure out what the hell I’m talking about.
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I’m not sure when it started. Five months ago? Five years?
And I’m not sure when it was complete. But by yesterday afternoon, I knew I was done. I have stepped completely outside of this world.
The moment—a brief conversation with my coworker:
Kara: I’m so happy that Bill O’Reilly lost his job.
Me: That statement means nothing to me at all.
The name Bill O’Reilly was vaguely familiar, I knew I’d heard it before. But I didn’t know where he worked. I didn’t know why he lost his job.
This sort of thing has happened to be before, but only with sports (which I rarely follow).
Len Bias died!
Who’s Len Bias?
(Sorry, reached way back for that one).
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I’m a fairly smart person. I’m an informed person. I have opinions, theories (and not necessarily wacky ones). I read the news every day. Yet somehow, I missed an important news story about Bill O’Reilly—for three weeks.
Around three months ago, I awoke from a long sleep. How long a sleep? I have no idea. Piecing together a timeline, I’d guess three or four years, I’ve been walling myself in. Depression. Slowly closing the doors around me to make my world more manageable. At the end of last year, a spike in my depression became deep enough to seek help. A new medication; I was instantly awake. And somewhat surprised to find life going on all around me. I wondered what I missed.
In my early-thirties, I quit my job and traveled across the United States by bicycle. I took my time and weaved a very indirect route from Washington DC to Washington state. I was off the grid for four months. Cell phones were still exotic so I didn’t own one; the internet was still being used primarily for email; newspapers cost money (which, due to my lack of employment, I didn’t really have); and TVs were few and far between. I had no idea what was going on in the world.
Each week, I’d call my dad to let him know I was still alive, and he’d bring me up to date on the latest news. One evening during my call he asked: You hear about O.J. Simpson? And then I learned that I was the only person in America who didn’t know about O.J. Simpson. I was the only one who hadn’t watched his slow-motion car chase. I was the only one not glued to the headlines for the week. As a result, I never felt connected to the OJ story.
All the way through the trial, and even after his acquittal, I felt like an eavesdropper. It’s the same feeling I get at a party when I approach two or three people already engaged in a deep conversation. I wait patiently for the conversation to shift so I can get in at the start of a new topic.
A few paragraphs ago, I stated I read the news. This is part of my problem; I don’t watch the news. I don’t listen to the news. I don’t even get a newspaper. I get all of my news from internet news sites. And not sketchy ones, but sites like the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR. But the way I find these stories is by browsing Google News. While TV, radio and newspapers select the news stories with the widest appeal, Google News contains an algorithm that selects the stories it believes will be the most appealing to me. And over the past several months, Google has learned that I’m completely uninterested in Fox News.
On the surface, it might just seem like I’m making a big deal about missing a news story, but to me, Bill O’Reilly is just more proof that I’m disengaged from everyone else. And this time I don’t have a bicycle trip to blame. Again, I’m off the grid, but only because I’ve built walls around myself. I’ve stepped outside of the world and made a grid of my own.