I feel like Rip frappin’ Van Winkle.
In 1979 I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree and started my short-lived career at Procter and Gamble. Three years later Michael was born and I left work never to return.
One year turned to five, then 10. One child turned to four. Ten years turned to 15—our youngest son Joe was only 6 and Michael required a ride to his high school a distance from our house. Fifteen years turned to 20. I went back to school part time for an English degree. 20 years turned to nearly 30.
When I first started at P&G we didn’t have computers in our offices. My desk was well-stocked with yellow lined paper tablets and pens. My bi-weekly reports were hand written and typed up by a shared administrative assistant.
When I left P&G in 1982, four or five of us shared one desktop computer in our lab office. We used it mostly as a database for our experimental results. We didn’t have e-mail. We had inter-departmental mail delivered in large gold reusable envelopes. We had telephones. And we had our feet.
Fast forward 29 years. I wake up from my domestic dream-sleep and venture out into the world. I have a compelling story I want to tell. My sister with severe brain damage has died and I want to tell her story. I want to give her a legacy. Through wakeful nights and cases of tissues, I type her story.
I buy books on how to get published, “Get an agent,” “How to write a book proposal,” “Author 101.”
“You need a platform,” they all say.
What the heck is a platform?
I start a blog. I send out notifications to my friends and family in my e-mail address book. I post it on my Facebook page, largely populated by high school friends, that my friend Marty encouraged me to start a few years ago. (If we older folks don’t help each other and pull each other along we are all going to be left behind.)
My kids sometimes help me keep up-to-date—introducing me to Netflix, insisting on texting, suggesting Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies games.
I ask my mom if she’s been reading my blog. She hasn’t. “How can I expect other people to read my blog when my own mom won’t?” I say. This comment is far more effective at igniting her anger than inspiring her interest. “I don’t like the computer,” she says.
My mom is 77 years old. She has lived most of her life without the need of a computer. She doesn’t see the need for one now. And it confuses her to try to learn it. She can’t keep up. I understand how she feels. She is used to waiting for information. She has no need for minute-by-minute updates on what her favorite actor or politician is doing. She likes hearing people’s voices over the telephone.
I generate a shortcut for my blog page and leave it on her computer desktop. I know I still have two loyal readers in my husband Mark and sister Carol.
“You need to have over a thousand followers,” the books say.
I join several Writer’s Digest online communities about writing, publishing, blogging. “You need to follow twitter to find out what the publishers and agents are saying.”
I sign up for a Twitter account. I start following the big publishing houses: Random House, A. A. Knopf, Simon Schuster—like I have even the remotest of chances of ever doing business with one of them.
Many of the tweets contain symbols. I feel like I am reading shorthand. I have no idea what the symbols mean. I will google it later.
I am notified by e-mail that I now have six followers on Twitter. I panic.
All I want to do is tell my sister Annie’s story. I think it is a good story. I think it is an inspiring story. It is the only legacy she will have.
I’m willing to try to do what it takes. I’m willing to try to build a platform whatever that looks like. I am willing to do it for Annie.
I wonder how many 50, 60 even 70-year-olds are out there with really good stories that we’ll never read because they simply haven’t been able to keep up.
When I started this post-a-day-2011 challenge I told myself I would post whatever was in my head when I woke up in the morning. And if my head was empty, as is sometimes the undeniable case, I would simply slap up a photo from our trip to Italy.
I’ll bet you’re looking forward to seeing some of those photos.