I gave the valedictory address at my high school graduation. Despite the tradition associated with that post, it was not assigned me because I was the head of my class, no. In my case the word was true to its etymology. I was the farewell sayer because I knew how. The head of my class wasn’t the public speaking type, but the English teachers at my high school suspected I was. So I did. I stepped up on stage, made some people laugh, made some people cry, bid farewell, and stepped down.
After graduation I had an odd compulsion to keep in touch with those friends I knew I wouldn’t be seeing around. An odd compulsion to take back my farewell and replace it with a “guess what I’ve been up to?” I wanted to stay connected somehow, to keep touching base when the base had disintegrated, so I started an SMS bulletin. 160 characters sent once a month: The Clarko Newsletter. The title alone ate up an eighth of my character budget. And somehow the number of recipients grew, rather than dwindling. People wanted to know why they weren’t on the list, even if I wasn’t reporting anything groundbreaking. So I kept going.
A few years later, with the blogging phenomenon gaining steam, I threw off the shackles of the SMS message and began this: decaffeinated dot org. Of course I didn’t call it a blog… ‘blog’ was an ugly word, a distasteful abbreviation used by the proles on hosted services. Mine was a weblog. It was my new connection. Styled text, hyperlinks, infinite length and infinite frequency at no added cost. How could you not love something that liberating?
The audience didn’t translate, of course. People are content to receive something stupid and sentimental on their phone once a month, but sitting down at a computer to catch the rambling daily updates of a former classmate is a bit much for normal humans. There was a farewell SMS, but from those few that made the jump the audience grew again. I don’t know how, but it did. And with strangers this time. I was getting email from strangers. Strangers who weren’t trying to sell me viagra. It was weird, but it worked for me. I was still touching base.
In the years that followed, the blog saw me through a dozen countries, three funerals, a university degree in Computer Science and Linguistics, and the news that I’ll soon be an uncle. It also outlasted two jobs, four houses, and two long-term relationships. It was the only constant, even if the updates were anything but. And despite a lousy track record for the finality of these ‘farewell’ things, that time has come again.
The high school and university base-touching has shuffled off to MySpace and Facebook, the photos to Flickr, the gripes and the discussions to a handful of forums and mailing lists, public and private. You might say I’m decentralizing. As for the daily updates, suffice to say I’ve regressed to the cramped reality of the SMS message. Plain text and short as hell, but not without its charm. So I’ll say farewell from here, and see you around.