I was a child of the pre-Facebook, pre-Pinterest, pre-Skype, pre-plus-one-and-like era. Our mode of digital anticipation involved waiting for someone's screen name to show up as Available on AIM or for someone to sign into MSN Messenger. Those were the acronyms that felt relevant to us. Beyond the availability of our friends to chat and the esoteric lingo that came with those conversations, we gleaned insight from carefully-crafted Away messages. Nobody was just "Away" back then, and---because we were 16 and, no matter how much self-importance we could muster, we were not quite busy---nobody was just "Busy" either. We populated Away messages with song lyrics and quotes, inside jokes and pointed messages full of the truths and feelings we could not utter face to face. In the past few weeks, I have felt the need for an Away message to hang on the door of my life---preferably one with a witty quote or Green Day lyrics for the full throwback and nostalgia effect. For the first time in four years, I am no longer living out of a suitcase. I own shelves. I have put nails in walls. I have shared coffee with people with the confidence that we will all still be right here tomorrow . . . and in 13 days, and in 4 months. My universe has been flooded with the kind of permanence of which I once dreamed.
Permanence makes me quiet. It is my love of "process" that has fueled my embrace of transitions with relative peace. I am intrigued by the little shifts: the packed box, the new photo on the wall, the coat hanging in the corner, the new bakery from which I buy muffins in the morning. Those become the markers of a new chapter, punctuated by a different routine, marked by different milestones. I document the process of moving, the process of saying goodbye, the process of making a home and then disassembling it as though it were made of Legos. The photographs freeze those transitional moments in time to remind me that life is not just the story of neat heres and exciting theres, but of clumsy in-betweens.
This time, there are no photographs of transition. My silence has been born out of impatience: an impatience to find a place for everything, and for me, and to have those places feel anchoring enough. I have not pointed the camera at the new corners that make a home feel like me, nor have I written about the new batch of muffins. I feel firmly planted here, bound to an address, magazine subscriptions, and a barista who knows my coffee order. I own possessions that make it impossible to pack up and leave into the night. Nobody left lightly with three coffee makers in tow.
Once an embracer of process, I am now embracing the photos not taken, the words not written. I am living in a blank away message, waiting for the lyrics to populate it, and for new processes to appeal photogenically to a pair of eyes perpetually in love with novelty. Inspired by Kim and, inevitably, by the 1990s.