Now listening to: The Narada Collection
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Drawing Blood; Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems
Now playing: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)
2001.11.01 marked the one-year anniversary of me deciding to leave the bad situation that I had let define me for over a year. While I recognize that leaving the situation ultimately proved to be for the best for me in the long run, it wasn't particularly an anniversary that I felt like "celebrating." But owing to the fact that this site emerged from my recovery from the situation, I thought it wise to take another look back at how I got into the situation, what happened to make me want to leave it, and how I left it. I'll save all the stuff about what happened afterwards for the 11th, when this site celebrates its first anniversary.
Although I am capable (and, as I have proven on this site so many times before, more than willing) to trace back my problems to infinitely deeper levels, for the sake of brevity I think it best for me to start at Antioch and the feelings I experienced there. In the years after I left Antioch I was almost completely isolated on a social level, when I was just coming off the high of finding someplace where I actually fit in, where I could pursue my music, the thing that matters more to me than anything else. What I had at Antioch simply couldn't be duplicated anyplace else, much less working for my father's business in rinky-dink Toledo, Ohio.
But when I was at Antioch I finally got my first "real" connection to the Internet, and while I was on the Internet I was able to communicate with people who had interests similar to mine, including interests that I'd never really had a chance to talk with other people about, owing to the kind of people I ran into both at Antioch and the private school I went to before Antioch. So when I was back in Toledo I made sure to stay on the Internet and stay in touch with the interest groups I had joined while at Antioch.
Even when I was pursuing my music full-time, however, writing was still in my blood, and I ended up writing some fiction in one of the groups I was involved with. Eventually that led to me writing non-fiction critiques, and I had found a "voice" writing about that that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. Obviously I wanted to concentrate more on my music, but my music kind of seemed lost to me at that point. It was hard for me to enjoy that aspect of me myself, but the recognition I was getting for the writing I was doing in this circle provided me with not a small measure of recognition and appreciation for some people, so I stuck with it.
When I was first at Antioch the World Wide Web was still in its commercial nascence (I actually used the original Mosaic browser), but I had taken something of an interest in it. Eventually while I was working for my father, I picked up a book on HTML and coded his company's first Website. Nowadays looking at it I can see how atrocious it was, but by 1996 standards it wasn't that bad. We never ended up using that first iteration of the Website, though I did end up greatly revising it for use as the company's first official Website. (Incidentally, my father has been the one updating and revising that Website since about 1997, although I'm hoping he will let me take over on it very soon because I think it needs a major revitalization.)
Then a happy little coincidence occurred. A few well-to-do gentlemen had started a real estate company and moved into the office next to ours. Hearing that we did illustrations, they had us do one for a little side project they were working on. They then mentioned that they wanted to start an Internet Service Provider, and were looking for people who could help them. My father mentioned that I had started designing Websites, and so I showed them what I had been doing. They were interested and wanted more stuff, so I designed more stuff for them, expanding on my knowledge of HTML to create more complex works.
Finally, before I knew it, I was designing the prototypes of Websites for some pretty high-level Toledo companies and non-commercial enterprises. The work was good, and I really felt like I was doing something useful, although I've never particularly been than enamoured with Toledo. The company ended up getting a bunch of contracts through my work, but when it came time to design the final sites, the ISP ended up hiring their own internal designers to work on the sites, and we were plum out of luck.
(Tangent: With Toledo mayoral elections being this Tuesday, I should mention that one of the sites I prototyped was for our Mayor, Carleton "Carty" Finkbeiner. To give you an idea of what "Carty" is like, originally the official City of Toledo Website was going to be a subdivision of his personal Website. Yeah. By the way, he went to the same private school here in Toledo that I did. Coincidence? You make the call.)
Even though I didn't have clients, I was able to find them soon enough because the company that had built all my father's computers launched their own ISP, and they provided us with some pretty good work back in the day. But in addition to that work, I needed a testing ground where I could try some different techniques for coding HTML, try out avant-garde styles that wouldn't really suffice for business Websites back then. So I took the writings I had been doing for this interest circle and made a site out of those, and kept building on my repository of writings for the site.
The World Wide Web being what it was, it wasn't long until other people started noticing my work. Not all of them liked it, of course, but many did. It was then that I started getting my first tastes of how fame really works, as all of a sudden friends of friends of friends were spreading my name about, and before I knew it I started getting requests to work at other, more widely read sites. I took the opportunities as they came, and before I knew it I had my first taste of "Internet fame."
I think it's important to mention here that I still wasn't placing much emphasis on what I was writing about; I mean, I liked the recognition, but it still wasn't what I wanted to do with my time. But at the same time, I still wasn't in a place emotionally where I could work on my music, and the recognition I was getting for my work, which increased in volume with the increasing of my output, was somewhat intoxicating. It mattered less to me that I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do, and more that people liked what I did.
My stature just seemed to grow and grow and grow until finally I had enough influence to start my own ventures that went beyond just putting my own writing up on some free Web space given to me by my ISP. I made some connections, pulled some strings, and before I knew it I was, for lack of a better term, a "player." A player in a market that's such a small, insignificant niche that only people in that same niche could care about it, but still a player. That only added to my feelings of gratification and made me spend more time working in that circle, and less time pursuing what I really wanted to do.
I went through a lot in those days of power, including a legal battle with a media conglomerate that saw me summon up more courage than I ever thought I would possess, and finally turning a financial profit with the culmination of my work, one final project that I well and truly believed was the best in the topic it covered, not just because I put so much hard work into it, but mostly because I was able to assemble an incredibly wide array of talent to work with me.
At the same time, though, it was around then that I started becoming a bit miserable with what was going on around me. I'd barely touched my music in years, and the reaction I was getting from my work started turning from adulation to ridicule. Especially in the circle in which I was writing, jerks tend to come out in pretty large numbers and will do anything and everything to try to disrupt you, to disparage you, to make you turn away. But the adulation was still there, and considering the adulation was now being backed with monthly cheques from the work I was doing, I thought I could stomach it, especially since I was paying the talent I had assembled as well.
Finally, though, after not hearing from her for over two years, L., my muse from Antioch (and ever since), got back in touch with me and all of a sudden I felt reawakened as to my true desires in life. I told her what I was up to, and that I'd kind of grown apart from my music, which affected her as well since we'd pledged to each other that whatever musical success each one of us generates through our writing, we would share together through the recording and performance stages. So she recommended The Artist's Way to me (and how many journal entries has it been since I shilled Ms. Cameron anyway), and I underwent my Creative Recovery, and got back in touch with my inner artistic child. I know some of you may think that sounds horribly New Age-y, so let me put it into more understandable terms: I was happy. For the first time since Antioch, I was actually happy.
But as I went back to my music, and started experimenting in other forms of art (thanks in no small part to meeting C. and J.), I started to realize how all the recognition I was getting for this project I was working on was really empty. It also didn't help that we had a bit of financial trouble and that with that financial trouble, the talent that had been so supportive of me in the past suddenly turned indifferent. That's when the project became the "situation" for me, because it became less and less something that I wanted to do, and more and more of a hassle for me, not worth the utterly empty gratitude I got from others or the promises of cashflow in the future.
Finally the situation broke down over a one-month period, where Jeff took me to my second real public meeting of people with the same interest, and like the first one the year prior, I found myself just simply not connecting with those people, the people whom I was ostensibly writing for. Later I took a trip to explore the art that C. and J. had turned me on to, and I found that to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. As people started getting nastier and nastier in their dealings with me in the situation, and as I simply found that I didn't have the support or drive to do it anymore, I really started to question why I was still doing it.
The recognition had something to do with it, the fact that thousands of people would have some sort of strong, intense emotional reaction when they heard the name "Sean Shannon." Ultimately, though, I think it was a matter of me trying to please other people that kept me hanging on to the situation much longer than I should have. Despite the financial difficulties we had encountered, we were on the rebound and looked to have another strong performance to close out the end of the year, and I figured I'd get some support back from that.
Finally, though, I realized that my own happiness had to come above the happiness of others, and as if the universe wanted to drive the point home to me, the situation took a deep plunge for the worse in those final couple of weeks I was involved. (This is what Ms. Cameron would call a "synchronicity.") 2000.10.31 I was so troubled with the situation that I couldn't get to sleep until finally I promised myself that when I woke up the next morning, I would develop some sort of contingency plan, some sort of exit strategy, so I knew I could get out if I absolutely had to.
The morning of 2000.11.01 when I woke up, the situation hit rock bottom, and I just plain got out. It wasn't as slick or as easy a transition as I'd hoped, and I will be the first to admit that I tricked the talent involved into thinking it was only a temporary leave of absence, when I knew it was permanent from my departure. It also didn't help that I avoided contact with that entire circle from that point forward, so I was unable to answer questions they might have had or helped ease the transition along in other ways. Ultimately, though, it was best for me to do what I did, because I simply needed the escape and to get as far away from that situation as fast as possible, and not look back.
Near the end of the situation, though, I noticed that most of the people who were still sending positive feedback my way were sending it for reasons that had little to do with the topic of the interest circle. I still wanted a way to communicate with them, and I also wanted to help spread the word about my artistic recovery, and to help people who were facing difficulties similar to mine. So I registered seanshannon.org, and on 2000.11.11, the day after I made my departure from the situation permanent, I launched the site.
What's gone on in the year since this site launched has been quite interesting. But it is a topic best saved for next Sunday, when this site turns one year old. Everyone take care and be well, and I'll see you back here for that.