Jared White Photo of Jared

Expressively publishing on the open web since 1996.
Entranced by Portland, Oregon since 2017.

Issue #23: You Haven’t Yet Seen Your Best Days

Creator Class

The challenges and rewards of being an indie content creator building an audience one connection at a time.

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I've been reflecting the past few weeks, having turned 40 (!!), on the trajectory of the artistic life I've lived.

I became very successful very early on. By the age of 11, I was performing and recording music professionally. By the age of 15, I was developing websites professionally and running my own freelance business, as well as embarking on a long (and zigzagging!) arc of writing and publishing online. By the age of 20, I had helped record, produce, and perform what to this day I consider a world-class exemplar of traditional early Celtic/Scottish Gaelic music.

But between then and now—a 20-year-span—there were many days…weeks…months…perhaps even years when I truly doubted myself. Perhaps I'd already reached my creative zenith. I would never [fill in the blank] again. Never perform music professionally again. (That, sadly, is still the case at this present moment.) Never have a good business idea again. Never achieve more in tech than I had already. (I'm in a weirdly ageist industry after all!) Never pull in any real audience for my writing…if I hadn't ever hit it big in blogging in the 2000s, what hope is there for me in the 2020s?

Sometimes I wonder if that's how "child stars" feel…those people who take the world by storm in acting or singing or what-have-you when they're very young, only later in life to be doomed to wander the earth desperately seeking to capture lighting in a bottle once again. Not that I was ever that successful mind you…but when you've performed in front of thousands and won the respect and admiration of your mentors and your peers in a creative field, only to find a few short years later you're back to being a nobody…well, that's a hard pill to swallow.

Thankfully, I've discovered a secret ingredient more recently, and at the age of 40 (!!), I'm feeling pretty stoked to have made this discovery.

It's all fucking bullshit.

That's it. That's the discovery. 😂

That is to say, the narrative you keep telling yourself about how your glory days are behind you and you've already peaked and it's all downhill from here and your best days are behind you and you have nothing to look forward to but pain and misery and old age and death…well, it's sheer nonsense. OK fine, not the old age and death part. But that happens to literally 100% of the human race, so you're nothing special. Until then, until you've breathed your last breath, there's something more you can do. There's something more you can feel. There's more you can offer, more you can experience. More you can learn. More you can appreciate.

In fact, rather than continue to wallow in what I for whatever reason can no longer do, I've increasingly started to realize all the things I haven't even begun yet.

Have I sailed a boat yet? Nope! Jessica Watson sailed across the globe when she was only 16, surely I can learn to sail across a bay.

Have I studied French and traveled to Paris yet? Nope!

Have I relaxed in a hot springs in Iceland yet? Nope!

Have I reached the summit of Mt. Hood, Oregon yet? Nope!

Have I recorded an album of electronic music with one of my heroes, Paul Ellis? Yes! (But that one I completed just last year. Peaked in my teens or 20s my foot!)

Have I learned to paint something worthwhile and witness my artwork on display in a fine art gallery? Not yet!

Have I shot, edited, produced, and released a full-length documentary about a topic I deeply care about? Not yet!

Are you getting it?? Rather than my life being defined by what I've already accomplished, I'm starting to define my life by what hasn't even happened yet. And that's not in service of some mythical future date at which point I can "finally" celebrate my wins. I see this as an eternal state of mind. There's always something more to do. You never "arrive."

That's the joy of being an artist.

You haven’t yet seen your best days.

Across the Fediverse

Speaking of zeniths, what is quite possibly the most "viral" social media post of my entire life made the rounds recently on Mastodon (still is in fact!). It was so fascinating to watch these events unfold, I recorded a whole podcast episode about it. The topic certainly was near and dear to my heart: podcasting! (Quick aside: I know it's really rather silly and a wee bit self-involved to toot (ha!) my own horn about a post going viral, but (a) anything going viral on Mastodon is rather interesting simply due to the fact that fediverse technology is so relatively new and many folks are still writing it off as a mere fantasy for nerds, and (b) 98% of my social media life over the decades (?!) has been spent in relative obscurity despite repeated efforts to remedy said situation, so you must forgive me for the occasional pat on the back!)

Also a particularly fun bit of news: my most recent podcast episode is about a project to add blog comments using Mastodon and the fediverse itself as the commeting system, and you can see it in action right there on the episode page! After many years of not having any commenting system of any sort on my blog(s)—like much of the rest of the blogosophere I had long since abandoned the idea of installing and supporting a comments feature—I'm super excited to be experimenting again in this space. I believe we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of the fediverse, and the way it can help unite open web discussions and destinations with a few relatively simple API integrations really hits the spot.

Photography Corner

Fun fact: the lens I used for both images along with my Nikon Z fc was a vintage Tokina OM mount 80-200mm (via an adapter of course). My mother first used that lens back in the ’80s, so it's pretty fun to be wielding it with a retro-styled mirrorless digital camera today. Everything has to be manual—including focus! That’s part of its charm…

Catch you on the next one! ✌️


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black and white photo of Jared White

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