I’ve been using ChatGPT as a writing tool for a little while now, and I find it to be surprisingly useful. For instance: I might ask it to come up with an introductory paragraph for an article on a specific subject (because I often find the first few sentences to be the most difficult part), or generate a bunch of SEO titles for something I’ve already written, or give me a bunch of examples that help illustrate a thing I’m describing. I never use what ChatGPT produces word for word, but it’s a great assist for getting past the blank-page bummers.

I’m not sure what I think about AI in general, except that I definitely dislike those cartoony avatar-generating apps that seem custom-designed to make people feel bad about themselves. We’ve certainly seen some dizzying advances incorporating AI into all sorts of systems in the last few years, and it’s hard to picture where it’s all going to go. Maybe AI is going to take humanity to an even darker place, and very very soon! Or maybe AI will lead us to incredibly valuable developments we would not have been able to achieve on our own! Or maybe what I actually think I’m experiencing in real life is just a simulation from a future when AI-run virtual reality systems can generate an entire fully believable existence when you tap the “49-year-old lady from Eugene, Oregon, with two teenage boys and an ill-advised number of cats” gaming lozenge that’s implanted near our pollution-straining gills!

I do know that when I first started hearing about copy-generating AI chatbots I was enormously resistant; I mean I really had a comically knee-jerk reaction to the whole concept. You take that job-destroying COMMIE WORD ROBOT and you shove it RIGHT UP YOUR— you get it.

It’s pretty interesting to be middle-aged in this time of rapid technological change. I’m somewhere between what I always used to be — a curious early adopter — and what I seem to be turning into, which is basically straight-up Andy Rooney.

I’ve been going to the library again, after a VERY extended break. I was trying to think: when was the last time I went? It was before the shutdowns. Our library was closed for a long time, and then there was a much longer period of required masking when I just didn’t really go to ‘browsing’ places, and then — what? I guess the library just fell out of my routine.

There are so many things that were once a part of my routine, prior to 2020. I was much busier. I was much skinnier. I was addicted to a drug that I was absolutely convinced was the miraculous make-me-a-better-person elixir I’d been searching for all my life.

I got sober from that drug (again) in 2020 and there is just this enormous towering sense of Before and After, with everything kind of mixed together: pandemic stuff, early sobriety stuff, horrible endless world-events stuff.

It doesn’t always feel like I’m in a better place now. In fact it hardly ever feels like that, until I manually refocus my traitorous brain, because sober me is back to crippling social anxiety, isolation, chronic binge eating/weight gain, endless crises of self-confidence, spiraling/intrusive thoughts, and paralyzing general anxiety.

I often have this feeling of being stuck; rotating slowly in place, maybe. Looking at the murk of my past, looking at the question marks of my future, over and over, instead of simply focusing on what’s right in front of my face.

The first day I returned to the library, Dylan was poking around in nonfiction looking for music books and I was in the graphic novel section, doing a sort of quiet internal sigh of pleasure as I flipped through different things. An older gentleman employee came by me on his way to the desk and as he passed, he did something quick and oddly gallant: he placed his hand on his chest and briefly bowed his head at me.

In my mind, it felt like a sweet welcoming gesture, but somehow not just for the library: There are good things everywhere, you just need to be here to see.

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