Monday, May 18, 2015

"What Do You Do?" Why I'm Changing the Name of this Blog

Answering the basic party question, "What do you do?" is always weird for me. The answer largely depends on where I am and who I am talking to. A lot of the time it depends on what the person asking the question does. Sometimes the answer depends on what I spent most of my day doing.

I'm a homemaker, and a teacher
I'm not being intentionally vague, as some people in the region are wont to do. The problem is that the short answers don't explain enough and the long answer is either boring or sounds (to me) like bragging. I don't want to be boring or boastful, so instead there's different people out there with different ideas of what I do. I'm not sure why this makes me uneasy. Maybe I subscribe to the idea that we are defined by what we do as much as by who we are outside of our vocations.

So what do I do and what does any of this have to do with changing the name of this blog?

I started writing a blog back in 2003. The title at the time was Berto is Sir Rantalot, a moniker bestowed upon me one summer at Shakespeare camp . (Did I mention I'm a nerd?) I stopped writing for a while and when I came back I kept the BISR concept in the URL for this current incarnation. In the mean time I had learned about something called Google and had used it find that a lot of people used "Sir Rantalot." So I changed the name, but didn't do any more Googling. I had always liked the idea of presenting rants because they could be emotional. There wasn't as much pressure to be 100% factually accurate with every post. I wanted to maintain that idea with the new name.  I landed on Rantom Thoughts. I thought I was very clever and since I didn't really have any readers anymore I didn't think the name mattered to anyone but me.

I'm a husband, and a stay at home dad
I'll be honest, the name probably still doesn't matter to anyone but me. But recently I joined a bloggers group on Facebook and as a result I've been writing more/again and something happened. I started getting readers outside of my family. I don't want to over sell my impact on the world, but it's been cool to see more people reading what I'm putting out here. I even got curious about where I was in the Google search results. That's when I found three other blogs also using the title "Rantom Thoughts." They all appear to be inactive but two of them predate my use of the title. One is written by a guy named Tom so the title is perfect for him. The other one actually registered the domain None of these other authors have been in touch about the overlap, and as of this writing I'm now the top search result, but it just didn't sit right with me. So I decided to re-brand.

The problem is, I clearly suck at coming up with names. So I reached out to my friends and fellow writers for help. I got a lot of fun name suggestions and one piece of very good advice:

"If you're thinking about a rename, don't start with just trying to think of a new name. Start by really defining what you've done so far and your future goals with your blog. Think about your voice and personality of the blog. Is there a specific direction your blog leans in or is it very general stuff? Work on a list of what makes your blog unique. Once you know exactly what it is and where you want it to go, then call it something that fits that tone."
So I started thinking. The writing here has started to trend towards parenting issues. I think that's natural given my current role as a stay at home dad. But I don't want to be just a "dad blogger." Not that I want to throw shade at my fellow dad bloggers, because I am a dad blogger. But I also wanted to maintain the freedom to write about sports and politics and  to dabble in fiction and whatever else came to mind. So I started thinking about who I am, and who I want to be.

Which brings me back to the question, "What do you do?" and why it's hard to answer.

When I was young I was an actor. I loved acting because it gave me a taste of other people's lives. I didn't want to have one job in one place doing one thing. I wanted every job. I wanted to be a police officer and a fireman and a lawyer and an astronaut and an archaeologist. But I didn't really want to do the work of any of those, I just wanted the experience. Acting gave me that right up until I did a serious self assessment and realized I probably wasn't going to be able to make a career of that either.

I'm an interpreter
I still had the same desires though. I was lucky to find interpreting, which offered the same vocational flexibility as acting with the bonus of a steady paycheck. Interpreting is basically improv theater. The interpreter has about six seconds to become the character, except the "character" is a person sitting in front of you who has very real needs. As an interpreter I've had experiences I would never have had otherwise. I've shared the stage with a president. I've worked for a major league baseball team. I've been through a lifetime's worth of boring government meetings for almost every Federal agency you could think of. I've been a lawyer and a police officer and perp. I've been a programmer and an artist and a thousand other things that I can't actually be on my own.

I'm a researcher
I loved interpreting. I still love interpreting. I am still an interpreter.

I'm also not an interpreter anymore. I left full time interpreting to pursue a PhD in interpreting pedagogy and research. One of the issues I faced starting early in my career was that my research didn't follow one thread. I wanted to research interesting questions rather than focus on one sub-field. This is fun, except when people ask me what my research is about. I struggle for a catch all title. I have studied idioms, lexical innovation, cognition, and LOL-speak. I say that I research "novel and emerging language use," but that's not a real descriptive title. It's too general.

I'm a student
I was told that being too interdisciplinary would hold me back as a career academic. I was told that if people couldn't quickly identify what I do and how it would help their department I'd have a hard time finding a job. I kind of didn't care. I feel like the whole fun of being in a university is seeing where your field can overlap with, be enhanced by, and enhance the work of people in adjacent fields. I want to study interesting questions and the most interesting questions lie at the intersections of current research. I don't want to be "The Gesture Guy," or the "Idiom Guy," or the "Innovation Guy." I want to be the guy who figures out how all of those are related to something else that no one thought they all related to.

That's who I want to be as a writer also. I want to write about interesting questions. So the answer to who I am and what I want this blog to be is complicated.

I'm a player, and a referee
I'm a stay at home dad.
I'm a freelance academic.
I'm a teacher.
I'm a student.
I'm a researcher.
I'm a sports fan.
I'm Asian.
I'm Latino.
I'm an American.
I'm an interpreter.
I'm a husband.
I'm a rugby player.
I'm a referee. 
I'm a coach.

I am all of those things in different amounts each day. The answer to "What do you do?" depends as much on my audience at the moment as it does on what I did the most of that day.  Who I am to you depends on our relationship.

I lead an interdisciplinary life; as an academic, as a professional, as a writer. So that's what I settled on for a title. (I Googled it, no one else is using it.) It's funny. Just yesterday someone asked me what I do. I'd never met them before, and I'll probably never meet them again. I don't know why, but despite having several published works and throwing thoughts at the internet for twelve years, for the first time in my life I answered, "I'm a writer."

1 comment:

  1. Yay Roberto!!! Maybe you're a modern Renaissance Man.
    Down with boxes!!! Up with living creative and fulfilling lives!!!