Friday, May 28, 2010

My business card, myself

A young woman I met at a memorial service earlier this week asked me how she could look up my blog. I gave her my business card, explaining as I did so that my blog domain name isn’t actually listed on the card, but the business card has my full name, which is the same as the domain name for my website, on which she can find a link to the blog.

Really, about half the information on my business card is wrong or incomplete. Yet even though every day in my email box I receive promotions for new business cards, I hold back on ordering. Why? Well, because I feel like something more could still change.

Of course, this is silly reasoning, because first of all, business cards are so cheap, and second, something already has changed. The cards I have are missing my website, missing my blog, and list an old email address that I’ve crossed out and rewritten (I do that in batches of about twenty as I transfer them from my desk to my wallet) but even the one I’ve penned in, though valid, is no longer my most professional email address.

And yet I don’t order new cards. The book I’m trying to see published could suddenly find a publisher, and then I’d want that information included on my card. Last week I lost my cell phone antenna piece and have ordered a replacement part, but it seems to be taking forever to arrive; there’s the possibility that I’ll lose patience and buy a new phone, and have to change my cell phone number as a result. Or I could suddenly submit to the lure of a fancier, “smarter” phone and need a new number. Or I could get a great head shot taken that I felt should be on my card. Or someone might offer to design me a logo.

On the one hand, I feel virtuous for trying so hard to use up my existing business cards before I order more. (Though really, does anyone ever actually use up business cards? I never have, not even in the job I held for eight years, and that was back in the days when professionals in the corporate realm still bothered to exchange business cards, rather than just using electronic contact methods the way they do now.) On the other, of all the things I feel guilty for disposing of – batteries, computer cords that have mysteriously stopped working, obsolete electronics – business cards, little 2x3 slips of stock paper, are surely the least of my worries. They’re recyclable. And we could probably use a lot of them around home. I can use them for bookmarks. (Oh wait, no I can’t. That’s changed too; my books are electronic now, and therefore so are my bookmarks.) My seven-year-old is famous for her scrap pile approach to craft projects, she has yet to find a throwaway item that she can’t turn into an art supply. She could probably build an entire paper village with my unwanted (and inaccurate) business cards.

Last week on NPR, I heard Gail Steketee, Boston University professor and author of a new book about compulsive hoarding, describing a woman who wouldn’t throw away an ATM receipt because on it she had written a few notes about purchases she’d made, and if she threw away the receipt, she told the researcher, she would lose that whole day. It would disappear from her personal history, she believed. I’m normally the opposite of a hoarder; I discard things with abandon, because I abhor household clutter and I figure there’s almost nothing short of family heirlooms that I can’t replace if it’s really necessary.

Business cards may be the one thing I hoard. But unlike the woman in the book, it’s not exactly that I fear losing the person I am on that card. (A person without a website or blog and with an email address that belongs to a now bankrupt internet service provider? Why would I care about losing that person?) It’s more a matter of not being quite sure of the person I might soon be. What if I do soon become a published author? Or a professional with a new logo? Or a member of Facebook? I’ll need that information on my business card. Shouldn’t I hold off on ordering them until all bets are in as far as what the future might hold?

Admittedly, I’m making too much of this. For a few dollars, I could order the cards and be done with it. But there’s something strangely reassuring about holding off. Maybe there’s information about myself I don’t yet know. An ordering address for my still-not-published book, for example. A phone number for my state-of-the-art new mobile phone that I don’t yet own. Who knows. It’s ridiculously trivial but it’s true: Without committing my coordinates to paper and ink, anything still seems possible.

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