I don't think emotions are anything to be embarrassed about (embarrassment being, in itself, an emotional response - ya dingus).
We all have the same emotional ingredients. We have good days and bad days. Points of strength and weakness. I think one of the greatest sins of our society is that most of us don't share what we're feeling with one another. We're expected to be strong. "Boys don't cry", and all that.
"Ooh... you know your problem? You're too sensitive", or "That's all a bit touchy-feely", said with a sneer.
If we were all a little more open - and society valued our emotions as much as our practical or academic achievements - the world would be a much nicer place.
Yet feelings aren't for nothing. They serve an evolutionary purpose. Fear and anger and love are survival tools. And if you don't believe that... there are even physiological consequences of feelings, which also have practical applications.
Fear floods us with adrenaline - the fight or flight response - so we're ready to either leg it, or punch a sabre tooth tiger in the face. Shrinking down out of shame or embarrassment makes us a smaller target. Happiness indicates an absence of threat; it's the "all-clear" siren. And so on.
Heck, we're even programmed to spot when emotions are fake, when somebody is bullshitting, or is insincere. We just know, when we meet somebody like that. Little alarms go off in our gut; "Don't trust them!" . As social creatures, we need to be attuned to feelings - our own and those of others - to thrive and survive, and know who to trust.
Since re-discovering the joys of teletext editing in the last few days, something slowly occurred to me. When I started writing today's Digitiser2000, I found I couldn't do it.
It was like there was some amorphous blockage in front of me, which demanded to be acknowledged before it would let me move on. It had been shuffling into view since the weekend, when I started creating new-old Digitiser pages for our Block Party event.
I was avoiding it. Didn't want to know it was there. It had a bad, stale whiff, and I was more comfortable with not getting too close.
When it eventually became impossible to avoid, I looked properly at it, and realised what it is: grief. Old grief, faded grief, but grief nonetheless. And it's something I was never consciously aware had been following me around until now.
It's the grief I felt when Digitiser ended.
Grief is one of the few emotional states which evolutionary psychologists can't agree on. If it serves a purpose... there's no real clear consensus on what it might be.
Some suggest it's a way of forming closer bonds in the wake of a loss - encouraging others to rally round the grieving party.
Others suggest that it serves no purpose - that it's basically like a hammer blow to a person's psyche, the inevitable consequence of being ripped away from something or someone to which you had formed a close bond.
Either way, grief is a natural, unavoidable, response to loss; the emotional suffering that results from losing something or someone we love.
We grieve the end of relationships, the loss of a pet, the death of a loved one, our kids growing up... People can even grieve for things they only ever had in their head - when the expectation turns out differently to an ideal. Even some animals grieve.
And it's hard; it places stress on your body, your immune system. If you've ever grieved, you'll know that it acts as a sort of chapter break in your life. There's before and after. It's a huge event.
And so it was with me and Digitiser.
As I've written before, working at Teletext was the best job I ever had, in all kinds of ways. It was the perfect fit for me - letting me write, draw, mess around, talk about video games. I developed enduring friendships, grew up while working on Digi, and found myself. I loved it.
Yet by the end, my relationship with Teletext had soured. I've documented elsewhere the tumultuous experience I had with my bosses - and certainly, I accept a degree of responsibility in that relationship. I wasn't always the best behaved employee... They pushed, and I pushed back harder.
THAT WAS THE END THAT WAS
By the end, I'd gotten what I felt was one up on them - restoring Digitiser back to its rightful, ludicrous, glory after almost a year where I ran it their way. But by then, the damage was done. The trust had gone.
It's like trying to survive in a relationship after one party has cheated, or there has been some other betrayal of trust.
You might be able to limp on, and present the facade of things being as they always were - to try and hold onto some semblance of what you believed the relationship had been - but beneath the surface everything has changed. There's an imbalance, and the solid ground has gone. When you're out of that situation, it can feel - initially - like a relief, particularly if everything had turned to shit. But then you can still mourn the 'What If?'...
There was no way I could stay long term writing Digitiser. The second I got another hint that Teletext were up to their old tricks... I dumped them. I wasn't prepared to put myself through it again. It was too hard, I cared too much, to give them the power over me, to stab another icepick into my chest.
It wasn't a premature end; it had been coming a while. Nobody wakes up one morning and decides to split up with someone on a whim. But the point at which I quit was the point at which I had no choice, the point at which I'd exhausted every possibility for making it work. Where I had nothing left to give. Once they'd betrayed my faith in them, it was always going to happen sooner or later. They'd held so much power in the relationship, and I wanted to at least define the way it ended, and to ensure it was on my terms.
And yet leaving remained every bit as hard as leaving any long-term relationship of 10 years - no matter how much damage had been inflicted along the way, no matter how unhappy things had become.
Now that I write this, I can't believe it never occurred to me previously.
Of course I grieved after the end of Digitiser... I just didn't realise it, because I was already grieving the end of another relationship.
And I didn't exactly realise I was grieving that either, because it had been a glacial-slow halt, a steady decay, rather than any sudden cut-off.
But I suppose this realisation has floated to the surface now, because I'm thinking about Digitiser in ways that I haven't done in years. I mean, when I stopped writing for Teletext, I legged it out of there, and didn't look back. Or, at least, that's what I told myself.
Now I can see how I tried to fill that Digitiser-shaped hole with ill-fitting substitutes; a blog, a column in Edge magazine, a career writing for TV. A succession of rebound relationships. For a long time, they weren't given the chance to be their own thing, because I was too busy using them as stand-ins for Digi.
It is only now - actually editing teletext pages, or thinking about sitting on a panel with Tim, and Gavin, and Violet (who I haven't seen in aeons) - that I've realised I went through a whole, messy, grieving process after the end of Digitiser, because it was so important to me.
And it's brilliant. Because it means that the scary, amorphous mass which has been following me around - without me being consciously aware of it - has come into focus.
It's only when we acknowledge our emotions, when we express them, or share them, or let them do their thing without running from it, that we can move past them. It strips them of their weight. Makes them less scary - like shining a torch on a thing under your bed.
I think I dealt with most of my grief over Digitiser long ago, but last night I shared that graphic I did of an ageing, bloated Bamber Boozler, and got a reply to it from YouTube legend Stuart Ashen - who said he felt sad upon seeing it. My response was to laugh.
And then it sunk in, and I realised that I was a bit sad too... not only at seeing Fat Bamber, but all the other new-old Digi pages I'd done, at being back there editing teletext pages, and remembering what was and what could've been. That there was a residual trace of a grief that I never realised I had until now.
And now, hopefully, I can say goodbye to that too.