Welcome to Season Seven
A little Tabs lore on a Friday afternoon
We cannonballed right into the spit takes on Tuesday1 so on this quiet Friday afternoon allow me to say: welcome to Season Seven of Today in Tabs, a newsletter about things. I tend to forget that everyone doesn’t have all of my lore at their fingertips2 so I thought I might explain what a “season” of Tabs is and in what sense this is the seventh. To my surprise, I learned while writing this that the only consistent pattern Tabs has ever followed is me pretending there’s a consistent pattern. So join me on this voyage of discovery, if you dare.
You’re not a leader until you have at least one follower, and likewise Season One was only defined retroactively by the beginning of Season Two. But in hindsight, Season One ran from launch day on September 25th, 2013 until June 27th, 2014. If you haven’t seen it yet, I wrote a capsule history of O.G. Tabs which covers the very beginning:
During that first year I settled on a Monday to Thursday posting schedule, and Tabs was syndicated on the website of the then-recently relaunched Jim Impoco version of Newsweek. In July 2014, after writing at least four days a week for nearly a year, I felt like it was time for a break, and Tabs wasn’t my whole income so I arbitrarily decided to take all of July and August off.
There were a couple of hiatus update posts but Tabs didn’t actually come back until September 17th, 2014, and when it did, it was now syndicated on Fast Company. Season Two introduced the first ever Intern, the legendary Bijan Stephen, in what we both thought was a joke but turned out to be real. I took March of 2015 off, wrapping up February with the graduation post of the second Tabs Intern, the equally legendary Vicky Mochama, who has gone on to make me proud by terrorizing Canadian media. The second half of Season Two started on March 30th, 2015, and this was around when I concluded that five months on and one month off was the right macro-scale cadence for me. Season Two ended on July 30th, 2015.
Season Three started on August 31st, 2015 with a post that featured Elmo Keep’s story for Vice about the Long Now Foundation, which I still think about all the time. It was technically only half a season by Season Two standards, running until January 28th, 2016 when I saw the writing on the wall, political-news-wise, and decided that the Season Three February hiatus would be permanent. In that last email I wrote a little farewell postscript which I don’t think has ever existed on the web, so I’m gonna quote the whole thing right here:
So this is it then:
I was just standing out on the porch to feel the sun on my face for a few minutes this morning and I looked down the dirt road to where it intersects with the pavement, and remembered how, when I was a kid, it always seemed magical that I could go down my street and turn either left or right on the main road but either direction went everywhere eventually. I imagined the world as a network where everything was connected to everything else but I could never see beyond this one choice in front of me: left or right? Every moment is like that, there’s always a choice to make, but knowing how way leads on to way, the important thing isn’t the choice itself, but the act of choosing.
There’s a poem in The Awl today by Monica Youn which I first took to be about regret at making the wrong choice, much like Robert Frost’s traveler is usually thought to be promoting the superiority of one particular kind of road. But I think there’s another way to read it: as the regret of not realizing you were making a choice at all until it’s too late. Frost’s famous road "less traveled by" is worn "really about the same" after all. It’s not the road chosen, but the conscious act of choosing that makes all the difference. Youn’s Wendy is "not ready yet," but only recognizes that as a choice after it’s too late, "as pearl-like the possibles went floating away."3
Every time I take a hiatus, I privately decide that I’m done, and there’s no way I’m going to come back and yoke myself to a daily deadline again, especially not for a side-gig. So when I told my wife last night that I was done, and there is no way I’m going to come back and yoke myself to a daily deadline again, she reminded me that I’ve always said that in the past and I always come back to Tabs. So, who knows. I will take my time off and contemplate the roads in front of me, and maybe more choices that I can’t see right now will reveal themselves. But just in case this is my last opportunity to write to you in a venue where no one can stop me from saying whatever I want to say, I’d like to tell you this:
If Tabs is about anything, it’s about how way leads on to way, how things are all connected, and if you pay close attention to the little stupid things, you can learn more than you’d ever have expected about the big important things. Like those photo mosaics, huge historical shifts in human life are made up, at very close range, of petty arguments and Venmo payments, hot takes and Twitter beefs, mistakes and misinterpretations, accidental discoveries and forgotten headlines. The tabs are the angels in the architecture. And every moment you have a choice, but there isn’t a right or a wrong choice, there’s only the conscious act of choosing. Whatever you choose to read, or choose to create, or choose to do with your time, as long as you’re choosing, it’s not wrong.
Thanks to Fast Company for paying the bills and always being game for whatever objectively insane thing I wanted to post under their logo. Thanks to Tinyletter for letting me grow many thousand subscribers past their nominal limit. Thanks to everyone else who has kept Tabs going for two and a half years.
And thanks to you. Maybe I’ll see you in a month, and maybe I won’t. But either way, thank you so much for reading.
~I shall be tabbing this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence~
Well! My wife was right, as always. And look, here I am tabbing this with a sigh, ages and ages hence. And I did, ultimately, come back for…
By December, 2020, one thousand subjective years later, I had thoroughly mangled this whole timeline in my head and all I remembered was:
Tabs ended in Season Three.
I like to post from September to February and March to July.
Therefore this is Season Four and it will go until… uh, well February is really too soon so: January to July, 2021.
That’s right, I made up a schedule that had never actually existed and then immediately broke it. Anyway I loaded up the old mailing list on this, Our Regrettable New Platform, and started Season Four on January 1st, 2021. Then we immediately had Bean Dad, the insurrection, and all the rest of it.
Season Five, Etc.
At this point you can just look at the archive. A modern season of Tabs is approximately five months long, and comprises several thousand “little stupid things” which I can only assert will add up to “history,” if we all hang in there long enough. So Season Five was August, 2021 through January, 2022. Season Six was February to August of this year, and now here we are. Season Seven goes until, at most, the end of January, 2023. Here’s hoping we all make it!
Open Thread: Introduce Yourself
I haven’t done an open thread for everyone yet, generally we do these a couple times a month for paid subscribers only. But let’s gamble that you’re all cool people and try a thread for everybody? If you made it here, first of all you obviously care enough to be a paid subscriber so, you know, hint hint:
But whether you choose to do that or not, post a comment and say hi! To whatever extent you’re comfortable doing so, tell us where you live, what you do, and what brought you here? Maybe share a hobby or an interest? Thanks for reading and welcome to Season Seven.
Including, it turns out, me.
“Yes I get what it’s also about but this is what’s on my mind today so let’s just go with it, all right?” (Footnote in the original.)