When I was ten, I got my first diary as a Christmas present. It had a lock, but it was no problem to open the journal without the key. Turns out this was good, because soon enough the key had vanished, probably stolen by my brother or swallowed by the dog. I kept writing in the little purple diary for months, regardless. Continue reading “Why I wrote, and why I write.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about anonymous blogging, partially owing to Tiny Rubies’ post on the subject. A few weeks ago, I was toying around with similar ideas, though certainly I didn’t so eloquently put them down.
I can only say this: The new “normal,” the new online journaling environment is a struggle for me. I seem to have trouble navigating it at every turn. Back in the day (2000 to 2010-ish), I took care to leave off all identifying characteristics of myself and everyone else I knew when I wrote online. Even after talking on and offline for years, less than a handful of the other online diarists I was friends with knew the real names of the people I talked about. And boy, did I ever talk! It makes me more than a little cringe-y to imagine putting 75% of those things out there now. Then, my online diary was so indistinguishable from my paper one that while I was writing online, I totally stopped keeping the ubiquitous notebook that I had kept on my person since I was ten. I have no doubt that I over-shared with regularity, and my twenties and thirties were the most drama-infested of my life (or anyone else’s, I’d wager). Without batting an eye, I chronicled the ends and beginnings of relationships, as well as the everyday ups and downs that led to them. Most of the time, my readers even knew when I was getting a little “action.”
Jesus, I need wine just to think about it.
But I was fearless, and there’s an undeniable appeal in that, even now that I’m older and wiser. I guess I want there to be a happy medium for my online journaling, and for me as I exist here inside its entries. Presently, I put down on the page the interesting things I do and see, but I seem mostly to be stopping myself at the feeling. I know what my creative writing teachers would say if they were reading: there’s no blood going to it. I think they’re wrong; I’m just bleeding on the keyboard and on the backspace key where you all can’t see it. But yes, by the time it gets posted, a lot of it is bloodless. I only seem to find the more carefree version of myself in writing that is a decade old, and I end up re-posting that old stuff more than I would like (though I almost always have to go through it with a fine tooth comb beforehand to make sure it won’t offend anyone). It’s a strange spot to inhabit, because a big part of me really likes that there are people I actually know reading now. But again, I’m sure as hell not posting the stuff I used to.
Truth be told, I’m actually not sure about the extent to which I’d write like that again even if I felt entirely safe doing so. I grew up online, but I think the process was completed in the four or five years I spent away, when I was keeping my thoughts to myself. If I had gone back to my trusty Mead notebook in that time, I might never have come back to online journaling; but alas, I only have so much willpower, and I was using it to do other things. I put pencil to paper about twenty times in the four years I was gone, and that was it. Writing here again makes me push myself just a little bit, just enough. I tell myself I have to sit down and do this once a day, and then I have to make the rounds and read you all. It makes me move my brain around for awhile every day, and I also have to use the writing muscles that had just damned near atrophied.
I’ve said this before–I miss the community, and I’m trying to find it again. It isn’t easy, primarily because I have no idea who my community is anymore. I’m not nearly as young as I used to be, so those people who are putting it all out there and bleeding all over the interwebs aren’t my people anymore, though I can surely identify with where they are in their lives. Maybe it’s the younger me I miss. Then again, maybe I’d just like to see her again so I can slap the shit out of her.
I don’t know. I do know that I feel awfully exposed nowadays, and it’s definitely choking off my flow. I use my real name to blog here, and my mother, my husband, and my entire (real life) Facebook circle of friends have the address at their fingertips should they choose to use it. And of course, if I ever decide to trade in my SAHM card to go out and look for a real job, no HR person worth their salt would hire me without a Google search. I don’t know how the world of the employed works anymore — do people still get Dooce’d?
Eh, I’ll figure it out. I’ll get some blood flowing to it again. I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m going to have to sink or swim. Shit or get off the pot. Say something or sit down and shut up. Thank goodness I’ve never been one to back down from a fight, even when it’s with myself.
Boredom is a rarity for me. There are too many books and blogs to read, too much television to watch, too much Amazon browsing to be done to ever allow it. This afternoon though…I just finished a book (Hillbilly Elegy), and before I can really get into another one, I need some silence and a steady lack of company. Neither are happening. Step-son is having technology issues that I must periodically attend to, step-daughter is trying not to throw her phone in frustration with one of her friends (who seems to think that sending a screenshot of her phone will show evidence of her broken screen). Husband is trying to sleep for a little while before he returns to work tonight for another 12 hours. The cat is high from the catnip spray we bought last night, and the neighbors are mowing their grass in the 95 degree heat of the day. The trains roll through repeatedly, too many to count and way too loud.
So I’m not bored, not really. But the book was good and a little thought-provoking and my mind is certainly wandering.
Today, I’ve been thinking about people I originally encountered on the internet, met face-to-face, and now haven’t seen or heard from in more than a decade. Thinking of them led me to a sort of homesickness for OpenDiary, a community I joined in 1999 and stayed with off and on for the five or six years following, even though I was also self-hosted during most of that time. (OD, of course, closed permanently in 2014, but even looking at the Wayback screenshots of its standard crappy page design makes me more than a little sad for those days long gone.) It’s funny the things that stick with us and that become synonymous with “home” in our heads. Place–I guess even virtual place–becomes something so much more once feeling is attached to it. On OpenDiary, I met Leah, whose last name I no longer remember, whose emails were lost to the ether when my old standby email address was shut down due to inaction. She made me soap, sent me a book on powerful historical women, and hugged me in the Charlotte townhouse of a friend of hers. She was a first-year teacher with a lot of frustration…not at all a new thing for that school district, even then. Then there was Essdee (Shawn Dana), whose last name I never knew, whose face I never saw, but whose comments on the every day minutiae of my life made everything so much easier. And, of course, Dominica, who accompanied me and my then-partner to a Star Trek Voyager convention in Cleveland (where we all patently refused to sit in on Jennifer Lien’s section, even though she hadn’t yet become a psycho with a record), who was so very kind, who loved us both, who was a brilliant web designer, and who herself had more psychiatric problems than any of our circle of friends could have possibly imagined.
Where do these people go? How do we all drift so quickly in and out of one another’s lives, especially if what we have seems to be good for all involved? I like to think that I am a person interested in people, that the people I love and have around me are more important than any thing I might accomplish or any money I might make in my time on this planet. I would rather excel in friendship than in the accumulation of possessions, and I hope that the people who are (or have been) in my life know without a doubt that this is where I stand.
I am Jewish for a reason: I believe that this life is all we get, that our only company for the journey is one another. That we have to take care of our fellow humans even in their weakness and sadness and madness and baddity. (I don’t care if “baddity” isn’t a word, I’ve still been using it for more than a decade and it works.) I was young once, so of course I didn’t always feel this way. As young people, we rarely value the right things, and I’m sure I threw away many people I should’ve kept, and vice versa. It’s just so hard sometimes to remember (even now) that it’s not just me in the world. People don’t do the things they do because of how those things will affect me; rather, like me, they mostly only consider how they themselves will be affected. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I am not the end all and be all, that the teenager neglecting to pick up her mess cannot be taken as a personal affront anymore than the weather can. It’s a freakin’ struggle, but I’m guessing it’s one with which we’re all fairly familiar.
I’ve digressed a little. My point is that I’m missing all those long-gone folks today, and I’m taking their gone-ness (and OD’s gone-ness) more personally than I should. Conventional wisdom tells me that I can’t go home again, but today….today that’s just making me really, really sad.
The truth is, I’ve been off the online journal circuit since before it ever got popular. In fact, I’m going to bet that the last time I wrote consistently was 2008-ish, which was about two years after my crazy ass Vegas girlfriend and I called it quits. (Though I had to keep slogging along at the journal for a while afterward because APPEARANCES.) I was pretty burnt out after that–I’d been writing several times a week for about seven years at that point–and I just let the last cute domain name (and there had been several over the years) fade back into the ether from whence it came. In the intervening nine years, I haven’t kept much of a journal in any form. I buy expensive and beautiful notebooks and keep them in decorative baskets on my bookshelves, preparing for the unavoidable eventuality (ha!) that one day I’ll be walking by and decide that today, instead of reading, I’ll write. That happens not nearly as often as I would like. I have many pretty notebooks with writing in them, but unfortunately, it stops after no more than 20 pages and never picks up again. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I’m just bizarre enough about my notebook journalling that I cannot allow too much of a passage of time between entries…skipping a year, for example, is totally not cool and absolutely necessitates beginning a new notebook. Were it not for the fact that I cannot stand to waste paper and that someday there’s probably going to be an apocalypse wherein I’ll need all the paper I can get, I would throw them away in a heartbeat. As it is, they just sit there and torment me.
The great thing about writing in this forum is that there is no paper to waste (and no money to waste on buying it). Also, until I decide I need all the bells, whistles, and customization options (which is at most a couple weeks down the road), it’s free. I admit, writing online again is also a lot like coming home, only it’s more than a little strange to have no history making the journey with me. Once upon a time, y’all, I didn’t go ANYWHERE without my archives, and quite honestly, I’m still having a hard time with the idea that they aren’t–and won’t ever be–here. Obviously, I’ll end up retelling some stories, but wow, it’s pretty weird to be out here all alone and unknown in this place where I once felt so seen and so at ease. (Isn’t it wild to hear anyone talking that way about the internet in this day and age?) I guess I’ll just have to move along by taking the advice of my high school public speaking teacher and fake it til I make it…someday, dammit, I’ll look (again) as prolific as I feel.
I have five books going at the moment. The majority of them are decent enough, and yet whenever I park my ass on the couch, I don’t end up reading a single one of them. My excuses are varied and only occasionally acceptable even to me:
- I have a cat on my lap who won’t stop nosing the Kindle.
- I have this pretty new Chromebook and I need to download ALL THE APPS and create ALL THE BOOKMARKS because I’ve never had one of these machines before and OHMYGOD I love it so much.
- I’m writing on the internet again and sweetbabyjesus, I have to write on the internet again right now.
- I have rolls and rolls and ROLLS of yarn pressed against my left leg and a 10-ton half-finished scrap afghan draped across my lap that I must work on RIGHT NOW because otherwise it’s just going to sit there forever and eventually suffocate me (and the cat).
- Truly, I have to watch the next episode of The West Wing, otherwise I’ll never finish, and I’d like to start over again with the pilot (for the twelfth time) by next week at the latest.
- The teenager(s) won’t stop talking to me long enough for me to read two sentences in a row. (Actually, I wouldn’t mind so much if he was talking. He’s laughing neurotically and making me watch stupid YouTube videos…what is it with these kids and their ridiculous videos?)
- I have to start supper/laundry/cleaning the bathroom. (Doesn’t that one sound responsible? I like that one.)
- If I read, I’ll just want to drink tea and eat way too many Sixlets, and I’m really trying to stop being a fat ass by Christmas.
- I can’t figure out what I’m in the mood for. What the hell do I want? Should I reread Harry Potter or The World According to Garp for the tenth time, or should I finish Hillbilly Elegy or the third Diana Gabaldon (which you can go ahead and shame me for because I’m already ashamed anyway)?
There are too many damned options and too many damned distractions and I’m overwhelmed by my way-too-lofty Goodreads reading goal for the year.
I think I’m just going to go to bed.
A month or so ago, The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article about keeping a journal in the age of Trump. As a person interested in both first person historical accounts of traumatic events and journal writing, the piece spoke to me, though probably not in the way (or for the reasons) the author intended. For one thing, I already keep a sporadic paper journal, though it mostly contains the extremely malleable and changeable nutso thoughts that run around in my head on a day-to-day basis and not so much commentary on the utterly sickening and terrifying political goings-on in our country. Obviously, I wouldn’t choose to ever have those personal pages put on display in a museum, and it’s likely that no one would want to see them anyway. Secondly, though it’s been many, many moons ago now, I once kept an online journal (with several names and incarnations) that covered all sorts of topics–from political to personal and back again. Point being, I don’t imagine the article above had my type of writing in mind with its call to action, nor do I think that the author was advocating any kind of online notation of current events…there are plenty of news and personal sites doing that already. No, I’m fairly certain the writer was attempting to convince its readers that future generations would thank them if they would take pen to paper and describe what effect the current political climate was having on typical individuals trying to live their normal lives (and if there’s an Anne Frank among them, so much the better).
Well, needless to say, I am not Anne Frank. I do have an on-the-ground perspective of the world in which we live, but I doubt seriously that it’s any different from others; mostly, I just use a lot of profanity and try not to throw things at the television. Nevertheless, I am a person “of a certain age,” and I remember fondly the days when people wrote on the internet because it was there and because there were other awesome people doing it. I want to go back to those times, and I cannot help but hope that this pilgrimage back to the ‘net of my misspent youth leads back to those ridiculously amazing people and that I find myself still among their number. But even if there are no nice and/or brilliant people left writing on the web these days, I’m spending this evening pounding on the keyboard because there was a call in that article a few months ago, and I heard it: IT’S BEEN A FREAKIN’ LOT OF YEARS, BOO, AND IT’S TIME TO WRITE ON THE INTERWEBS AGAIN.
Here goes nothin’…