Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Why

Like most of what I've published here recently, the words below were written a while ago and not originally intended for this blog. In the nine years that I've been writing online, I've had many lapses and short-lived struggles, but I've never gone through a drought like the one I'm in now.  It's like every time I think of a topic to discuss, I remember that I've already written about it, sometimes multiple times.  For months, I've been thinking of ways to push my comfort zone.  Earlier today, for instance, I reworked a piece I'd written back in 2011 about a night out...but I didn't feel right about publishing it.  It seemed foolhardy to, for the sake of novelty, suddenly expose a part of my life I've taken such care all this time to keep off the internet.  I keep doing that - spending time on entries that go nowhere, and that I know are going nowhere even as I start them.

So today I'm posting something I wrote a couple of years ago that explains my original motivation to write.  In reading it, it's clear that I no longer need this exercise for the reasons I used to.  What that means moving forward, I'm not sure yet, but I suppose I don't have to know.  My life is still full of words - every day more words - but it seems for the moment, most of them are destined for elsewhere rather than here.
There’s a line in The Social Network where [the movie version of] Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook is a way to put the entire college experience online.  The catch, of course, is that you can’t put the entire college experience online.  You can’t put any whole real life experience online – not on Facebook, and certainly not on MySpace.  And MySpace is where my blogging life was born, on a blog that I started one day while bored at work. 

I wrote the blog almost entirely from my desk, usually in moments of feeling isolated and/or frustrated (I was in my early twenties after all; occasionally believing the world was conspiring against my obvious awesomeness was my God-given duty as a citizen of this Earth).  Most of it was initially posted with no privacy restrictions, and no concern on my part about who might read it.  Just the same, I wrote under an alias and changed the names of my co-workers when writing about them. 

But in doing so, I was being overly cautious.  This was early 2006 – most grownups weren’t using social-networking sites yet.  Screen names, not legal names, were the internet norm.  In that brief window in which MySpace reigned supreme, Facebook was tiny, Twitter didn’t exist, and YouTube was barely off the ground.  I was free to sit in my office and write whatever I wanted on the world’s (then) most popular social network with no fear whatsoever of getting in trouble over it. 

It turned out that what I most wanted to write about was stuff other people probably pay therapists to listen to.  While at work, there was no one immediately available to complain to when a co-worker was being annoying, or to sympathize with me on the days when I wanted to be anywhere but stuck indoors in front of a computer.  So in the office, I talked to the internet.  I told it all sorts of things, including an inordinate amount about my personal insecurities and about my confusion about the future.

In 2006, I was two years out of college, my class being one of the last to graduate before a recession and a national conversation on inflated education costs shook the foundations of decades-old conventional wisdom.  As we walked into the “real world,” my classmates and I experienced something that wasn’t being discussed the mainstream quite yet:  disillusionment.

So that’s what I did write about (albeit in a way that was much less somber than the previous paragraphs suggest).  What I didn’t write about was the other 75% of my life – which had nothing to do with employment or meandering questions about adulthood and existed in a separate realm that I kept private.  It wasn’t that I was hiding anything.  It was just that my life encompassed so much more than whatever topics happened to pop into my head while sitting at my desk at work. 

That blog told a very true story, but a true story is still just a story.  It’s not “me.”  I couldn’t fit “me” in a blog (or in a book) even if I tried, and that wasn’t my aim anyway.  Memoirs are often either lauded or disparaged depending on “how much the writer reveals.”  But as a serial memoirist myself, I often feel that readers overlook that in writing about yourself, no matter how honestly, you are only ever telling the story that you want told. 

I say this because my MySpace friends often sent me advice, mistaking the pieces I gave them for the whole of who I am.  But that blog wasn't me.  All of me wasn't there…

…but part of you may have been, and that’s the reason I started sharing my stories in the first place…

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