My 19 years of blogging
I wrote my first blog on June 23, 1995. It was a text file I began with the earth-shattering words:
My, doesn’t she aspire to a lot! She aspires to be Bobby’s girl, and that’s all that’s important to her!
I was sixteen years old at the time. My only objectives were killing time and making my super-stellar website into more than a collection of links, which was what 99% of the web felt like at the time.
I didn’t write very often at first. I used a single short text file for all of 1995. My 1996 text file was even shorter, and included an entry written almost exactly eighteen years ago, on March 19, 1996:
[B] and I – the ‘giant teddy bear’ – moved into a rather groovy (if I do say so myself) house on eighteenth and Jefferson [...]. It’s a wonder – I would never have thought that we would get it.
I’m trying to get into the Youth Corps. Hope I make it – I’m so sick of washing dishes you wouldn’t believe. I do love my coworkers, yes, but that’s not enough to combat the loneliness and feelings of incompetence I deal with through every moment of every shift. “Am I such a loser that this is the best job I can get?” It’s not, actually, but I’ve not had the energy to look for a job again until recently.
In early 1997, I was writing enough to warrant a text file for each month. I wrote only one very long entry that March, detailing how I’d emailed my boyfriend’s parents about some unkind words they’d spoken about my mom:
I wrote a letter to [B]‘s parents, a letter wholly honest, nothing hidden or omitted. [B]‘s father called last night and said that he wanted to talk things over with [B] – one of those things being the letter that I wrote. He said that it had them very upset. It was then that I realised that no words will ever enlighten them; no understanding will ever touch their hearts. They lost me when they left that message – and when they lost me, they lost something good. They lost an intelligent, sensitive, creative and caring human being.
I wrote about anything and everything at the time, though I surely wrote it more dispassionately than I felt it. Shortly after I wrote this particular entry, I walked to a nearby park and swung in the darkness for a long time. I ached to realize my time with B was almost over. I knew there was no way we’d be able to overcome familial differences, and that our relationship was gasping its last (prolonged) breath.
For a seventeen-year-old, even a seventeen-year-old college student versed in poverty and abuse and long since moved out of her family home, that is huge stuff. And still I had time to write about life lessons, the kind I have to keep learning every few months even now:
I talked with an old friend of mine yesterday evening, and something I said remains with me still. Our conversation had fallen to the parts of our pasts that have hurt, and I remarked that this is why I look to the future rather than at the past. We can only relive something so many times before it becomes only an exercise in agony, a reminder of pain that we have already learned from. Though today may bite, tomorrow always has the potential of being a beautiful, wonderful day.
As recently as a year ago, I still believed that life was simply one agony after another. That could have been due to my teenage hormones, because I am now a subdued optimist. I don’t think that humans will suffer forever. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and even if it takes me years to get there, I know that someday I will…
By March 1998, I was writing a couple of times a week, still mostly unfiltered:
On a completely unrelated topic, [B] called last night and I really didn’t feel like talking to him. We believed that we would always be the best of friends, no matter what, but it really just doesn’t happen. I know that I wasn’t the ideal girlfriend, but I tried, and I think I’ll always be hurt/angry about some things that he did that I told him upset me… that I just don’t think he took seriously. “Yeah, yeah, she thinks it bothers her, but it’s really not that big a deal.” I just don’t feel like going there again, know what I mean? Our relationship is in the past but even so it feels like there are expectations or hopes… I don’t know. I’m just trying to rationalise my feelings, I guess, and I know that’s not going to work because logic and feelings aren’t exactly intertwined.
I know that he reads these journals sometimes and though that didn’t bother me at first I guess it does now. I can’t absolutely say that someone can’t read my journal, because they obviously can – it’s here for everyone to read and I can’t exactly specify a list of people that can’t look at my pages. I wish, though, that the people I didn’t want to look at my pages would respect my wishes… but I can’t say I didn’t know that it would be like this.
On March 19, 1999, my twenty-year-old self wrote about a short trip to Portland:
I’ve got a backpack basically full of clothing with a lyric notebook and a writing notebook. I might toss my journal in there, too – but I’m not sure as I’ve got no room left and my journal is already on the verge of falling apart. <smile> That’s the difference between us, the guys and the girls – Rache and I had five or six bags combined for a two-day stay in Portland, where [P] brought only a sleeping bag and some crazy Japanese food for his overnighter. Hmmm. And then again, I packed only a backpack and a duffel bag (which also housed my tent) when I went for ten weeks in British Columbia, and that was *far* less than any of my equally crazy peers.
I deleted my public journal text files from my old site more than a decade ago, but my 1998 page dedicated to my British Columbia trip remains live here.
In mid-March 2000, I wrote only that I hoped I hadn’t written too much earlier in the month, because I’d accidentally deleted my original march00.txt file. Oops.
Thirteen years ago today, I wrote from rural South Korea:
Today has definitely been an interesting day and I feel different on this side of it than I did on the other. I took my first trip away from [S] today, to [K], and had all kinds of strange adventures I could never have anticipated. It was an incredible day, though, and the first where I fully realized that, yes, I am in Korea. A trip to an old temple and the ensuing hours spent with the very interesting monks followed by a trip to the massive [market] (where I bought candles and a Korean book for children to help me learn some words) made this day distinct from any other I’ve had in Korea so far.
I returned to the States shortly after writing this entry. I kept writing in my public journal–or blogging, as we say now–through summer of that year, finally closing up my public journal shortly after starting law school in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the letters I got from strangers following my journal, who told me they’d never expected to see something so human come from a machine, but was irritated by the ones I got from acquaintances and family members I didn’t want knowing about my life. I opted to stop writing, though a friend soon enticed me to start a more private journal hosted elsewhere.
I’ve blogged for nineteen years, which means I’ve been blogging for more of my life than I haven’t. After nineteen years, I’m still not totally sure why I blog. Part of it is for catharsis, another part for connection. Part of it is that, after so many years, blogging has become a part of my identity, even if I don’t really have a clear “why.” Even if I keep having and forgetting the exact same epiphanies, copiously documented for increasingly older versions of myself to mock.
But I’m not really mocking, even as I wonder. There’s joy in having all this written down, a joy that was well worth every stop-reading-my-public-journal! argument I had. I’m able to see how far I’ve come. Despite recurring epiphanies, that is far indeed. For what I wrote in March 1997 came true, an accomplishment I’d never have noted if I hadn’t written it down:
I don’t think that humans will suffer forever. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and even if it takes me years to get there, I know that someday I will…
I wish I could email my eighteen-year-old self the kind of email strangers sent me:
Listen, Deb (which you don’t call yourself now but will someday), you’re totally right. Things will get better. You’ll work hard to make sure that they do, and that hard work will be why they do. Someday, you’ll even be such a practiced optimist that you’ll piss people off for being too optimistic. They’ll mistake your optimism for inability to see the world’s true darkness, but, hey, you’ll know. You’ve always known. Even though there’s so much more dark still coming, you’ll get through it. And you will, despite it all, find the light. Keep searching it out, because it is there. You believe it now, but I want you to know it’s not misguided. It’s there.
The good thing about being 35 years old is looking back and seeing it all. This 2014 me can’t reach back in time to talk her younger self through the trials ahead, but, wouldn’t you know . . .
She went ahead and made a good life anyway.