This June I’m coming up on ten years of writing this blog. I can’t think of many things I’ve done for an entire decade. I’ve never lived in the same house for ten years, my average is four. The longest relationship I’ve been in is six years. I’ve only been a parent for three years. I do have a pair of running shorts that have weirdly lasted close to twenty years. And friendships, I’ve had some of those for decades.
Still it’s interesting to think about how I’ve been blogging for almost a solid decade.
Recently someone asked me why I do this. Why I put my thoughts and my stories, my intimate moments and feelings, out there for everyone to see. It’s not the first time someone has asked, and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve thought about it. But it was the first time I found myself feeling self conscious about it.
Maybe I’ve become too comfortable, I thought to myself. Maybe it’s not such a good thing to pour myself out like this all the time, although I do indeed keep certain parts of my life private.
So I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking about it. Why do I do this?
The answer is both complicated and simple.
I began blogging a few months before my father died. It was 2003 and I was twenty-five years old. I had been living in Los Angeles for almost a year and most of my time was occupied by a failing relationship, career struggles, and my dying father. It was a lonely time. I felt isolated, if only because my experiences were so far out of the scope of my peers.
One day during that time I read an article in the LA Times about a woman named Julie Powell who was writing a blog about her year spent cooking Julia Child’s recipes. I’d been reading blogs for a couple of years already, and I’d toyed with the idea of starting one myself, but something about this moment, perhaps just about where I was in my life combined with a reminder about blogging from this article, prompted me to open an account that very day.
I entitled the blog Life in LA (lame, I know) and I began typing away. God, it was liberating. The words just poured out of me. I had so much to say, and back then it felt so anonymous. It was as though I could spill out all my biggest secrets and then fling them out into the world. I’d always kept a journal, but this was different. There was some new weight to what I was writing. No one I knew personally was reading, but nonetheless, someone somewhere was reading, and that changed things. It made me write harder, better, and with more intent.
The entries were tentative at first. I wrote about my life in Los Angeles, about my father, about changing bedpans in the middle of the night, about the fear I had about saying goodbye to him, and it wasn’t long before strangers began to comment, and at first I wasn’t sure how to react. In some ways knowing that other people were reading what I was writing was scary, but mostly it felt comforting.
I began to write more and more. I wrote about my isolation, my fear, and about my grief. And then people wrote back. They told me that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t wrong. Mostly they told me that they heard me, they saw me. They gave me reassurance and solace. They made me feel like the world wasn’t such a big and lonely place.
I blogged the night my father died. Just a short post to say that he was gone. I had called my friends and family too, but something about writing inside this tiny space was different. I could say things here that I couldn’t say to anyone else. I wrote the words that didn’t come up in conversation, the soft sentences, the sad moments, the hard parts.
In the fall of that year my blog was written up in the Sydney Morning Herald and I was flooded with readers. So many people wrote to tell me that they understood the things I wrote about. They told me about their own losses, about their inner lives, their grief and the regrets that kept them up at night.
After a while I began to rely on this community for support. When I had a question, they had an answer(s). When I felt sad, they had kind words. When I accomplished something but had no parents to show off to, they were proud of me.
And so it went. This June marks ten years of it all, and I can happily say that it’s consistently been a really positive force in my life. I’ve showed people a side of myself I might never have been able to otherwise, I’ve met so many amazing people, connected with so many readers and bloggers, made real friends, learned about different ways of seeing the world, and felt an incredible amount of love from people I’ve never met.
Writing here is often a way for me to figure things out, to understand myself better, and I’ve found that in doing so, I’ve helped some of you figure things out too. But after a decade, I suppose I truly have become very comfortable putting it all out there. If it was once a release and then a compulsion, it’s since become just a habit. I experience something and then I write about it. And then you write back. How’s that for positive reinforcement?
Either way, I’m incredibly grateful for this place. I’m grateful for the space, the reflection, the demand, the return. I’m even grateful to question it. I have no idea if there’s another decade of it ahead of me, but for now I’m happy to be here.