By C. E. Poley
This is not really about a history of blogs. My father showed me how to express my curiosity about technology and writing at a young age. I started my first blog when I was 12. It was an HTML blog, all built in Notepad on our Windows 98 computer in the basement of a red ranch house in northern New Jersey. Dad helped me build it with some hands on experience and an HTML instruction book. The Dover Weekly News began. The online “newspaper” was based on the computer itself, which acted as an internet server whenever it was on. It was nothing impressive, but it was the first time someone asked, “Do you have something to say? I will show you how to say it. You can say it to anyone.”
I do not remember how long the website lasted, or what its URL was. A Sports page covered all the basketball games my brother and I played in. An Editorial page had a Letter From The Editor and some room for comments that our readers could send in. A Nature section discussed a recent find or outdoor acquisition. A Contact page invited comments and interaction from our readers. My father encouraged some of his friends at work to read it, and a few adults at church visited the site. It died out after less than six months, though that was rooted in pure laziness rather than lack of readership.
My second blog was inspired by the fact that my mother had her own blog. I read her posts while I surfed other forums and places online. She always wrote about what inspired her, and what great stories she experience in her life. I saw things through a new lens. When I turned 16, I started working for the local Starbucks in the mall. I related dozens of anecdotes about customers and coworkers, life thoughts about religion, family, and other topics on a Wordpress blog for years. It was hosted on our family website, adjacent to a family blog and my mother’s blog. I received comments and had regular followers for a few years. The site became a controversial battleground in 2007 when I had a falling out with my family as a freshman in college. Family friends and church acquaintances attacked my increasingly infrequent and abrasive entries in comment form. I was no longer allowed home, and thus I abandoned my digital “home” as well.
I embraced LiveJournal as a private way to protect my thoughts from the outside world, but that proved unsuccessful. When I expressed myself there, and shared thoughts with others in college, it became a tool for peer manipulation on multiple levels. I had to find a way to express myself that did not betray too much, but still shared the lessons I learned every day as a young, inexperienced human being. I felt beaten at the blogging game as blogging seemed to become more and more popular and the blogging lifestyle was embraced. Thousands of people all over the world started to make a living with their blog, with a focus on marketing themselves. I left college before I finished my degree, and left my peers, and my college city behind. At the same time, I left my dedicated blogging ritual. I felt out of place. I did not want to market myself. I am not that kind of person.
Still, throughout the years after college, in the worlds of retail, publishing, online employment, and entrepreneurial career experience, I tried to pretend I could blog. Yes, I have always used Tumblr, but we all know that cannot count when you primarily reblog beautiful places you would like to visit and literary quotes. I tried and failed many times to share little pieces of life, but by that time I was trying to market myself. I could not help it; I was used to “embracing” new rules and Internet culture. That was what the Internet had said made a good blog. That was what the world had said made a good blog. When I worked in social media marketing, that was what is supposed to make a monetizing blog good. Hard work to market yourself. Thankfully I do not plan to make money with this blog. (Though I do write paid blogs on other websites, not my own.)
So there I was, trying too hard. It was not the first time, nor shall it be the last. There were many bad iterations of my blog. I tried to be fashionable (I am not, truly). I tried to be funny (I cannot be funny on the spot unless I have a companion for sparring). I tried to be too clever (which never works no matter who you are). But really, life is most successful when you are just you. Anyone can say that in a beautiful quote from some famous philosopher, but really it is just that: you should be you. Does that mean be your gross, crappy self? No, hell no. Do not take what I just said and think it is a license for puppy killers to murder tiny cute puppies because that is what they are, murderers. It means to be your best self. Your strongest self. Your kindest, most positive self. My true potential will never be realized unless I allow myself to have flaws, yes, but to also love the beautiful parts of myself. There are beautiful parts to everyone. It is not easy to admit, because we are often blinded by the ugliest parts. It is so easy to focus on the nasty stain on a beautiful white dress than it is to notice the gorgeous stitching still visible on a clean corner of the fabric.
The point is, truly, that I think I am past that time in my life when I expected my blogs to be these perfect, polished things that lead someone down a path to a meaningful connection with the Earth and the Universe. I am not a Yoda or the Buddha or even a columnist. I would like instead to return to my previous task: to tackle my own meaningful connections to the Universe and to others around me through writing, and to share those thoughts with others. I know that there are so many other people who experience wonderful moments and days, and understand the beauty of every opportunity set before them. Every moment is an opportunity. (We do not always take it, I certainly do not, but that does not mean moments are not opportunities.) Writing is not about perfection. It is about expression. It is about connection.
I read recently, “Do not trivialize or underestimate your acquired experiences and knowledge. What you think is trivial may make someone’s day. What you assume as common knowledge may be the exact information that someone else is trying to find.”
I needed to read that. I need to embrace that. I need to write. It bothers me every day that I do not. There is so much going on in my crazy, ex-conservative, fucked up weird family (I truly love them, I do- but remember what I said about imperfection), and it is a long story that I am sure many other kids who were homeschooled in a religious environment and no longer embrace many of those beliefs and values would appreciate and may have experienced themselves. None of it will be easy to share. But all of it will be real, and imperfect, and I hope, meaningful.
Thanks for reading,