Bloggers' tragedies illuminate the best and the worst of workaholic life on the Web

9 years ago

Some of you may have read, with shock and a bit of disbelief, Om Malik's Jan 3 posting on his media/tech industry blog, GigaOm, that he'd suffered a heart attack on December 28.

Fortunately, Malik sought treatment in time and should recover fully ... provided he lets up on some of his less-healthy habits, as he admits, "smokes, scotch and all my favorite fatty foods."

Perhaps you were shocked by Malik's ability--or desire--to blog so quickly after such a scary event. I can understand this; even after such horrific events as my father's death, I blogged that day. It seemed I craved a way to grieve and process, and blogging provided me with that outlet. Similarly, after years of posting Malik may find comfort in being in contact with the community he spoke to every day.

Perhaps you are floored by the near-thousand comments that follow his brief post, messages of encouragement and empathy. When you've ensconced yourself in a community as impactfully as Malik, this is bound to happen. As bloggers, we don't want to cash in our free sympathy chips too readily, but when we do have a legitimate crisis, the immediate outpouring can be healing.

What surprises me about Malik's scare and the recent death of uber-blogger and productivity expert Marc Orchant is that we expect people whose work we admire to blog forever. When Elisa told me about Malik's stroke, she, Lisa, and I all thought the same thing, "but what about the blog!" I checked all of the places where Marc Orchant wrote, most recently Blognation, and there was a note: "Will the last one out please turn off the light", with a link to the archives. Since this is where I really knew Marc, his online work, this image inspires the most grief.

Some of the comments to Malik's post included sentiments encouraging Malik to take care of himself and get his health back up to par before jumping back into the fray. Of course, to many bloggers, or to any workaholic for that matter, stopping is tantamount to a death of sorts, a death of relevance. Publishing is proof that we matter. And even after the initial rush of recognition we get from our work, it becomes equivalent to a runner's high--something we need to achieve in order to not feel sluggish for the rest of the day.

I imagine it will be a struggle for Malik to change his daily habits, eat a little better, get some exercise, and, as he says, even drink decaf. But the hardest part might just be sitting on the sidelines while others blog the trends on GigaOm, his eponymous site. To turn inwards and look at what was has been quietly moved to the side, earlier than he can even remember.

A young man still, Malik confirms that his scare was linked to his way of living. While I knew Marc Orchant personally, I only met him once in person, and I think I probably imbibed more than he did. I know nothing of his personal habits, or of any genetic predispostion he might have had toward heart disease. But I do find it ironic--unfair, even--that someone like him, a productivity expert dedicated to simplifying things for people and who lived by those rules of simplification, suffered a fate of accumulation, of life built up.

Marc was a hero of mine--someone who had constructed a life outside of work while reminaing fully ensconced and relevant within his career. There was no onramp of offramp period for him. It all flowed together. I can't even begin to imply that this was not really the case, because of his massive coronary. I can only conclude that it doesnt' make much sense, and that we should strive to live well anyway...even if it means, from time to time, skipping a post.

Jory Des Jardins also blogs at Pause.

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