Burn the Journals! (But Don’t Forget to Back up the Blog)

5 years ago

When I journaled (high school, college, living abroad), there was always at least one person in my life that was given the directive, "If anything ever happens to me, get to my apartment, burn the journals. You must. Promise me."  Said with all of the drama and urgency a twenty something could muster.  My journals were the deepest darkest me, the naughtiest me, me at my most confident and me feeling most vulnerable. I wrote about everything and anything, but mostly I wrote about me.  Me trying to comprehend the world around me. You know, just trying to figure sh*t out. And sometimes it all looked a bit messy.

The thought of anyone getting into those parts of my life terrified me. And now, what terrifies me more is the opposite - the thought of my blog vanishing, somehow being erased, inaccessible, to me or to anyone else. Oh the horror!

What's happened? What's changed?

The mess is still there, and I’m still trying to figure out. Only now, rather than guard it near my chest, I’ve somehow deemed it okay to expose some (not all) of me at my most confident, me feeling most vulnerable. Have I become an exhibitionist in my old(er) age? Because now not only am still talking about issues of identity and worth, since I am primarily an infertility blog, I’ve added my vagina to the mix.

Anonymity helps, but come on. Nothing is really anonymous, is it?  I’m guessing at least 50% of my readers know how to reach me in real life. Know my name, know where I live. The anonymity is more a myth I tell myself so I don’t self-censor to the point of yawn.

There was an article in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday wondering whether Facebook turns us into narcissists if it attracts people that are narcissistic in the first place, or none of the above. And I’ve been wondering if any of the studies and conclusions the article references translate to blogs and those of us who keep them.

Has blogging made us more narcissistic? Does the medium itself attract those with narcissistic tendencies to it? Is there any chance that blogging makes us less self-centered?

I would say no, and maybe, and yes.

I opened my journals and started writing when I found myself in places in my life where I felt, “these are things I cannot discuss with people around me.”  I created my Blogger account in a similar vein. We were just beginning our journey through IVF using donor eggs. IVF itself wasn’t that foreign of an idea, but not something readily discussed in our little city. Anonymous donor eggs, well that threw a whole other concept of Other into the mix.

Years ago, when we had raised the donor egg issue with a supposed fertility expert nearby, he shamed us out of the idea. It was a “racket.” A market.  Something “they might do over in Philadelphia” but nothing his self-righteous self would condone.  But as an eggless cancer survivor, that was the one family-building option that looked like it could work for us.

Cue the Internets.

I started blogging to process. To write it all out. And to document a journey that would hopefully someday get underway.  But in addition to trying to sort through my thoughts in a safe space where no one knew my name, this time around, I was also seeking something more.

In my journals I sought validation from myself. In my blog I sought validation from the world – there is someone somewhere that is also going through this, right???

And the answer was a resounding yes. And as I realized there was more than my own set of eyes looking at my words, those words evolved. I evolved. Word clouds morphed from “I” and “me” to “us” and “we” to “you” and “yins.” Clicking on comments took me other people’s words which took me to other people’s words and I found my way into a community that didn’t exist at that time in my physical world. A community I care about and love and whose members have found their way into my physical world.

My journals were never meant for other’s eyes.  I’m only aware of one other person that’s seen pieces of them (stupid, stupid, ex-boyfriend). So there would be no loss if they went up in flames. The journals, I’m talking about the journals, of course. Those thoughts have been processed. That purpose has been served. That time has passed.

But if my blog were to go up in into the internet equivalent of smoke, it wouldn’t be my words I would miss most (although that would sting). I would miss the dialog, the conversations, seeing how relationships built over the course of posts.  Not so much my words, but everyone else’s that were collected there, that would be the loss.

If and when our family does arrive, I would miss the history of our child(ren) coming into being and all of the voices involved in helping to make that happen.

There are times when I feel my blog isn’t about me anymore. And there are times that I think that is more than okay.

Photo Credit: JoelMontes via Flickr.

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