I may or may not have told this story here three or five times before, but I always find that it bears repeating that I started writing on the internet in 1999.
I took a class the senior year of high school that required us to build our own course of learning for a project that we were really interested in. I paired up with my best friend Beth and decided to collaborate on something that was already meaningful for us – writing poetry. We were going to get together with a bunch of our poems and teach ourselves to publish a collection of our poetry into an actual book.
We secured our advisor, the head librarian who happened to have a non-fiction book published, and she took Beth and me for a trip to her publishing house, and that was where we learned that unless we were willing to front thousands of dollars that we didn’t have, we would not actually be getting our book published.
Remember, this was 1999, this was before the age of Blurb books and Createspace; hell, this was five years before the age of Facebook.
But I wouldn’t be deterred. I decided and then convinced Beth, that if we couldn’t publish our poems in the old-fashioned, normal way, then we would publish them a new way: on the Internet.
The first things I ever published online were sappy, high school ‘love’ poems, and they lived on Angelfire. Is that still around? I hope not.
AOL had the search engine of choice at the time, and that is where, after signing up for Angelfire and having no idea what I was doing, I went to search something along the lines of “how to design a website” and the search engine spit back a bunch of jibberish I couldn’t understand, but out of that jibberish I found one piece of advice about learning to design and code that I still use this day: “Right click, view source.”
Yes, I learned how to code by viewing the source of other people’s websites. I stole code, modified, and changed code until it was mine.
Was I proud of it back then? Hell fucking yeah. Am I proud of it now? Well, they made Firebug and DevTools for a reason, didn’t they?
That first website on Angelfire was total crap. I remember it had a lavender background with bright green text links making up a table of contents that would jump down to any poem you clicked on and back up again, and that hideous conflagration ignited a fire in me that I still have.
I was totally addicted to making websites, so of course, I became totally addicted to writing on them.
Before the end of my senior year, I started blogging on Diary-X, but it wasn’t called blogging back then, the term blog, or even ‘weblog’ from which blogging was derived, wasn’t a term I knew; I just called it online journaling.
Diary-X gave me a blank slate and even better playground than Angelfire had because it’s content management system was built in. All I had to do if I wanted to write on there was put in the title, and write. Things like date headings, hyperlinks, next/last/archive links, were all made for me.
There were no sidebars to worry about back then. There were no widgets.
There was just writing and finding other writers who you liked, and community around sharing words.
It was a beautiful time, and the writing I did there was beautiful, too.
I wrote consistently on Diary-X from 1999 until 2005, and then two things happened that changed writing online for me forever.
The first thing was, I had a baby.
I didn’t want to have a baby, but that is another story, or series of stories, for another time. I think it’s just important to know that my happy accident actually left me quite depressed, and since this was 2005, back when Facebook was just a blathering infant itself and all of my friends were still getting drunk for a living and not hanging out with their mom-friend anymore, my depression went unnoticed and not talked about.
This was a time that all these great mom blogs were sprouting up, and I remember the day I found dooce.com and fell in love with the way she wrote so hilariously and openly, and even after she got fired from her job for writing the things she did, she kept writing anyway, and I loved her for it.
But I didn’t.
Sometime in 2005, I went to log into my Diary-X site where six years of my writing were lovingly crafted, but there was nothing to be found. The URL brought me to a blank page with a string of unrecognizable code that made me sick just to look at. After a whole lot of searching and then finally checking my email, I discovered a dispatch from Diary-X’s creator, and it was an apology.
The Diary-X servers had failed, and everything was lost.
There was no backup. This was long before Dropbox and Timemachine.
All of my words, all of my carefully crafted young memories, were gone.
I was devastated. So were thousands of other people. But maybe thousands of other people just had their little rage moments, calmed down, and then moved on; I don’t know, but I sure didn’t.
I went many years without writing online.
It wasn’t just because Diary-X blew up, but that was a big part of it. That site had stored so much of me, so many stories that I never printed out, so many memories that I was terrified I would lose. That fucking online journal was something I was more proud of than anything else I had done in my life because right there was my proof of existence, my proof that I had a cool life with stories that were worth telling and memories keeping, and having that erased felt like having a part of myself erased, a limb cut off without my permission.
It sounds so dramatic, but I suppose some of you might have an idea of what I am talking about.
Feeling like you have no past and that you are starting with a blank slate is actually a terrifying sensation.
Writers know. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page, and all that.
It’s always hard to start something, but it is so much harder when you are scared to death to say what you want to say.
So, here it is: I’ve always wanted to be a mom blogger, but I really hate parenting.
If anyone wants to know the truth about why the only history of my writing online can be found via The Wayback Machine followed by a six-year gap, it’s because I never felt like there was anywhere on the Internets for me to belong.
It’s really hard to write about the day to days of parenting when you think that the monotony of it is actually the worst. It’s terrifying to tell the truth if you look back on your choice to become a parent and think, I really would rather have not. It feels gross to want to write about parenting when the things going through my head are ‘I’m so glad this parenting gig calms the fuck down after they turn 18,’ and even more awkward when I have to admit that for me, it will not. This parenting gig will not calm the fuck down, cause I’m the parent of a disabled child who will probably live with me for the rest of her life, and that sucks, and I’m fucking sad about it.
So what do you think now, about my decision to eschew mom blogging for the last eleven years?
Guys, I am so sick of this charade.
Depression, as you know, is a liar, and liars make you wear masks, and the mask I always wear is happiness, contentment, normality, stability, WHATEVER.
Unless you’re Jill or Todd, literally nothing you’ve seen in me for years has been real, because I’ve been breaking and broken and too ashamed to be honest about how I really feel, what I really think, and who I really am.
It’s gross, and it’s exhausting, two things that should be incompatible with life, but I have been tolerating them because of fear.
FEAR. Of being myself.
How fucking absurd is that, right?
Believe it or not, it’s really, really common. So common, in fact, that there are tens of thousands, if not millions of websites, books, seminars, and courses, about embracing vulnerability, letting go of your fears, and showing the world what you have to offer it.
It’s called personal growth, bitches, and it’s this thing I am doing now.
So I slapped a new WordPress theme up in here and imported back in all of the archives I have left from the blogs since Diary-X, and then I did this crazy thing that I have been wanting to do for ages and finally did because I had to. I signed up for Janelle Hanchett’s Write Anyway course that starts in June, and I am absolutely committing myself to writing what I want, where I want, when I want, despite the nauseating fear that I still carry around with me.
Fuck it. I’m going to write anyway.
Prepare to be offended.
You will learn the glory that is the word FUCK and you will learn how it’s possible to be the parent of a child with multiple disabilities when you are certain that parenting is bullshit, and we should all get our money back.
I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time, but I do know one thing: life is too short to keep from doing what you want to do because you’re afraid.
Of that, I am certain.