Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why a blog?

It’s amazing, even puzzling—I checked this morning and as of today, there are about 1,800 other people in the Pittsburgh area alone who are keeping a blog. Not all of them are dedicated to it; some go weeks without entries. Still others post something several times on a single day. They’re men, women, kids, weirdos, mostly people who are strangers to me…except that we share a region of Pennsylvania and a desire to put our thoughts down in writing, via a somewhat or completely public forum.

Why do we do it? Well, I would guess that a lot of people who opt to write a blog are wordy; perhaps they have a lot to say and insufficient opportunities to say it. Some people may be seeking an audience, or hoping for input, or looking for a way to reach potential clients or voters or what have you. I suspect some folks just like to write; they prefer putting thoughts down on paper, or in this case onto a screen and hard drive. It’s enjoyable for them, and relatively easy to do; some of them may even be more pleased with their writing than with their speech, especially when you consider the frequently mundane, repetitive speech of everyday existence on this orb.

For some people, a blog is simply a way to record the day’s or week’s events. Truly, it isn’t that different from a journal or diary, and people have kept those for years, dutifully describing the often-dull events of a typical life. Many written personal histories never see the light of day, but the ones that do are sometimes cherished, a few even lauded—as little pieces of a forefather’s life, a distant relative’s journey, even rare glimpses into a famous person’s private world. Sometimes such a journal can offer amazing and valuable historical insights, as in Anne Frank’s heart-breaking diary.

I wish my own goals for this blog were lofty and far-reaching. They’re not. What is the biggest reason I wanted to do this? The real, selfish reason? Because it helps me reconnect with the person I used to be. Sometimes I feel so removed from my old self: my pre-baby, working self, my spunky single self who was ridiculously self-reliant and more than a tad self-centered. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are plenty of things about the old me that I’m happy to release. She’s not “all that,” by any means. Yet, there are parts of her I’d like to retain: the literate part, the thinking part, the part that finishes thoughts and sentences and notices what’s going on in the world outside her little bubble.

Being home with a toddler makes it easy to lose touch with reality. I’m sure that many moms out there would agree with me, especially when they recall the absolute upside-down feelings that occur after the first baby. It’s easy to forget that you still exist somewhere deep inside you, that you’re more than a warm lap, a food supply, a pair of rocking arms. Even as the child grows, a mom role can also grow and eventually consume the woman who used to reside in that same body. I don’t want to be totally consumed. I want to keep the best of both worlds, help them stay simultaneously afloat, teach them to hold each other up. Writing this blog helps me connect the two selves; it helps me sort out what’s worth keeping and what should be tossed like jetsam.

Is a blog worthwhile? Is it merely a smug soapbox? A narrated family album? Or is it just another expression of our culture’s absolute obsession with ourselves? It’s all of those, and more. Is it wasteful of my time and energy? Well, if I’m being totally pragmatic, of course it is. So are about 90% of the things that many Americans spend much of their lives doing and buying. Is it wasteful to have more than 40 TV channels? To drive gas-guzzling, expensive vehicles? To shower already wealthy kids with silly amounts of presents at Christmas? To participate in hobbies and pastimes that don’t directly benefit anyone? To pay millions of dollars to professional athletes? To eat out at restaurants that charge 2, 3, or more times what the meal would cost to prepare at home?

The whole issue of wastefulness is an entirely different post, and honestly it would be the kind of post I promised myself not to write. So, I’ll leave it alone. Whether or not a blog is a worthwhile pursuit will remain an opinion in each reader’s mind. I’ll keep writing, partly for you, but mostly for me. (Something from the old me that I'd like to maintain is the truth-teller.)

Talk to you soon! And happy autumn to you. Boots and sweaters weather at last--hurray!

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