Circling back around

Hello again internet. It’s been awhile.

I’ve been writing like this–an open journal, letters to the internet–on and off for almost half my life. But if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you read the particular incarnation of my public-facing journal that began while I was in the process of leaving my PhD program–then the biggest failure in my life.

That round of writing began because I was at a loss. My life was changing drastically, I didn’t know what was coming next, and I was terrified. And like every previous difficult point in my life, I returned to places of comfort: stacks of library books, pens and notebooks, clicking keys and glowing laptop screens in dark rooms.

I won’t lie to you and tell you that I didn’t want readers, that I didn’t have larger aspirations–I most definitely did. I was spurred onward by a post that went unexpectedly small-time viral, I wrote more about topics that got responses, I was hanging on every comment. Those things were real too.

But what got me started was desperation. A certainty that I had to write my way out of the hole I found myself in.

A little over a year ago, my writing here trailed off, sputtered to a stop. I even declared it the end of an era. After a great deal of struggle in the two years following my departure from grad school–being broke and un/underemployed, depression, a rough breakup, toiling away at a dead-end job–I felt like I was on solid ground, finally. I had found a “good” job–one with benefits, a salary, prospects for advancement–and a solid relationship which, for all my partner’s superficial similarities to prior lovers (similar pop culture interests, personal quirks), seemed utterly new in important ways. Derailed life, back on track.

The blog I had kept during my time of struggle now seemed out of place. What was it for, exactly, now that I didn’t have time to spare or desperation to climb out of?


One year later, I’m still with that lovely partner, and still glad to be, though the honeymoon has passed and we’ve had our share of struggle.

The job was another story that at the moment I’m not able to tell, at least not in full. The brief-ish version is this:

I worked for a tutoring company for about 21 months, tutoring myself while also developing course materials, supervising others, communicating with parents, and generally helping to run the company. The owner saw what I had to offer and put a lot of faith in me, and in that context I was able to grow enormously as an educator and regain a great deal of the confidence and sense of purpose I had lost when I chose to leave academic science. I saw everything that tutoring can and should be, and I became convinced that one-on-one work with students is absolutely what I want to be doing with my life.

Unfortunately, I also threw myself so fully into the job that I lost my mind a little bit. I stopped writing here, and gradually stopped writing at all for myself. I took on unreasonable amounts of work, because I did want to do it all. As my company’s success grew, my life became increasingly dominated by my anxiety. I got sick, a lot.

I tried to make course corrections a number of times, but in the end I couldn’t find a way to make things work at the particular company I was working at, for reasons I can’t get into here. Two weeks ago, one last attempt to make things work with my company blew up in my face, and I found myself once again, unemployed.

I come to you now, humbled.

I say this not because I am desperate in the same way I was when I left graduate school–this time I have a plan, and [some] confidence in my abilities. I’m tutoring privately (forgive the bare-bones site, I’m just getting started), doing some education writing work, and [starting this fall, fingers crossed] pursuing certification in educational therapy. I’m considering other full time jobs, but I won’t be taking one because I have to–only if the right thing comes along.

No, I’m humbled because I was cocky enough to think my work here was done–to think that once I achieved Real Adulthood, complete with Job That Provides Health Insurance, I no longer needed to write. Worse, I told myself writing here was a silly indulgence, something I could take or leave and now, like a good adult, I needed to Assess My Priorities.

I was wrong.

I don’t have any grand plans or promises for you this time around. There are to be no planned post series or posting schedules, no big projects. I have my hands pretty full with trying to pay the bills, and I don’t intend to make this blog part of my money-making or marketing efforts.

Honestly, I don’t even have a particularly clear idea of what I’m going to write about.

All I know is this–I am writing for myself again, in a little notebook that I keep by my bed. When that writing brings me to something personal I want to say “out loud”, I’ll put it here.

If anyone out there is still listening, thank you. And hello again. I missed you.

5 thoughts on “Circling back around

  1. I think I stopped writing because my thoughts started getting perilous. And so now when I think of writing I tend to believe that I will again find myself in a dark place (as if my words had put me there )
    It’s nice that you are writing again and it’s nice that you are humble enough to return. But I think you should take on the world a little more. Don’t limit your courage to only the pages in your book. Also, “adults” are a myth. I’ve never seen ’em.

    1. Missed you much, Keely. Glad you’re back. I’ve been in similar places.

      Yesterday my partner sent me a link to some coverage of John LeCarre’s recently published memoir. This popped out at me:

      “All this no doubt made me an ideal recruit to the secret flag. But nothing lasted: not the Eton schoolmaster, not the MI5 man, not the MI6 man. Only the writer in me stuck the course. If I look over my life from here, I see it as a succession of engagements and escapes, and I thank goodness that the writing kept me relatively straight and largely sane. ”

      I have no idea why I write. I am not “published,” at least not for money or in any creative way. I have no real “audience.” Maybe a dozen people have ever even read my blog, a few more have read pages of my fiction. An unpaid political column I did online for a few years reaped modest interest. The closest I’ve come to being a “writer” in any professional sense was being a local newspaper garden columnist at about $25 a pop, if I recall correctly.

      But I write.

      Sometimes I take time off from one kind of writing or another. Sometimes I leave a particular kind of writing with no plans to return. But I never stop writing entirely, even if it’s only a few terse sentences in a daily gratitude journal that helps keep unsanity at bay.

      Writing isn’t about audience or payment or fame. It’s a form of communication that, unlike almost anything else (except possibly painting, sculpture, and architecture,) isn’t hooked to a point in time or a specific target.

      Maybe I’m communicating with you now, but on another level I’m communicating with Something/Someone else. No idea who, and I don’t need to know. It’s the action of communication that signifies, not the result.

      So, you’re a writer. And now you’re doing this bit of it.

      I’m glad.

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