About two years ago, I started a blog.
It was not the first time I had done so, or the second, or the third. I’d had both a burning desire to write and a debilitating fear of sucking at it since elementary school, so naturally I’d been creating and eventually abandoning online writing outlets for myself for as long as I’d had unrestricted internet access.
And while those early efforts certainly had some value—as silly as it sounds, I am entirely serious about my frequent assertion that discovering livejournal at 14 changed my life—nothing ever really stuck. And if I’m being honest with myself, while I may have said otherwise at the time, I really didn’t expect this latest effort to be any different. I had resigned myself, on some level, to being too much of a coward, too damaged, too insecure, for my writing to ever be anything more than a childish hobby.
But then two things happened.
First, I lost everything that I had spent the last sevenish years of my life working towards. I was twenty-four, in the beginning of my third year of a PhD program in biology, when my PI (primary investigator–the professor who ran the lab I worked in, my adviser/boss) informed me that she felt I was not cut out for science, and asked me to leave her lab. I was left with the choice of either leaving my program with a master’s degree, or starting over in a new lab.
Obviously, I was devastated. I had been an academic overachiever for my entire life; I defined myself as a good student, a scholar, a scientist, and now that was gone. Even more terrifying, I was about to be out of a job, living in Los Angeles with no family and no friends outside of my grad student classmates, and with no idea of how I was going to support myself.
I was a complete mess, and so I turned to the same solution I had gone to at every other time in my life that I had found myself at a loss: words. Many of them went in private journals, sure, but since the blog already existed, a lot of my frustration and despair found its way there. I didn’t really have a plan, I just wrote, desperately hoping that eventually I’d find my way through.
And that’s when the second thing happened.
See, at this point, though I was still completely devastated by what was happening in my professional life, I was starting to find these brief moments of clarity. I was looking at my life and asking… what do I have left? Without science and academic success, do I have anything to show for the last few years? Who the fuck am I, and do I have anything to offer?
And one of the things I recognized was that, if nothing else, I had gotten better at managing my often-not-cooperative brain. I have a long history of anxiety and depression, and though I had by no means conquered them, I had amassed a decent number of tools for continuing to drag myself forward (or, at minimum, keep everything from going to total shit) even on bad brain days. And so one day, I wrote up a post discussing a number of those tricks.
I never could have imagined what came out of writing that post. It got linked on two blogs that get a fair amount of traffic [CaptainAwkward, a fucking brilliant advice column blog that consumes much of my internetting time, and Moms Who Drink And Swear, an irreverent and awesome parenting blog that happens to be written by a badass relative of mine], and all of a sudden my quiet little blog had READERS.
As I said before, I really hadn’t expected anything to come of my latest little blogging adventure. And to be fair, in the grand scheme of the internet, nothing really had–I had a few days with several thousand hits, and haven’t had another day like that since. But to me, it was huge.
That one post changed everything, not because it made me internet famous, but because for once, I had real, tangible proof that my writing wasn’t worthless or a waste of time.
And so I finally stuck with blogging. I kept putting my words out there, and kept getting rewarded. Not generally in the big, splashy, thousands-of-hits-in-a-day sort of way, but I’m actually totally fine with that. I have a small but consistent circle of readers, and now and then people will randomly stumble upon something I said that they really need to hear, and I’ll get a lovely heartfelt email. And all of that is more than enough to keep me writing.
I’ve had up and down times with the blog since. This year, for example, I dealt with a rough breakup and moved twice in the space of a few months, all of which significantly impacted my writing. And this is why I’m attempting NaBloPoMo–to give myself a push back towards regular posting.
These days, I still write about mental health stuff, and I still talk science now and then. I also have written a lot about my attempts to figure out what the fuck I’m going to do with myself career-wise, and I will likely have some interesting things to say about that this month. I break all the blogging rules about “having a niche” and whatnot, because I don’t write here with the goal of building a massive fanbase/a brand. I write here because I need to write to make sense of the world, and because I finally sort of believe that I sometimes have something valuable or interesting to say.
So anyone who is new to the blog? Welcome, and I hope you find something here of value. To my old friends/longtime readers–I’m looking forward to talking with you more than usual this month.
And to all of you? Thanks for reading.