After 2,681 consecutive days (take that, Cal Ripken!) of updating Introspection, my first-ever blog has come to a close. It ran daily (though yes, sometimes updates were actually typed and uploaded afterwards) from 13 March 2000 through 15 July 2007.
While there was no particular significance to the first day of updates, the last days were laden with noteworthiness. The last Introspection entry was just two days after my fourth wedding anniversary and just 9 days after the 10,000th day of my life.
It was never my intention to give up on Introspection. If you had asked me most any time during its seven-and-a-half-year run how long I’d be keeping up the blog, I’d have told you “forever”. But forever never seems to be around when it ends. So it goes.
At the same time, I probably never could’ve anticipated the rapacious appetite which I brought to blogging in the first place when Introspection started the morning after that strange dream of many teeth. It wasn’t even called blogging then. Prior to the project, I’d never been able to maintain a journal or diary past a couple weeks on a daily pace, or more than five days out of fifty at a more forgiving rate. I’d always aspired to the concept, but they had fallen down like so many “chapter ones” it paralleled. Somehow, Introspection was able to quickly transcend all prior benchmarks and capture my imagination. No doubt the public nature of the journal had a great deal to do with that, and the early reactions it got (most of them negative). It was a way to try to shake free of the doldrums of one of the worst years of my life, measure its rapid change, then return, and then just became a method to try to talk my way out of whatever I patterns I’d fallen into in a relatively lonely college existence. The rest, as they say, was history… for a while.
Like most things, Introspection didn’t just heave up and keel over, but it faded over time. It was starting to seem like a chore more than a joy, and there were a couple of large hauls where my updates had to be backfilled for weeks at a stretch. I knew it was a red flag once I’d let updates lapse for my own benchmark of 40 days… the fabled line for designating someone for “Italics Purgatory” on my own (now rarely updated) list of friends’ blogs.
Then I went to Oregon, and came face-to-face with a life lived long before Introspection or the internet. My life there (from 1988-1993, ages 8-13) was incredibly tumultuous and successful, with independent experiences coloring every individual year. Never before had I been able to look at this period of time as one unit, to (paraphrasing Jake) pull a string through it and reveal myself as I really was. The trip was ostensibly to celebrate our anniversary and show Em where I spent those (all too stereotypically) formative years, but I wound up showing myself much more. After a night at the Coaster Theater in Cannon Beach watching a delightful play, having run from a half-decade’s worth of ghosts all over Clatsop County (ghosts made more present by the absence of anyone who had actually been there from ’88-’93) for a week, I just about broke down. What would everyone then think of me now? Look at how little I had managed to accomplish! Whatever happened to the kid who skipped 4 grades, got beaten up, and then skipped 4 more instead? Who wrote for the paper, took first at the state fair in photography, starred in plays? Is that really all that became of him? He was going to be something…
That night, I didn’t know how to write about it. Nor the next. Nor certainly upon my return. I was rapidly faced with my “Ketchup Doughnut” of blogging – the writing piece to end all future writing pieces of that form. (Though at least in KD’s case, I had actually written the piece itself. Additionally, the irony of the setting of KD being in the heart of those Oregon days is duly noted.) Meanwhile, the whole experience was prompting a whole revival of questioning and self-doubt in my path in life. The echoes of my all-caps declaration on 10 June 2007 (echoed on the next-to-last day, 14 July 2007) about living by momentum instead of direction continued to reverberate. By the time a whole bunch of nonsense started breaking out at work – things I couldn’t really talk about in less than cryptic ways on Introspection – there was just too much to overcome.
Many people noticed, some seemingly calling my attention to the lingering lack of updates as though I myself had somehow missed it. Some said it was time to just “start it up again”, chalking up the days gone by as missing time and returning to Introspection like an alien abductee months removed and unaware that anything had happened. But I, it has been said, am an absolutist, and Introspection was always about the daily updates. That was as much the project as anything else. And it was broken.
Like so many other things, it was time for a change. This period of time after my trip to Oregon has been borne with a significance of changing that which needs to be changed, especially in how I spend my time and what my presence is online. I quit The Mep Report, my podcast with Greg & Russ (who are still continuing the project with Greg’s wife Clea). I have de facto suspended Questions for God, putting it in the category of many other supposedly frequently updated facets of the Blue Pyramid. I stopped using an Introspection-level requirement of daily updates for Duck and Cover, my webcomic, relaxing it to a looser weekdays-when-I’m-around schedule. More such changes and overhauls are probably in the works. I did manage not to quit my job, though it was probably close there for a couple weeks.
And now to blogging. (I have made peace with this term, by the way. I used to despise it in the early years of Introspection. It still sounds awkward and superficial. But there’s only so long one can resist a term that language has chosen for a phenomenon without just being resistant to the concept of language.) Much as I always thought Introspection would go on as long as my life, so I thought blogging would naturally be a part of it (this is tautological). My fervor for the concept of blogging, of a life lived in public, of communication with a broad base of friends and strangers about innermost perceptions and feelings, has not waned. But some things have to be different this time.
Change is naturally something that seems scary to most. But change is also rivetingly exciting, and gives us the opportunity to do things differently than we did them last time. This is as near a simulation as we get in this lifetime to doing things right the first time, something which most thoughtful people yearn for daily. So I’ve been mulling over the changes that need to be made, and hopefully this blog, StoreyTelling, will be a reflection of that.
The biggest thing that need(s/ed) to change is the length of entries. The tendency of Introspection to speak in quick cryptic bursts was dually the result of my primary (almost exclusive) original blogging influence, ‘Lisha, and my own inclination to write quickly and frequently. While it worked for a long time, it’s not the best practice for someone whose current writing projects almost all have targets in the hundreds of pages. As ridiculously corny as it sounds, I need to stretch my writing muscles. I have been a sprinter most all my life, and I need to work on being a distance runner. (Don’t quote me on this, folks, it’s a metaphor… I do not intend to show Miss Gatewood how fast I want to run.)
The other thing that has to go is the obsession with daily updates. It’s a good goal, a good target, but it’s remarkable the impact that relaxing about this has had on Duck and Cover. It’s incredibly difficult for me to not be an absolutist and extremist about everything, and to push myself to the limits of what a project will allow. But I’ve done that show, and I have 2,681 shiny days to show for it. I think I can be happy with that. (You have no idea that the fact that this number is longer than Ripken’s games-played streak in baseball really does make me feel better.) Now it’s time to start creating more space for myself. I really don’t do well when under a “sense of obligation” (I’ve had countless debates about this concept with a lot of friends in the last few months, so don’t get me too started). And no one puts more obligation on me than myself (though this sometimes makes me feel even more insulted when others do it). So maintaining projects like blogging openly, honestly, and without holding back without the burden of a daily drumbeat should be really helpful to making a better overall result. I will miss the ability to point to any single day in my life and know something I was feeling at that precise moment, but I’m hoping it will still be a rare day when I can’t do that.
Finally, there’s something to be said for all this fancy new blogging technology they have nowadays. Most all of my webpage is hand-coded and will probably continue to be. And this auto-blogging still feels clunky to me and I’m frustrated with how inexact some of the things are as the result of relying on a template (albeit one that I altered pretty significantly). But I can learn to work with these parameters. Meanwhile, I pick up the ability to automatically have an RSS feed, pinging, and (most exciting), sortable categories for my posts. This ability to cross-reference and sort information has always been among the best aspects of the web and the very concept of links, and it’s very exciting to think that this blog can be read exclusively for one facet or another of its content. (For example, it’s likely that someone could come here next season and read this only as a Mariners blog. Meanwhile, you non-baseball people won’t have to be overwhelmed by the quantity of Mariners content and feel disinterested.) I can easily see amassing an overwhelming number of categories (ahem, Helen), so I’ll have to watch that. But maybe it will be okay. These things are pretty flexible with all the quick-change updating and editing options.
Plus, I get more titles and endings. And if I know anything about what I value in writing, it’s titles and endings. Seriously.
Oh, and even though I can’t seem to get rid of them looking like they’re going to appear, there will be no comments. There’s such a thing as too much change. I welcome your e-mails and your own blog posts, but there’s never been any part of this project that has involved wanting other people attaching their comments to it. This is a stand-alone work. At their worst, comments are from random people and extremely negative; at best, they are the equivalent of permanent small-talk. E-mails and other blog posts rarely seem to have the same issues.
So I’m back. So keep checking back. Not all the posts will be as long as this one. At some point, I will fill in other missing details between July and October 2007 (it’s really not that long, is it?) in an effort to keep a pretty continuous narrative dating back to 1998.
There are times that I can’t believe that’s still less than 10 years. And then there are times where it’s hard to convince myself I’ve even been alive that long.
I don’t think either of those feelings will ever really go away.