a blog manifesto

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"I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me." | Tracee Ellis Ross


I was twenty-two when I started blogging, nearly twenty-three. I was fresh out of college and for the first time totally unclear on how-to-live-my-life-and-live-it-well.


I was also three years into an eating disorder that saw me vacate my life.


Blogs were so new then. A sort of wild-west of the internet. It was such a niche portion of the population who read them. Or wrote them. Or even talked about them. No one was making money yet, not really. And certainly very few people began with that as the ultimate end.


There was something really joyous about blogging then (oh boy, do I sound old and crotchety or what?). The platform and the content were all still finding their footing. And, because of that, blogs were (or seemed to me) sort of deliciously imperfect.


And I needed that in my life. That joy, that delicious imperfection.


Very quickly, blogging became a lens through which I could see the world: the details, the absurdity, both the loneliness and loveliness of everyday life.


And it became a way to reach in the direction of the future at a time when my personal future felt very tenuous. I couldn’t imagine life beyond twenty-three, couldn’t imagine getting better, or growing up, or anything after.


There’s an Elizabeth Gilbert quote I think of often:


Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing.


Some part of me knew that at twenty-three, ill as I was, my life was changing. And If could recognize it as it was happening, bear witness to it, then I could transform the most heartbreaking moments of my life into the most meaningful.


So very quickly the purpose of blogging, for me, became to document the in-between-ness of my life. To document this difficult, but important--and dare I say, sweet--time of becoming.


For the record, I realize I’m still in the in-between. But I feel a hell of a lot closer to one end than the other.

I didn’t know that I’d like writing so much—find so much meaning in it. Didn’t know I’d fall so hard for words and their endless variations.


To date, the English language has been the great-love-affair-of-my-life.

I like blogging. But I don’t know if I like what has become of it. Can I say that? I’m going to say that.


Let me explain.


It seems to me that as blogging has evolved it’s become far more commercial (as happens to all things), but what this means is that more and more blogs look them same, feel the same—similar content, similar interface, and a sort of homogenous cultural refrain: happiness as the ultimate end.


We are bombarded with images all day, every day—on television, the internet, in print magazines—that make the desirable life seem just beyond reach. Images that make us want things we have no use for. It’s a pretty simple formula actually: put something that has no immediate value to the consumer, next to something beautiful (the aesthetics of beauty having a higher value than almost anything else) and suddenly it becomes important, desirable.


The thing about blogs now is that they seem to be selling a way of life—one in which nothing bad happens. In which everyone is always cheery and smiling and dressed in impeccable (and expensive) clothes.


This is nothing new of course, we as a culture and country seem to have cornered the market on happily-ever-after. But the thing about blogs is we think of them as non-fiction. And that’s where it gets tricky. We mistake a very small, very edited slice of life as the whole of the thing.


And few things are as they seem. Images flatten, words distort, and photo filters enhance.


I like fashion blog as much as the next person, I really do. The pictures are like candy, immediately satisfying. But here’s what I want to know: who can really afford to wear Theory pants, carry a Chanel bag, and dress their arms in David Yurman jewelry day after day? Certainly, I can’t. And do I need to feel bad that I can’t?


It’s that second question I worry about—because that’s the question that sticks around longer than the immediate hit of pleasure. And that’s the question that, if I’m not paying attention, sort of chips away at my self–worth.


Perhaps other people don’t have the same experience.


But what if they do?


I understand that depicting total realism is impossible and not the point of blogging. I’ve heard time and time again bloggers explain that their corner of the internet is their space and therefore they have the right to choose what they share. But we don’t live in a vacuum. And shared content goes into the world and has an effect. Free speech is sort of a misnomer, isn’t it? Because it’s free to a point. There is always a cost--we just don’t always know what that cost is.


Of course I believe in personal responsibility and accountability—that we cannot entirely control how what we say is received. “Perception is reality” is one of those principles that drives me nuts because it’s such a lazy way of thinking—so unimaginative. And let’s be honest, you cannot reason with crazy. And if a crazy person perceives you as crazy, does that make you crazy? {A philosophical rabbit hole}.  But the thing is, much evidence exists to prove that the onslaught of doctored images in favor of “flawless” bodies is extremely damaging.


So what about “flawless” lives?


My deep, deep fear about the Real Housewives franchise is not how they portray women (thought I worry quite a lot about that as well) but that our constant exposure to such extreme amounts of plastic surgery will acclimate our eyes in a way that such altered faces will begin to look normal—and we will, in fact, begin to expect people to look that way.


So if all we see are snippets of seemingly easy, trouble-free lives, then will we begin to expect only those things for our own?


The appearance of a life is not a life. The appearance of happiness is not happiness.



In fact, often, the appearance of happiness comes at the expense of actually living.



I think the other danger is that when everything appears bright and cheery, we think that it must come easily. And more than that, that it should come easily. And we wrongly assume that because something is easy it is inherently better.


It is each person’s right to share what they choose. But when they then purposefully send only one aspect of their life into the world, photoshopped as it is, without a disclaimer, I’m not sure that that is a totally healthy thing.


For anyone.


There has to be some critical awareness brought to bear in this digital age.


My great wish is that we might all hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our words, our filtered images, and the proliferation of them into the world have consequences. And there needs to be some respect paid to that. Because let’s not pretend that the happy, picture-perfect-life is not the ideal platform for advertisers to sell their wares.


I took this blogging break to work on other things, but also to give myself some time to figure out if I wanted to continue.


And the thing is, I do. Because I actually quite love it. But for the last few years I’ve attempted to reconcile what I love about blogging with what has come to be expected from the medium. And I’m not sure I can.


Or that I need to.


But what I did feel like I needed to do was create a governing set of principles to remind me of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.


 A Blog Manifesto

1. This is a writing blog. Not a lifestyle blog.

2. I do this because I love it and it has meaning for me (and goodness is it exciting and humbling when it has meaning for others) but if I stop loving it, I will stop doing it.

3. I will occasionally be abstract and private, but I will do my very best to never paint my life as something it is not.

4. This space is a part of my life, but only a part. If it ever gets in the way of living, then enough.

5. My purpose here is to document what has happened (and occasionally dream of what might be). I believe the moment I do something specifically for the purpose of blogging about it, it cheapens the experience and undermines the content.

6. I have no interest in distilling my life into a three-sentence-bio.

 7. I believe in women. I believe in women who speak up for themselves and ask for what they want and demand more out of life. I believe in a woman’s brand of intelligence and wit and grace. I think we need more of it in the world. I want to see more women in leadership positions, more women who aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers. And I believe because we live in a world that is tremendously connected, the onus is on each and every one of us to encourage the full realm of a woman’s potential.

8. I would love to say that I will blog every day. But it’s just not possible. There’s only one of me and I can’t generate that much worthy content. So I'll blog when I can.

9. I'm not interested in more content for the sake of more content (or more clicks).

10. If you’re uninterested, move on, I’m not counting numbers.

11. And if you come here and then head elsewhere with the sole intent of gossiping amongst internet strangers…well, I just don’t get that. {And for the people who run and moderate those blogs, I’d like to ask what value you think you’re adding to the larger world?}.

12. Maybe that’s the question I want everyone to ask: what value are we adding?

13. I’ve met more than a few internet mavens whose lives seem far cooler and more vibrant online than they do in person. They have secured a niche and figured out what works for them and that’s great. But my goal is, and will always be, that if someone were to meet me offline they’d think me just as they imagined. I will very often—very often— fail at this, but it is nonetheless my intent.

14. I write the best version of myself, always. {But I do believe that’s a very different thing than writing a different and better version of myself}.

That's what I got. And hopefully it's still a little deliciously imperfect.