JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

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What you don’t see, What I won’t say

May 29th, 2004 · 3 Comments

Emily left a comment yesterday about my garden that reminded me: for a while I have felt that I should post a caveat about my plants. My yard is small, perhaps not worthy of the title “garden”. The photos I post are mostly close-ups: a blossom, a pea pod, a frog. I like to focus on the smaller perspective but I fear sometimes that this may lead to different expectations from the reality of my yard. When I’m writing this blog and posting pictures of my plants, I am choosing what is seen.

I’m also choosing what is said. A friend who is thinking about starting a blog, asked me this week what it is like to publish on the Internet, to write posts the whole world could read. In answering the question I realized that there are a few areas of my life that I don’t talk about on this blog. For example, I don’t discuss other members of my family or other people in my life, besides my husband and children. And there are parts of my past that haven’t appeared on this page.

I’d like to talk about these areas of my life, but this blog is not an appropriate place or it doesn’t feel safe enough for me yet. I have reservations and hesitations about what happens to information I share here. If only “five second cousins and a dog” (to quote yesterday’s NYTimes article) were reading, then I’d feel differently, but the fact that what I put on this page could be broadcast to anyone anywhere anytime is a bit inhibiting.

At the same time, I realized that these omitted areas of my life aren’t that important. What has happened to me, what I’ve done, what I’ve learned in life, has happened to millions of people in the world, in various ways with different players and names. I can still blog about my experiences by writing about the principles and feelings behind/beyond/above them. And I believe that if I share these specifics in the context of personal relationship, it won’t be a big deal. People who love me will still love me, I think, even with this extra information about me. I’m happy talking about them in email or in person with people I know, in appropriate context. But it is this blog’s impersonal side with anonymous audience that I find a bit frightening.

I admire how Liz Lawley is blogging about her Al-Anon experience and I appreciate the line she is walking between public and private, sharing with courage and honesty. What she wrote brought to mind other memories that I’d like to share but probably won’t post, at least for now. Perhaps I could blog in anonymity (somewhere else). But as Real Live Preacher’s “coming out” revealed, people can try to find out who you are.

Then again who I am is subject to interpretation. There are a million versions of me, depending on perspective. Even if I told everything, if I were describing my entire life, how reliable and unbiased a picture of me would that provide? My mother would give you one side, my husband another, my neighbor a third and a stranger from Peru observing me would narrate my existence in a totally different way. Certain people see only certain aspects of me. I’ve got my own biases and blinders as well. How do I describe the fact that I am and who I am? Does any written work or any relationship completely capture a human being? What is the truth of my identity anyway?

With these thoughts swimming in my mind, I came across Shelley Power’s post describing bloggers who have decided to quit, titled Ghosts in the Machine. Even though I didn’t read these other bloggers, I am sad to hear others are leaving. Both in the post and comments, people discussed the split between the self that exists in the blog and the one in reality.

While answering my friend’s question, I realized that there is a split between my blog self and me. But it doesn’t concern me. I don’t feel I am being deceptive. It’s just the way it is. These omitted areas of my life are only known by a handful of friends anyway. They are not part of my public persona (whatever that is). They are not issues I wave like a flag when I meet someone. And I believe that people who have read my blog know me better, or at least can know more about my thoughts, memories and feelings, than a neighbor whom I greet every day when I get my mail. If you know that I grow snowpeas and sweet peas, that I like it when Ted wears a tie, and that sometimes I’m afraid my faith will fail, then maybe you already know more about me than many of the people in my life.

I like the fact that a complete stranger can come and read my blog. Or I can read someone else’s. It’s fun and wonderful in its own way. But there are things most people don’t say to strangers. A depth that this distance in cyberspace can’t cross.

As I’ve gone to more blogger meetings and developed some email relationships, I’ve seen that my blog can open the door to friendships. It can initiate and create bonds that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. (Or strengthened ones that already existed.) And once the relationship has started, especially in person, in flesh and blood, I can be fully myself. I’m there in 3-D for the other person to see. This blog has its limitations. It always will. But it can open the door to something deeper.

At first I thought that meeting bloggers in person was strange. Now though I am finding it is becoming more a goal for me. Perhaps that is because I have had good experiences so far. I’ll probably never be able to befriend everyone who reads this page or meet in person. But we can try. Who knows, perhaps technology will provide a way in the future for better ways to build relationship in blogging, and less anonymous audience than what we have now.

Shelley also wrote that we are writing ourselves out of existence, until like poppies or perhaps daylilies, we are gone – here today, gone tomorrow, ephemeral flowers

We’re writing ourselves out of existence, whether we continue to weblog or not. True ghosts in the machine. Or poppies, hidden behind the larger, showier flowers until one day we notice they’re gone.

.I agree that we are like flowers, here and gone. But doesn’t blogging, or at least writing, add more permanence to our disappearing identity? Instead of feeling trapped into restricted character role on this blog, I feel I am finding freedom to be me, to be myself in a way that I can’t be anywhere else. In some sense I feel I am writing myself into existence – sorting through thoughts and the mismash inside my mind while aligning letters of text. I’m making sense of life, putting it out on a page for others to read. I’m bouncing my beliefs off of others and seeing what comes back to me in conversations. I’m painting a portrait and letting others critique it. I’m making a mark: as temporary and transient as blogging may be, it is still a mark I’m making and leaving behind. When I’m gone, there will still be something of me living in my writing. Just as others speak to me through their words.

I am reaching out through this hypertext to say that I exist. I’m putting my history onto a page. I’m saying I’m alive. I’m here. At least for now.

Tags: journal

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // May 30, 2004 at 12:33 am

    What fun, Julie – so happy to be an inspiration…as you are to me.

  • 2 Liz // May 30, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    This is a lovely post, Julie.

    Faceted identity is something that danah boyd writes and thinks a lot about, and that these social technologies tend to make more obvious.

    Until I read this, I honestly hadn’t thought about the blog as somethign that will live on after I’ve gone. I see it as somehow ephemeral (even though I know, rationally, that’s it’s certainly not), as very much part of this moment of my life.

    My mother said to me the other day that she was glad I was blogging about things going on in my life right now (even though she doesn’t blog and doesn’t want to), because it’s her sense that it’s important–even necessary–for me to do that.

    I think it’s tied in some ways to my essential extroversion; I wrote about this at length some time ago, and said then “I often literally don’t know what I’m thinking until after I’ve articulated it in conversation.”

    At any rate, I’m enjoying your blog self a lot, and hope in the near future to get a chance to meet your real-world self! Don’t know when I’ll be in the Seattle area again, but I’ll make sure to let you know when I am.

  • 3 Liz // May 30, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Here’s the URL that was stripped from my previous comment…