The truth is: I am not a blogger.
I mean, I’ve had blogs. Over the years, I think I have played with at least a dozen names, a hundred formats, and at least three or four gimmicky ideas for what to do. I had a Blogspot page back in college; it’s still up out in the inter-ether. I hesitate to post a link to it because it’s humiliatingly sophomoric now, but at the time it was a lot of fun. I took quotations from friends, teachers, and lovers; often out-of-context, usually humorous, with special preference given to anything that was especially complimentary. I gave everybody codenames and pasted the link to it at the bottom of my AIM profile (remember when that was a thing?). If it taught me nothing else at the time, I learned how much most people love seeing themselves in print. The intention was never for anyone but my friends to read it (and I’m really quite lucky my mother never did). Fortunately for me (and, well, everyone else in my life), I’m much better-behaved now than I was then, and slightly less impressed with myself, so that sort of thing is no longer really an option.
The other close call I had with blogging was during my three deployments to Iraq. When I left, I was the only person most of my friends and family knew who had actually gone off to the war at the time. (I was in the first wave of my Air Force buddies.) Everyone was worried. On top of that, they beat us over the head repeatedly with the whole “operational security” thing – i.e. never talk about where you are, what your job is, when you’re supposed to leave, etc. This made it harder to reassure my friends and family that I was, in fact, in virtually no danger whatsoever, as they believed that if I was, I wouldn’t be able to tell them anyway.
Finally, being deployed was hard. I’m an emotional, touchy-feely, lovey-dovey pot of crazy that’s often just one degree shy of boiling over, particularly in circumstances that I can’t control. Iraq was not good for me. So I did the only thing that felt natural – and the thing I eventually came to care about more than almost anything else while I was over there: I wrote.
I wrote letters that slowly and self-consciously turned into observational essays on deployed life, and I tried to be as funny and as positive as I could. I wrote about the time we ran out of non-drinkable water and everyone was put on shower probation and we tried to bathe with bottles of water (in wintertime). I wrote about the chow hall worker who saved me a box of fresh pineapple every day for a month. I wrote about the antics of the goofy young troops I worked with. I wrote about the weird jargon that the spec ops guys used, the guy who got caught picking his nose on the VTC, the places I’d go to hide from the world and look at the stars.
Eventually, there were more serious things. I wrote about the way our unit mourned their man who was killed in action, just weeks from going home to his seven-months-pregnant wife. I wrote about the toll I could see deployed life taking on the men and women that surrounded me, especially the ones who had spent more time deployed than at home since the war started. And I wrote about a classmate of mine from the Air Force Academy, a beautiful and brilliant girl, who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan.
My family and friends loved my letters. They read them out loud at work and at dinners with friends, and forwarded them to people I’d never met who asked to be put on my mailing list. They nagged me if I hadn’t written in long enough. And they told me I should try to get published, or at the very least, start a blog.
(Now, let’s be honest. Most of these people had some personal connection to me – and the ones who didn’t were usually very enthusiastic supporters of the military. I don’t want to operate under the illusion that my writing would have stood on its own, apart from its context and its connections – although believe me, I’d love to think so. And if I am lucky enough to publish a version of those letters someday, I will give every dime of profit to the Wounded Warrior Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.)
The funny thing was, I couldn’t access any of the blog sites. It was before the military was on board with leveraging social media as a recruiting tool, so I couldn’t have blogged if I wanted to. And when I came home, I felt like I had nothing to say. Every so often something would kick up, but I didn’t have the pull of writing for an audience, as I was secretly worried that my followers would lose interest since I wasn’t writing about The Deployed Experience.
Which brings me to today.
I’m not on active duty anymore; I’m a pilot’s wife who lives in Japan, which is almost as far from The Deployed Experience as you can get — apart from the fact that I am, yet again, in another country. I thought about blogging from here, but then I found out that every pilot’s wife in Japan seems to have a blog about The Japan Experience. Many of them are writing just to keep family appraised of their exploits – or so they claim; I’ve noticed at least a couple who are probably angling to write “Eat, Pray, Love: The Military Spouse Edition.” In fairness, I spent my first deployment enthusiastically aping Elizabeth Gilbert’s giddy, pleasant, travel-friendly style myself – and that’s probably part of why I was averse to heading down the same path. The other part is that I was working out a lot of personal stuff, and just needed some breathing room.
But I had a lot of free time, and I wound up getting sucked into the playground that is the Twitterverse. I used it as a glorified headline feed for months – the social side eluded me completely. And then I started retweeting things I wanted to save for later. Then, I realized that since almost no one was following me, I could say whatever I wanted. It’s no longer cool to say anything on Facebook unless it’s very important or very funny, but on Twitter, no one could hear me scream. And a few months later, I finally realized, “wow, there’s a lot of people out there.” People who are totally different from the world I’ve spent the last ten years in. People who are possibly terrifyingly cracked in person, but are absolute geniuses in 140 characters. People who are plugged into political and military issues, and science, writing, and human rights, and other things that I’ve discovered I am very interested in now that I’ve got the time to learn. I’ve learned a lot from Twitter (perhaps embarrassingly)… and I learned one thing that drove me to start this blog.
It really doesn’t matter that much.
It’s not that people don’t do terrifically important and beautiful things on the internet – so many of them do. But there are plenty of missteps, false starts, terrible tirades, embarrassing overshares, and navel-gazing self-aggrandizements, too. So why wait timidly over at the wall by the punch paralyzed with fear, watching everyone else out on the floor having fun, even if they occasionally look like idiots? It’s time to get out there and dance like no one’s watching — er, write like no one’s reading.*
*Hey, maybe nobody is reading. And that’s cool too. But I’m a really strong extrovert who enjoys writing for an audience… and as you’ll see over on my About page, I will answer any question that I’m asked on here. I can’t promise I’ll answer it honestly, but I can promise I’ll try to lie to you in a terrifically clever or creative way. So give it a shot. In exchange, you’ll get free publicity, excellent karma, and maybe even a free drink.**
**I didn’t say it would be from me.