Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bread Crumbs

I started my first journal at the age of 12, and I wrote on the title page, just beneath my name: "I write this so that it might be read after I am dead."

Give me a break, I was only 12.

But I've kept a journal ever since. Many of my childhood journals are still in my room at my parents' house, all lined up in the shelves of my bookcases. And the older I got, the more austere and well... black... got the covers. (The last 7 years, I have been all about the small, black, moleskine journal with unlined pages. I prefer not to have the constraints of lines and feel somehow that it is unappreciative of me to willfully ignore pre-printed lines).

How is a blog different from a journal? I know I'm a blog novice, so these are rookie questions I am pondering, but this is what has been going through my mind as I am training myself to reach for my computer instead of my pen and latest moleskine.

At first blush, I thought the primary difference lay in the existence of a possible audience. But clearly even at the age of 12, I had anticipated an audience for my journals, at least one day. And then of course, there is the realization that only SK will be reading these online musings of mine. (WC has already informed me that she won't be reading my blog and that she will just continue TALKING to me everyday).

When WC and I went to Bhutan a couple years ago, we ended up one day in a small, isolated village just in time for their yearly Festival. This was no McFestival designed to provide tourists with photo ops. This was the real deal, and WC and her brother and I were the only tourists on hand.

Prior to making the trip, we had carefully read our Bhutan travel guides which cautioned tourists to be polite, and not to hiss or snap at the locals. So we squelched our natural inclination to hiss and snap and we carefully stayed along the periphery, just watching and enjoying while WC's brother (an accomplished, award winning photographer) unobtrusively took his pictures. But on the second day (it was a three day long Festival), the villagers included us in the festivities. They taught us traditional folkdances and songs (although no one would allow me to take part in the swordplay, despite my assurances that I was adept at the curved single-edged blade. Did I mention the Bhutanese are very smart? The Chinese thought nothing of handing me a deadly weapon.)

And I was struck by something. EVERYONE there sang and danced. Of course, certain people were better than others, but these were activities in which EVERYONE took part. If you could walk, you could dance. If you could talk, you could sing. There was no sense as there is in many other societies that these activities are reserved for only the elite few with talent and/or training.

Do blogs and homepages and facebook status updates represent a democratization of self expression? Even if so, do I care about the broader societal/anthropological/cultural ramifications?

Everytime I am at my parents' house, I randomly choose an old journal of mine from my bookcase and flip through it. Once, in my late 20s, when I was home for the holidays, I selected a journal and accidently dropped it and it landed open on the floor. When I picked it up, an envelope fell out. It was sealed, and on it was written in my handwriting: "To my 26 year old self." I had completely forgotten about it. Of course I immediately ripped it open and read the letter inside. It was exquisitely personal and painful and it was signed: "Love, your 16 year old self."

Perhaps my current blogging efforts are motivated by the exact same desire I had when I was younger - to leave some kind of trail of where I've been and who I was - if only for myself at a later age, so I can follow the trail back, meet myself along the way, and say: "Hey girl, I remember you."

And yes, that's a big wooden dildo in my hand. Maybe I'll explain that later, maybe I won't.

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