.org.10: Have a seat while I take to the sky
Ten years ago if you’d told me that the .org would still be around and I’d still be updating it, I’m not sure I would have been that surprised. After having a number of different ventures go sour on me in my first seven or so years on the Internet, I set up the .org as a place where I would answer to no one but myself. I enjoy having an audience, as does any writer, but in the end the .org serves only one person: me. As I have undergone changes over the past ten years, so has the .org, from the original goth style and .journal entries that were more personal musings, to the current contemporary style and content that I try (Goddess knows I don’t always succeed) to make relevant and important, and I was able to do this because I set all the rules here. Tomorrow if I wanted to turn the .org into a Stephanie Courtney fansite, or a host of bootleg MP3 files, or just take it down altogether, I could do that. I don’t think I’ll ever do any of those things, but you never know.
If these past ten years have taught me anything, it’s that the only constant is change. Back when I launched the .org, my primary goals in life were to devote more time to my songwriting in the hopes of making a career out of it, and to develop my work and portfolio as a professional Website designer in the meantime. About six months after the .org launched I was out of the Website design business for good, and shortly after that I found myself back in college for the first time in over six years. Even if you don’t count the changes that I ultimately had no control over — the house fire of 2001, Dad’s death in 2008 — I think these past ten years have been more turbulent for me than they have been for most people.
Strangely enough, though, right now I find myself in kind of a smilar situation to where I was ten years ago. The only differences are that I’m hoping to pursue a career in writing — as mentioned in my last .journal entry, I finished the rough draft of my first novel in May, and have since drafted a non-fiction book, gotten a second novel close to done (although it’s been plagued by repeated delays these past few months due to various concerns), had an essay selected for an upcoming book, developed two screenplays, and worked on various other short projects. Until such point as I can make a career out of my writing alone — it will take tremendous luck and skill to make that happen — I’m working as a teacher and finding other small ways to make money.
Have I changed these past ten years? Unquestionably. When I had to move the .org from Blogger to WordPress earlier this year, that necessitated me copying over old .journal entries and blogs, and the lack of maturity I displayed in the early years of the .org is, to be blunt, kind of embarrassing. I’ve been tempted to purge everything from before 2007 from the .org (that was when I finished my MA in English Literature and “neatened up” the .org because I finally began to treat it as an extension of my professional life). In the end, though, I think it’s important to keep those old writings up, as painful as they may be to read, because they help to remind me that there was a time in my life when I really didn’t act that well. More importantly, they serve as a testament that I have gotten better, and that I should continue to work at improving myself as a person, as a writer, and as everything else I identify as. (I feel similarly about the stories and poetry I was writing ten and even five years ago. Part of the reason I want to get something published professionally here is to show you all how much my writing skills have improved, above and beyond the change in tone of the .org.)
Not everyone who was with me ten years ago when I started this journey has made it to this point. I lost my best friend to suicide in 2004 and Dad to deep vein thrombosis in 2008. In that time I’ve also lost three grandparents, an uncle, an aunt, and three cats. Many of the people I considered friends back in 2000 distanced themselves from me shortly after I launched the .org, in most cases because I was, in all candor, a jerk. For those who have stuck with me through these ten years, for those who have forgiven me for all of the stupid stuff I did back in the day, you have my thanks and my most profound gratitude.
Along the way I’ve picked up and lost more friends than I care to remember. Part of that is the transitory nature of schooling — even with the rise of services like Facebook and the like, I don’t keep in touch with as many people from my school years as I’d like — but I’ve also lost more friendships than I care to remember. At times this has been caused by honest mistakes on my part. At times I have been, for lack of a better word, victimized by people. As time has gone on, though, the frequency of these rifts happening due to malice on my part has disappeared, which is at least one small victory for me. I wouldn’t dare to say that I hold no malice in my heart — there are times when I wish I could inflict grievous bodily harm on certain people who have wronged me and those I care about — but I continue to work at purging those negative thoughts from my mind and those negative feelings from my heart. It is an ongoing process, but it is one of the most important things I am working at, and I remain committed to it.
I guess that brings me back to today. In addition to all I’ve written about recently in terms of pursuing my writing career and the various projects I’ve undertaken, there is one other big change I am hoping to effect in my life this next year. I hate to be coy about it, but it’s been my experience that if I put on here that “I’m going to do so-and-so,” then I inevitably wind up not being able to do so-and-so and I wind up looking like even more of an idiot than usual for having made that claim. All I can say about this change is that it’s going to take me to at least one place I thought I would never be in my life, and likely many others as well. I took a couple of big steps towards that goal both yesterday and today, and I’ll be taking many more steps in the coming month while I try to manage all my writing projects and my teaching career. Is it any wonder I’ve had my television on maybe five times this whole month?
In thinking about what to write for this ten-year anniversary.journal entry — I admit I’ve been far too busy to give the topic as much thought as I would have liked — I’ve had a strong desire to close with some kind of profundity, some way to encapsulate the lessons of the past ten years in a way that’s both elegant and accessible to those of you who come by to read my little corner of the Internet. Honestly I don’t know if I can do as good a job as I’d like — I’ve had maybe six hours sleep in the past two nights — but it’s going to be December in less than three hours here, and I promised myself I would have this posted by the end of November, so I’d darn sure better try.
What have I learned in the past ten years?
First and foremost, I have learned to love and cherish the time I have with my family and my close friends. You never know when that time may come to an end.
I’ve learned that trying to run away from your past will only make it hurt more when it catches up with you. It’s best to acknowledge your mistakes, apologize to those who deserve apologies, and resolve to do better in the future.
I’ve learned that trying to counteract hate with more hate, even though it can provide a visceral thrill of revenge and retribution at times, ultimately only leads to more trouble, more hate, and more destruction. This isn’t always the easiest thing to practice, but you have to try as hard as you can.
I’ve learned that the best way to effect the change you want in the world is to act on it. This can be something as simple as writing a blog post on an issue you feel passionately about, in the hopes of convincing others of your point of view. This can be something as complex as devoting your professional career to righting the wrongs you see in a system. Sometimes change will happen if you just sit back and let others take care of it, but don’t bet on it.
I’ve learned that when I set my mind to something I am capable of far more than I ever thought possible. It’s not always that easy when my plate gets loaded with lots of different things (like it is right now), but past successes help give me the energy and resolve to push forward despite the obstacles.
I’ve learned that there are times when it is best to let criticism and rumour and innuendo and falsehoods to roll of your back, and there are times when you have to take a stand for yourself. That’s still not easy for me — I still battle self-esteem issues quite regularly — but there is a middle ground to be found between being a doormat and being rage incarnate, and it’s a ground I continue to try to find in my own life.
I’ve learned that it is far better to assume the best of people than the worst, but when people abuse this assumption then it is advisable to adjust your expectations of those people to match reality. I’ve also learned that as much as this stinks, getting depressed about it only leads to more heartache.
I’ve learned it’s best not to become so obsessed with some unhappy aspect of your life that you do something stupid to change it. I lost something most precious to me this way, and as much as I try to live life without regrets, I wish I had that part of my life to do over.
More than anything, I’ve learned the value of friendship. For all I have done to ruin friendships in the past, for all that others have ruined my friendships out of their own self-interest, I have had friendships that have endured the test of time, and this year I’ve made two new friends who lift my spirits every day, and I can only hope that they will continue to do so over the coming years.
Oh, and I’ve learned the lessons of The Artist’s Way really do hold true, even ten years after learning them. (Come on, it wouldn’t be an anniversary column without mention of the book that set me on this path in the first place.)
Given how sleep-deprived I am, I don’t think I dare to make a judgment now as to how profound these lessons are. I think the best thing I can do for now is to get this posted as I promised myself I would, and then come back to it when I’m feeling more awake and alert. With any luck I won’t have to make any more than minor revisions to it.
Where will the next ten years lead me? I have goals, and I have ideas above and beyond those goals, but for right now I want to focus on the immediate future. I want to get my books ready for publication, I want to strengthen the friendships I have and continue to make new friends, I want to continue becoming a better teacher and help my students effect the changes they want in their own lives, I want to effect this big change I hope will come into my life this next year, and I want to continue growing and developing as a writer, a person, and a friend. More tragedies will befall me these next ten years, but I will try to endure them as best I can, learn from them, and try to be a better person as a result of them. Goddess willing, I will see more successes than tragedies these next ten years.
Everyone take care and be well. It has been an interesting ten years to say the least. I hope I’ll see you around ten years from now.