Remember in middle school, when adults used to always say, "Just be yourself?" I hated that. How the hell was I supposed to know who I was anyway? Between growing up in a cult (not exactly a nurturing environment for carving your own path or unique identity) and having mental illness, half the time I didn't even know if I was real, much less who or what I was.
It's only been in the last year that I've been blogging that I've started to understand myself. Bafflingly enough, as I've poured my heart out, confessed my "sins", and let all of you in on the crazy ramblings and Bad Thoughts in my head, in the last year I've started to like myself.
I'm a mix of many things, passion and drive and sloth; humor and blasphemy and a catalog of Monty Python quotes; empathy and sadness and anger. Naturally, since blogging naked is my goal, all of these come through. I love single topic humor blogs like CakeWrecks and the exceptionally immature (and therefore hilarious) AccidentalDong, but I know I'd get bored too quickly if I tried to do something like that. And humor isn't all of who I am, although you might not guess it from looking at my list of 100 Questions for True Christians. I think of myself as an activist and humor is the way I cut through compassion fatigue, and also how I give my readers a little bit of an emotional break, after sharing with them the child sacrifice in Uganda, anti-choice measures around the world, and deaths of children at the hands of faith healers. (Oh yeah, and the Catholic church. Is there anything they can do that doesn't make me wanna shove my fist through a stained glass window?)
The best advice I could give to new or aspiring bloggers is this: Treat it like it's your job. If someone asks me what I do, I say "I'm a blogger" before I confess to being unemployed - after all, which is the one I "do" every day? My own blog has suffered a bit of neglect as of late, and I've missed it. I know when I make the time and write something - whether that's every week for you or every day for me - I feel better. If I've accomplished nothing else in a day (besides those other unpaid jobs I do, like cleaning my house and paying bills) I feel satisfaction when I know I've put something good at there. That being said, don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. Not every post will be a masterpiece, but as long as every post does some good - brightens someone's day, brings awareness to a cause, or gets me one page closer to my goal of writing a book before unemployment benefits run out - then it was worth it.
The second piece of advice I'd give, especially to autobiographical bloggers like myself, is don't WHINE. We all have our burdens, some larger than others. Being open and real about those is important, and healing, and can help someone else with the pain of their own life, or with understanding the pain of a friend or lover. I try to be an alchemist - turning the manure-coated straw of my life (the abusive childhood in a cult, horrible marriage, and multiple mental illnesses) into gold. Depression may not be avoidable, but optimism, activism, and just making yourself do one thing everyday, even if it's just writing a post that says, "I feel like hell, but I'll be back tomorrow" ARE choices we can all make (or not) every day. Will my blog help someone else? Then it's time to click post. Is it just self-serving whinging? Then maybe it needs a few edits, or I need to take a few deep breaths, or at the least I can include a link to the Suicide Hotline.
My goal with blogging is simple, yet hard to pin down. I want to write. I want to communicate with the world - to connect - and I want to invite people to connect with me, and each other, as well. Whether I'm Messin' with Mormons, debunking Christian apologetics, or confessing how woefully unskeptical I have been most of my life, it's a way of connecting.
For me blogging is about being naked, being real. I think it can be tempting to paint ourselves beautiful - to treat blogs like resumes and only show our "good" parts, but that's not the connection I'm looking for. I want to show all of who I am, and be able to be proud of it. Blogging, and knowing I blog, keeps me honest. As a Sunday School teacher in my early 20s, I used to ask myself, "Is this something I'd be embarrassed to have the kids know about?" Now I ask myself, "Is this something I can tell the whole world about with no shame, no airbrushing, no creative reinterpretation?" Living my life openly helps me to lead a life I can be proud of, because I am done with secrets and shame.
I've talked about painfully personal things - my failed marriage, my mental illnesses, my status as a rape survivor. I've talked about controversial things - my stance against spanking in the home, my anti-theistic outlook on religion, my recent abortion. I talk about everything. I reject the idea that a blog must only be about one thing, or one topic, or one cause, or one style. When I hear about something upsetting and important, something which needs our action, I write about it. And when I'm in desperate need of a laugh, I compile all my favorite blasphemous stand-up in one place.
My name is Angie and I am an autobiographical blogger. This is the story of me, told through words and pictures, stories and songs. This is how I see the world and how I see myself. It's not an approach for everyone, but for me the benefits aren't counted in blog hits or YouTube subs or ad revenue. The benefit of blogging is meeting other real people, with real strengths and weaknesses, passions and pitfalls, who see me for who I am and still say, "I like you."
So, my Anteaters, was it good for you?