Seven hundred and fifty-three

Okay, I’ve decided to continue to blog.  Well, at least for now.  I’ve had a lot of support from online and real life sources, and I do believe that it’s important to have a variety of different voices out there in the blogosphere.  Besides, sometimes I just have to write and share my feelings.  Especially about topics I feel passionate about.  If I offend someone, I am sorry.  I will follow my internet rules of conduct (which I wrote as “code of contact” last week – oops, I guess I was feeling really passionate if I didn’t pick that up in my proof read!  I fixed it, but I’m happy I can laugh at myself and my own silly mistakes.) and be kind and be open to other people’s opinions that are not my own, even if I disagree.

With that said, I’m feeling in the photo mood and not as much the writing one.  (I’m actually formulating a good rant on a topic that is really upsetting me at the moment, but it needs some work and I’d like to post something this week.)  I’ve been looking through old photos to pick a few to put up on the walls in the new apartment and came across these gems.  These were taken with a small point-and-shoot camera in 2008 in the New Forest, in southern England.  My boyfriend-at-the-time and I were camping and I woke up early one day to find ponies grazing on the misty field right outside our tent.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  In a time when the world can be an ugly place with bombings, hate crimes, complicated politics, pollution and too much anger, it’s nice to be reminded that some things are so serene and simple.  Looking at these photos brings me back to that moment and that feeling of calm and beauty that I need to deal with the onslaught of horrible things going on around the world.

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Seven hundred and forty-six

Afraid of blogging?

I guess my new blog day is turning into Fridays.  I’ve actually been avoiding blogging a little over the past few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t have anything say (all my friends and family can tell you I always have a lot to say).  And it’s definitely not because I don’t want to write – I love to play with words.  It’s that I’ve become increasingly aware of the impact of those words written on the internet and how they can affect other people.

When I started blogging a few years ago I figured no one would read what I had to say besides my mother and best friends.  I wrote how I felt and how I would have talked to them in person had we been in the same room.  I didn’t really think of other people I didn’t know reading my posts.  I started doing “the project” and slowly gained followers, but most of the topics were fun and people enjoyed my silliness.  I found out during good deed and poverty months that my opinions can really hurt people and that I should make sure I watch how I phrase things and what I choose to write about.  However, I kept going: in the name of art, truth, and being true to myself.

Recently, though, I’ve been aware of many bloggers writing sometimes seemingly harmless things and other people taking offence.  There was a vegan blogger who wrote about how she had to stop being vegan because her body needed her to.  That blogger got death threats from vegan activists, and ultimately she shut down her blog for the safety of her family.  She was just saying her opinion about her own journey and talking about the food she eats.

I just read a different blogger’s post about being depressed and angry at the person who wrote 21 Habits of Happy People.  She argues that it’s not that easy and those “happy people” are essentially being bullies.  (It’s a very interesting argument and worth a read).  She had so many responses from “happy people” telling her she is wrong that she wrote a follow-up post, and a subsequent 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

In many of these instances people are just writing how they feel, from the vegan blogger, to the depressed woman, to the happy people.  Yet, they are hurting other people.  I’m so very aware right now that what I write might be upsetting someone else, even if I’m just writing my own story, that it almost stops me from writing anything.  I’m so stuck between the need to share, the idea that more shades brings a more complete picture, and not wanting to indirectly hurt someone.  It’s almost making me rethink blogging as a whole.

I’m even more aware of the power of words and images on the internet by the stream of young people committing suicide after being cyber-bullied.  In these instances the people doing the bullying were intentionally trying to hurt the other person, unlike what I was talking about previously.  These sad cases (which disturb me to the core, considering my experience with being bullied) are an extreme, but they do highlight a major problem with the way we communicate on the internet.  In our age of putting everything online, we are forgetting that those words, images and videos are accessible everywhere and sometimes spread like wildfire, and can be very hurtful.

As a journalist, though, I also think about where we draw the line.  Should happy people stop saying the reasons they are happy?  Should vegan bloggers not be able to say that they think their body wants a bit of animal?  Should depressed people not be able to say their side of the story too?  Being able to publish how we feel is an amazing right we have, but it’s also a responsibility.  Now that day-to-day life is posted online, there needs to be an internet code of conduct written.  Don’t cyber bully, don’t be mean to someone, don’t discount their opinion straight away because it’s not your own.  But, yes, let’s have open discussions about topics like veganism, depression, bullying.  Because that is both the beauty and the curse of blogging.  But let’s also not forget that what we say can directly affect other people, sometimes hurt them.

As I write this, I am still struggling with whether I can keep putting myself out here on the blogosphere.  I don’t want to be a bully, directly or indirectly.  But I also want to share my story with the world.  How do I reconcile this in myself to continue to blog?  I’m not sure.

Seven hundred and thirty

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I couldn’t resist putting in one last photo of Thailand.  It’s so beautiful it almost looks fake.  Alas, I am back to my restaurant job serving beer and nachos in a kilt; the cold weather; the realization that I wasn’t picked for the Amazing Race Canada (sigh); and some very exciting news… My boyfriend and I are moving in together!  It’s a big step and one that makes me both happy and scared.  I have lived with two other boyfriends in the past, but this seems different.  The other two were while living in another country or for convenience and I was young.  This is meant as a step towards a more permanent part in each other’s lives (!!!!).  I am so confident in our relationship, but combining two very independent lives into one home is a challenge.  I will keep you posted on the struggles and triumphs, but for now I just want to bask in my own glow of happiness.

(Let me pause while I try to stop smiling enough to concentrate on typing the rest of this blog… Oh screw it, I can’t stop smiling!  I’m going to enjoy these moments, because once we start the heavy lifting I might be regretting my decision!)

Although I do miss the warmth and beauty of my adventures abroad, I’m happy to be back into the routine a little bit.  I’m working on final edits to the book and hopefully meeting with my agent soon to push even harder to get this thing published.  I’ve also started working more on a fiction book I’ve been writing in my spare time.  Writing is an escape and de-stresser for me, so why not try some fiction.  I’m convinced I will be able to support myself with my writing, one way or another!

I’m also trying to figure out what direction I want to go with this blog.  Concentrate on photography?  Continue to do the “mixed bag” thing I’ve been doing?  Start another social experiment project?  If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, things they like or don’t like, please let me know.

This post is a bit all over the place, I realize.  I’ve just arrived in Montreal after a six hour drive and am feeling very restless and wanting to be up and walking.  I will leave it at that for today.  I hope everyone who celebrates Easter has a wonderful time this weekend!

What happens next?

Wednesday February 29th, 6:33 PM.  My heart started racing and I couldn’t stop starring at the screen.  I was frozen for a second, then I started to laugh, walk around the room, talk to myself.  If anyone was filming me, they would think I had gone crazy – really lost my mind.  It had been three hours since I posted my 366th post and I had gone for a walk around Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world and where I was visiting my boyfriend, who is working there for the month.  I came back with cheap bubbly and rosy cheeks from the cold and thought I’d pour myself a little glass and check my e-mail while I was waiting for my bf to be done work.  But when I turned on my e-mail it was full of messages from WordPress (the blogging site I use, for those who don’t know) saying that I had comments and “likes” from my final post – lots and lots of them.  I check my stats on the blog: 3,411 views in three hours!!!!  And that’s when I went crazy…

As I put up my last post earlier that day, I was a little disappointed I hadn’t reached 1,000 views in one day.  I have a regular group of readers, but never did hit the thousand mark.  Now I was over 3,000!  And it kept going up.  Six thousand views by 8:00. 11,185 by the end of the day.  Over 35,000 two days later.  I am still in shock – although I’ve stopped talking to myself, spontaneously laughing out loud for no apparent reason, and speaking so fast my mouth can’t keep up with my brain!

And the comments just kept coming.  So many encouraging, lovely messages from other writers and bloggers who enjoyed what I did.  I was so proud of myself for accomplishing my goal and getting through the 366 days of ups and downs, documenting it all the way through.  Now there were all these other people who I’d never met proud of me too!  Thank you so much to everyone out there who have inspired me to keep going.  I tried to respond personally to each of you, but it got a little much for a bit there (especially since I was also trying to enjoy my mini-break in Montreal).  I appreciate the comments and support so much.

I never really understood the power of the “Freshly Pressed” section of the WordPress homepage (for the non-bloggers out there, it’s the “best of” blogs from the day) until a few days ago.  It was the fact that my 366th post was featured in the Freshly Pressed section that caused all the other bloggers to see it, the chain reaction and all the views and comments.  For those of you who enjoy reading blogs, it’s a great way to check out some of the best reads of the moment.  (I made a screen shot of my post next to the “Freshly Pressed” sign because I was so excited)

The point of me writing all this (besides because I feel I need to write it and say it out loud to believe it’s real), is to thank you for all your support and to say that I am now going to have to keep blogging.  The momentum is pushing me forward and giving me all sorts of ideas of new projects to do and new adventures to take.  For now, though, I have to write this book…

To all of you: