Reinvigorating This Space – And My Mind

“The reason why a lot of people won’t become who they want is because they’re too attached to who they’ve been.”

Lisa Nichols

This tired blog has sat on the internet for 13 years now. 

It’s watched me grow from a curious and idealistic (and admittedly intense) college student to a more level mid-career scientist and wife. It’s witnessed obsessive introspection and casual monotony alike. Like a childhood toy, I’ve also slowly picked it up less and less as the years go by, every so often looking at it as a beloved thing of the past. When I’ve picked it up intending to write anything of substance, I don’t seem to know how to do so anymore. Like Hook‘s Peter Pan forgot how to fly. 

I have been reluctant to set it down altogether though, despite the reality that I blog so seldom anymore that people occasionally ask, “Do you still….?” I think my hesitance is that I don’t really know who I am without writing. It is such a part of my story. Words have always been my companions, my tools, the definable boundaries giving shape to the ether of my thoughts, anxieties, questions or prayers. I have always written. I thought I always would. 

Recently, I’ve been cautiously trying on the idea of laying this blog down, in the same curious way you try on a style of clothes you’ve never worn before. We become attached to the identities we forge as young people, as explorers, writers, artists, athletes, what have you. There comes a time when we need to question the utility of the identities we carry, and ask whether they still serve us, or ought better be pruned for better growth in a new direction. Now in my 30s, I’m sitting with those ideas as one goes through old things in an attic, deciding what to keep and what might feel surprisingly freeing to finally let go of. 

But the question has also called me to reflect on how this space and its craft have changed. When I typed my first words here in 2009, social media was in its infancy. The smart phone was still only in the hands of relatively few, and I wouldn’t own one of my own for another four years. Now the internet is ubiquitous. The world already feels saturated with self-exposure, and it makes me feel as though content ought to really add something to the conversation to merit its existence. Often when I sit down to pen some ideas onto the page, they don’t make it past the cutting room floor. 

I’ve also watched my own mind shrink in this era. Like many, I am bemused by my relationship to technology, recognizing both the harm its wrought on my ability to cultivate depth and stillness, as well as my alarming dependence on it. I look at 2-3 different screens every day at work. At home, it seems I am always one step away from the internet swallowing me whole. I question the utility of engaging more in the realm of screens, and tacitly encouraging others to do the same by writing content I hope they read. 

Furthermore, in an age where the internet has become so instrumental in polarizing our conversations, I also feel a hesitance about putting more digital words into that atmosphere. I am a passionate believer in conversation and nuance, in listening to the people you most disagree with, and in fair dialogue. My friend Brianna says, “You cannot disagree responsibly with something you do not fully understand.” I love this, and seek to embody it. I believe none of us are so all-knowing that we have nothing to learn, even from our ideological “enemies.”

And yet, these deeply held beliefs about engagement and conversation result in a desire not to blog about some of my more honest reflections. I’d much rather discuss them over tea in my living room, with eye contact, intonation, graciousness, and mutual respect. This has unintentionally condemned this space to relatively shallow waters. In the lack of depth, this blog has slowly starved for lack of meaningful content. Not unlike my own mind. 

It occurs to me that the fate of this blog hangs in the balance of my willingness to breathe life back into the conversations it holds, both in the inner recesses of my own thoughts and in their outer expression in text. Continuing to allow it to languish in the relatively glib realm of life updates is a motion towards its demise, as is my own contentment with distraction rather than contemplation. I think this space must hold true to its identity of depth and thought, or else be retired. Those are its possible logical ends.

I think this blog and I both face a need to seek what is real over what is merely pacifying. What is it to choose peaceful and meaningful existence in a society that is tearing itself at the seams? What is it to think critically about the messages we are given from all sides, and to select wisdom even when it is unpopular? How do I draw up life-giving boundaries even when they chafe against our cultural norms of rest, consumption, engagement, and constant connectivity? How do I cultivate the silence within my own mind, and the patience of spirit, to create space for genuine introspection? And how on earth do I equip my future family to do the same?

I realize, if I’m honest, that I’m worried. I don’t know how to raise children in our world today, because I would hope they make better choices than I have, but against worse odds. I see the world we’ve laid up for them, and I know they will need to be even braver, more convicted, more steadfast than I have had to be. And I hope they are up to the task. 

If this digital conversation space continues to exist, then I want to bring those raw and real things into it. I want to know my own mind, live into my values at the high cost that cognitive consonance demands. I look ahead and see that our current trajectory as a society, as a global community, is distressing at best. At the same time, I cannot hope to create any meaningful change if my own life looks effectively the same as those around me. Change is needed, and I don’t know the way. But maybe I can share some of my journey – the real journey – here. 

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