Best of 2009: Blog Find and a lot more

Prompt: Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

I've been researching and participating in blogging since 2005 though I did LiveJournal about a year before I started this blog. What I like about blogging seems simple; it's what I like about conversations: the point of connection, of discovering you have something in common with someone else, that point when you share your stories. For me blogging is about sharing what goes on in my life with others. At least, that's how it started for me.

Then I started researching blogs which complicated my relationship with the genre because I was a bit consumed, early on, with defining, representing and making sense of blogging as a genre. I wanted to be sure I was participating within the expectations of the "blog community," only with such little traffic to my blog, it didn't matter much. What did matter was discovering an audience, some I knew and others I didn't. I expressed myself both as if no one and as if everyone were reading my thoughts; this is exactly why blogs fascinated me as a form: all the contradictions. But the research and the overall business of writing a dissertation left me feeling disconnected, lonely and exhausted (both intellectually and emotionally). I didn't write much during that year, unless it was about the dissertation. And at the end of it all, I was drained and stuck in the midst of trying to figure out how not to be a graduate student. I was struggling.

For the New Year (2009), I wanted to set goals which would help me break free of the way I'd seen myself for most of my life: as a student. My friend, Sandi, who also blogs, introduced me to the idea of using a word to frame my goals and intentions for the year. Through Sandi I discovered Brené Brown who led me to Kelly Rae Roberts.

There was something so open and honest in these women's posts that I began to feel inspired. I was inspired, mostly, to turn inward and to do some soul-searching and to think about things I'd pushed aside because I was busy or distracted. The first post I read was this one on weight, shame and Oprah. What a place to start, right? I added Ordinary Courage to my RSS feed and I have read and responded and considered her posts throughout the year. Both women's blogs as well as encouragement from blog friends like Sandi, Julia and others have helped me get to a place I'm not sure I would have found alone.

I'm still struggling, even in my second year in this position. I'm clearly no longer a graduate student, but there are days I'm not sure I feel so much like a professor either. Quite i, there are days I'm not treated as a professor. It's difficult for women under the age of 40 to participate in the academy, particularly at institutions where some people have been teaching longer than I've been alive. When there isn't ageism, there is sexism that even in its subtlest form seems to upend me and remind me of how I still don't quite measure up. What has been different this year is that instead of being overwhelmed by such insecurities and those awful internal voices that hold me back in a number of ways, is that I have tried to sit and wrestle with and give voice to how I'm feeling.

Yesterday, for example, I felt incredibly lonely despite the steady flow of students in and out of my office. I felt lonely because there are some ideas I need to talk through with someone, some challenges I'm having with a piece of research. And I realize as I talk to my students about their projects, I feel shut down by those to whom I've reached out for one reason or another. Some of it is my own sensitivity and some of it is that people are busy, especially in this time in the semester. Besides, let's face it, M gets terribly bored when I talk about academic stuff for too long. I'd say she's reached her limit.

My ideas thrive off conversation. I learn from talking about things, working my way verbally through an idea, design or topic. I learn from teaching. It's difficult for me to work alone. I like being surrounded by people; I like sharing my ideas and getting feedback and validation. It's why I was a good student. But as an academic still finding her way, I'm kinda lonely.

So, I spent half of the day being sad and eating mini-cupcakes. ( I really only had 2, which is about the size of 1 cupcake or so I'm telling myself). I allowed myself to feel kind of miserable. Then I needed to move on. Feeling sorry for myself was not accomplish anything though so I decided instead to make notes on paper, to write out and draw my confusion, challenges and ideas for the project. I began to focus on my ideas instead of the fact I had no one to listen to them. I'm hoping once I return to the project (after grading is done) that I will be more productive.

All of that is to say that Brené's, and Kelly Rae's posts constantly remind me to acknowledge what I feel and how I'm reacting to a situation before the reaction fully sets in and I do or say something stupid, which happens with me because it's hard to filter my thoughts on any given subject at any particular time. The badge on the sidebar that reads "I choose authenticity" reminds me to embrace my vulnerability while letting go of the emotions and negativity that holds me back. I can go home and not be hung up on things that happened earlier in the day.

I realize this response is a lot more than just yay, I found this blog and it's awesome. Reading both Brené Brown and Kelly Rae Roberts not only inspire me but also encourage me simply by sharing their stories. And that's what I got into blogging for in the first place.