An expat blogger friend of mine remarked the other day that she’s still not sure blogging from America isn’t pretentious. I’d have to agree. In fact, I’d expand it to say that blogging from anywhere is fairly pretentious. I mean, who am I to think that my journal would make interesting reading for acquaintances, or even friends? Let alone strangers!
The blogs that stick to one topic, like recipes, fashion, or politics, make more sense. They’re kind of like books published in serial form. That’s normal. Even Dickens made it big publishing serially. But what about those of us like me, who are more or less publishing our memoirs as they happen? It is a little pretentious when you think about it. And maybe a bit exhibitionist too. What is it exactly that compels me (and millions of other people) to post the happenings of our day-to-day lives on the World Wide Web for anyone to read? And what are we all doing reading details from the day-to-day lives not only of our friends, but of people we’ve never met?
I guess for me, blogging is something that has evolved in my life. When I initially started blogging, I only wanted to post when I had something really deep and philosophical to say. I guess I envisioned it as my dazzling contribution to the Great Conversation. Unfortunately, my life at the time was not as deep and philosophical as I had initially imagined, with the result that my blog posts ended up being very occasional. That old blog is still in existence, esoteric Nietzsche quote and all, but I haven’t even visited it myself in years.
I didn’t create Casteluzzo and start blogging in earnest until I found something to blog about: getting Italian citizenship. I decided that I would chronicle every detail in our quest for Italian citizenship, so that other aspiring Italians would have a clear path to follow. At the time, I only knew of a handful of South Americans and two U.S. citizens who had succeeded in (or at least were in the process of) obtaining Italian citizenship in Italy. What a boon to the world to have a meticulous account of all the nitty-gritties of an abstruse and little-known bureaucratic process in a distant foreign country! I had found my calling in life.
However, I soon discovered that our case was not exactly textbook. Even gathering the documents in the United States involved some tricky maneuvers. And once we got to Italy, all bets were off as we dodged the giant sticky balls of red tape that every government official in Italy seemed intent on throwing at us. From being a helpful list of steps in a logical process, my blog became a chronicle of our ridiculous misadventures in a country where we were basically inarticulate and illiterate, and trying to accomplish something that everyone said was impossible.
In the end, I’m afraid that the best the minute details of our Italian citizenship story will do is scare off any potential citizenship applicants, which was the precise opposite of my original intent. Probably the only tidbit of advice with universal application is that every visit to an Italian government office should be immediately followed by a gelato break. But the process did do one thing for me: by the time Tony actually miraculously walked out of the 1567th Italian government office holding a beautiful red passport, I was addicted to blogging.
It was a way to write that I could fit into my life, because it only had to be produced in short snatches. It was something to offer my relatives so they could know I wasn’t dead, even when I was abysmally bad at keeping in touch. It was somewhere to write down those funny things that happened so I wouldn’t forget them.
And then it became something more. People started commenting, sometimes my family, sometimes friends I hadn’t seen for years, sometimes total strangers. But even better, people would would email me out of the blue to tell me that something I had said resonated with them. When you’ve just moved to a foreign country and feel a little lonely (a circumstance in which I’ve found myself pretty often during the past couple of years), it means a lot when someone reaches out to make a personal connection.
The more I could visualize writing to a friendly group of kindred spirits (rather than flinging it out into the vast blue void), the more I felt like blogging. In some ways, I felt like I could let people know more about myself and my thoughts through my blog than in person. I’m kind of introverted that way. The more I blog, the more natural it feels to talk about things I’d always thought about but never had occasion to say. I used to get really sad about all the amazing people I’d met in various places, but never really gotten to know because we’ve moved. Now at least they can still read my blog. In some way, it feels like staying connected, even if all I hear back is the periodic “I love your blog.” And that’s why I really love it when other people have blogs too. Because then we can both stay up on each other’s lives.
I don’t know. Maybe my idea of reading each other’s online journals as a way to keep up a relationship is just a pathetic reflection on modern life (or my life). Maybe it’s another one of those facebook things. But somehow it works for me. It helps me stay connected to an outside world that sometimes feels so far away.
Why do you blog? Or why do you not?