I've noticed that a lot of my imaginary friends in the blogosphere have recently written on variations of the "why do we blog" question. Believe me, I've thought about it and talked about it and clickety-clacked about it on the various online forums (I was totally going to write fora just then but decided not to be a douche) where these conversations come up. But I'm not going to do that here.
Okay, maybe just a little bit: I blog because I love to write, and I've always loved it more than just about anything when people say they like to read what I've written. It's not just hearing the praise, of course. I also like the idea that something I've written has given someone pleasure or made them think or laugh or maybe even cringe. So it's only mostly about the praise and attention. It's also about knowing that I have made someone feel something. Just me and my powerful words of deepness and my syntax of passion. It's hard for me to get similarly excited about filling notepads or Word docs that no one will ever read.
The "why do I blog" question is really a kind of identity crisis, as my friend (whose blog you must read, trust me) demonstrates in his recent (not at all whiny) post. As is often the case, his thoughtful, funny exploration about why we do what we do is born of frustration. It's a frustration that I've felt acutely at times, but not much lately, since a ridiculous stroke of luck sent a whole battalion of new readers my way--readers whose presence and kind comments have managed to slake my voracious ego, which would otherwise devour every molecule of decency in my being and turn me into a super-villain of the worst sort. On behalf of my wife and children and others who have to be around me IRL (that's "In Real Life" for those of you who spend too much time IRL for that concept to require an abbreviation): thank you.
But let me remind you that the three preceding long-ish paragraphs are simply an introduction to what I'm not going to talk about. What I do want to talk about is the other kind of identity crisis: the IRL identity crisis.
And, as in the case of my blogging frustration, my IRL identity crisis is at least temporarily in remission. So I'm writing from the vantage point of probably the most existential comfort I have enjoyed since the era before the moment in the third grade when Jerry Wagner said Your breath stinks and you act like a girl, and I said, I know you are, but what am I, but I thought, Does it? Do I? and tried to inconspicuously cup my hand in front of my mouth and draw my own exhaled breath into my nose while shifting my posture to what I hoped was a manly slouch.
The crux of my identity crises, which have been mild compared to others', is that no matter what I did, I would always feel a nagging sensation that I should be doing something else. If I did a, part of me just knew I should be doing b, and if I were doing b, my internal nag would tell me I was neglecting a. This second-guessing could be on a small scale: practicing guitar vs. mowing the lawn; doing Algebra homework vs. getting high and watching "Different Strokes"; blogging vs. painting the trim in the guest room. Or it could be on a larger scale: being in a band vs. going to college; being a self-employed carpenter vs. trying to find a "real" career; teaching high school vs. maintaining sanity.
The most curious symptom of my mild identity crises, though, was when I compared myself to my peers, especially those I went to high school or college with. I naturally had twinges of envy toward my friends who had made boatloads of money and/or achieved great status and success in their careers, whether they were square lawyers and financial workers or creative mavericks.
But I also found myself feeling sheepish about my relatively conventional lifestyle when talking to friends who had moved farther into the margins of society.
For example one of my best friends from high school is now a freelance pipe-organ repairman, musician, and general tinkerer who rides his bicycle fifty miles in a typical day of working and playing in New York City, and lives a life of freewheeling adventure. In school, he was the normal kid with the letter jacket and I was the rebel. Now I drive a minivan. Another one of my friends from high school is the singer in the band GWAR, who are fairly famous, but I'm pretty sure don't offer retirement benefits.
As we were pulling out of the garage yesterday, with our diaper bag and stroller stowed in their respective compartments, coffee mugs in the cup-holder armrests, and kids in their bomb-proof safety seats; my wife and I looked at each other and laughed at how normal we were. We live in a funky neighborhood and don't have a TV and I don't go to an office in the morning, but those are minor anomalies. We're parents. I'm a parent. I'm other things too, but as far as identities go, that's a good fallback position should I ever get confused about what I'm supposed to be focusing on.