I have enjoyed blogs and blogging for years. As a grad student I blogged about such things as recalled library books, new ideas, worries about the future, my dissertation, and other randomness. This was back in the day when it was not that common to blog or read blogs or even think about posting things on the web for others to see. That blog sort of fizzled out when I graduated and moved to a new location. That blog was primarily a place to write about the uncertainties, excitement and stress of being a graduate student. If I’m honest, it was also a really great way to procrastinate! A few of my friends were playing with blogs at that time too, so it was kind of fun. I did not, however, have a sense of the blogosphere community as I would later come to know it. I don’t know if that was because I was still uninformed about how the whole blog thing worked or if that level of critical mass had not been reached yet.
In my first job after graduation I found myself reeling from the stress of being a newly-minted PhD working as an adjunct in a city far from the one that had come to feel like home. I was lonely, miserable, exhausted and frustrated. One evening when I was feeling particularly low I googled something like “burned out professor” and was delighted to find a number of academic bloggers who were posting about some of the very things I was thinking and feeling. I signed up for a new blogger account, created a profile and jumped right back into the blogging world with two feet. It was exactly what I needed at that time. I was still miserable, exhausted and frustrated (many of the posts were on such subjects as student loan debt, the alarming trend of relying more and more on adjunct instructors in North American universities, and my own insecurities as an instructor, writer and researcher fresh out of grad school), but I no longer felt alone with these stresses. For a little over a year I was very active in the academic blogosphere and I’m sure it helped keep me sane. I posted pseudononymously, not because I was trying to hide my identity but because it was fun to have an online alter ego identity. At the end of that contract I took the blog down as I was moving on to a new job and location and it no longer seemed relevant. The last post was almost exactly a year ago.
At many times over the past year I thought about returning to blogging, but have been pre-occupied with settling into my new job and new location (both of which I love!). I also wanted to spend some time thinking about what I would like my new blog to be if and when I did return to the blogosphere. In grad school blogging was a shiny, fun new way to waste time; when I was adjuncting it was a life line. Neither of those models of blogging are relevant in the same way to me any more. Of course I have goof-off time like everyone else, and it would be Pollyanna-ish of me to suggest that life is all sunshine and roses now, however I could feel a change in the air in terms of my reasons for wanting to blog.
I have spent the past week at the ASLE conference in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I love ASLE conferences — unlike many other conferences, I leave this one feeling happy, refreshed and inspired. This year’s meeting was no exception. I won’t go into detail in this post about all the wonderful things that I experienced at this conference this year (I will save that for another post!), but there is one panel that I must mention here as this is the panel that inspired me to return to blogging. The speakers talked about blogging as an important way to connect with the world around us. In many ways the act of blogging encourages us to notice detail around us with fresh eyes and to think about our day-to-day experiences with our environments, one of the panelists argued. Lorianne from Hoarded Ordinaries spoke eloquently and passionately about how ideas of place are already necessarily intertwined with the personal. Hearing Lorianne speak about these issues solidified a lot of the half-formed thoughts I had been recently having about returning to blogging. With all due respect to all of the other wonderful speakers I have heard at this and other conferences I have to say that this panel was the most inspiring and exciting panel I have ever had the pleasure of attending at an academic conference. To Lorianne and the others involved in the session — THANK YOU!