Time In A Bottle

May 24, 2008 at 5:09 am (2008)

There’s an article in the New York Times regarding a twenty-something blogger and the ramifications to her life about over-sharing, prompting a range of opinions on why blogging has become so mainstream and how it can be detrimental to our society.

This article has, perhaps naturally, prompted me to question myself: why did I create this blog?  I had kept an online journal of sorts up at xanga and myspace for awhile.  As I mentioned before, xanga was for the personal stuff, while myspace was for all of those silly surveys that I love.  And herein is the thing: I like to blog for the same reason that I fill out those surveys — it’s a process about finding out more about myself while also showing the world, or at least those closest to me, all of my inner, little intricacies.  Call me narcissistic (actually, please don’t), but I want people to know who I am. I don’t mean in the “let’s be famous” type of way, because I really, really don’t want that, unless it’s respect for my writing, in which case, great, but rather in the “let’s get to know the real me” kind of way.  There is so much more to people than their surface layer, and it’s fascinating to unearth that and find that connection to others. 

So, the question remains as to why I continue this.  I read blogs because I like to connect with people who have similar interests and, in many cases, garner the advice that they freely offer.  I write my blog, I think, for the same reason that I have kept a journal for most of my life — the feelings and thoughts that I have are important to me and I want to remember them.  And, if I want to be honest with myself, perhaps naively I hope that my experiences and honest emotions can help others make sense of their own.

Sometimes I wonder, and subsequently fear, that I’m just another twenty-something — self-absorbed, too ambitious, unoriginal.  Even as I write this, I fear that I’m moving into that territory.  But I think that’s also kind of the point, why we share the things we do with people — because on some level, we want to find similarities, so that we may establish, and keep, that connection.  By definition, I am just another twenty-something.  As an individual, however, I am something much more.

I used to hate history as a kid and love it now, and I know the exact reason for it: Textbooks are filled with only the facts — dates and names and places are meaningless unless there is a story there.  And there is always a story.  Maybe that’s the writer in me, but I believe that history is more than a recording — it’s a living picture, a breathing past.  A journal is the same thing; it’s the story of a life — raw, uncut, and unedited. 

When I went to Gettysburg with my best friend a few weeks ago, we toured the museum in the Visitor’s Center.  I will freely admit that I quickly bypassed the plaques with all of the figures and dates and zeroed in on the showcases that held real, tangible objects.  It’s breathtakingly bittersweet to realize that what is now on display was once in someone’s hands: Someone wrote in that diary, someone read from that prayerbook.  Behind protective glass is furniture punctured by bullet holes and mirrors with smudges and cracks; showcased is an old wooden medical kit with some of the medicine still in glass jars and a full-size diorama of what an officer’s living quarters would be in comparison to a foot soldier’s. 

The heartbreaking reality is that these were people who lived and breathed and shared smiles and tears — someone looked in that mirror, before it was cracked, when it hung on a wall; someone sat in a camp just like the one depicted in this glass case, possibly poking at their dying fire, struggling to keep warm beneath their thin tent, millions of miles away from home and missing their parents or siblings or pets.  They may have laughed as they played cards or chess with a fellow soldier, as the little pocket games that were on display would suggest; maybe they wrote how they really felt to their families, or maybe they kept up that brave front, as the letters read.  I wondered if these grown men cried, reverted to the mere boys they really were, as they lay on their cots in the dark and thought about the people they loved and left and lost; I wondered if they feared what they would face the next morning — and not just the battle, but the weather, the disease, the journey.

We’re left to always wonder.  We read their journals to get glimpses into their lives, to see how people lived and maybe even boast about how far we’ve come, but maybe what we’re really looking for is that connection, to see that despite time and location and circumstance, we all really fear, hope, and long for the same things.   So much is captured and kept in a museum, but feelings of fear and insecurity and faith can’t be preserved behind a glass wall.  Despite the records and artifacts, a million little moments are lost forever. 

We all have experiences and emotions that we want to remember.  We all have a story to tell.

Maybe this is just another way of telling it.

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