This was my original website header back when I began in 2013, thanks to my friend Anne McKinsey. I still love those colors, though I’ve since learned the difference between calling myself a writer and calling myself an author.
For nearly seven years, my focus here has been differences, cultural differences in particular.
In those early years, I often used the deleted scenes from my Peace Corps memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, to drive home the message that cultural differences are not only interesting, educational, and exciting (and exhausting), they help us know ourselves better.
Once through with the stories from Kazakhstan that I wanted to share, I looked at cultural differences in our own backyard. Breastfeeding six year olds comes most readily to mind, as does the post on illegal clotheslines. Were they popular!
Somewhere along the way I added curiosity, compassion, and courage as values I wanted to emphasize.
Keep an open mind, I said. Find your curiosity in what you do not yet understand.
Do so with compassion. And, above all, have courage.
I might have added, maintain your sense of humor too.
Could I have chosen a worse time to start a blog with that particular niche?
Difference is more often feared than embraced these days. Hatred and anger infect us daily spewing from TV news. White supremacy has achieved an overt, public status it’s not had since Jim Crow ruled the south.
Two years ago, my posts turned political, as that felt most important to me. And my numbers — measured in those mysterious “clicks” and “opens” — declined. Subscribers who actually open a post, for example, declined by nearly 50% in the last year I was blogging regularly.
How important is that? I asked myself. Do I follow the numbers or do I speak from my heart? Do I continue to claim the cultural differences niche I’ve claimed, or do I move away from it, toward something the world has more interest in? Kittens and cats are always popular.
I had to remind myself why I blog. Here’s what I came up with:
I blog because I have something to say.
I blog because it is how I make sense of the world around me.
I blog because I am curious about how my readers will react to something I write.
I blog because it is the fastest way to get read.
I keep blogging because of the connections I’ve made with others, most of whom I’ve never met and probably never will, but with whom I feel a sense of kinship, a shared world outlook.
Isn’t that what we all want, in the end? To feel connected to others, to know where we belong and what is expected of us?
To know that if we let go, there’ll be someone there to break our fall.
I wonder if all the upheaval around the globe has made it only clearer that we all want to feel grounded, anchored, and safe. We yearn for connection.
Here is where I come to write, to find my ground, to clear my head, and to share my thoughts, my emotions, and my beliefs. Not in the expectation that you will always agree with me, but in the hope that you will share yours too. And in that sharing, we come to know each other, and we connect.
Eventually, we learn to accept each other as we are.
My very first graduate school paper was entitled “Sociology and the Public’s Right to Know.” Believe it or not, it came from an article in my Sunday Magazine by the comedian Dave Barry. This must have been early 1980s, if anyone is interested. Off I went. There was much great stuff coming out of sociology and social psych research in those days but none of it was getting to the public because it was mired down in “SocSpeak” — jargon.
Here on And So It Goes, I have a platform. Perhaps this is my time to cut through some of that socspeak and rework it for us all to understand, me included.
Together we’ve explored the fascinating work out of neuroscience (do amygdala, oxytocin, and the prefrontal cortex come to mind?). I’ve done it a bit with some of the political machinations going on in DC. I’m ready to do it again.
Monthly? What would you like to understand better? Boredom comes to mind, for some reason, immediately. Surely someone out there has been studying boredom. I’m going to find out.
How about you? What else would you like to explore, together?