Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.

I Am a Hopeful Monster (or My Illustrious Blogging Career Is Unstoppable): Happy 13th Blog Anniversary to Me

I Am a Hopeful Monster (or My Illustrious Blogging Career Is Unstoppable): Happy 13th Blog Anniversary to Me

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Two days ago marked my 13th year of blogging. I started way back in August of 2003, so this could be my 13th anniversary post, although I doubt it. I struggle with feeling at all celebratory about anniversaries. I didn't even write posts for my five- and six-year sobriety anniversaries. There's too much to say, and history is complicated. It feels dishonest to shout YAY! and write up the equivalent of a public greeting card to oneself.

I've been feeling nostalgic lately, though, and so I spent part of today going through computer files and blog archives, amazed at how much I've done and haven't done, how different my life is and isn't, what I've written about and what I've kept to myself. I'm really glad that I've kept all my blogging archives together here in one place, because, well, what a record. I wouldn't remember most of my life without it.

Sharp MZ2500

Sharp MZ2500

The first computers I played around with in the 1980s belonged to friends. We'd sit in their various basements and spend most of our time trying to figure what these machines did. The first computer I remember ran on two integrated cassette tape memory drives that were embedded in the front of the computer's case, much like this Sharp MZ2500. Even then, we knew that technology was destined to die off. Another used floppy disks, which felt much more futuristic. We only had the cheap one-sided ones, though, so we would notch them with a hole punch so we could use the second side, too. None of this will even make sense to most people now. It barely made sense to me at the time. Everything about computers felt like magic and baby unicorns to me. 

The flimsy kinds of external memory storage we were stuck with made what we had on those disks and cassettes nearly invaluable. Floppy disks were highly sensitive to dust, moisture, and temperature extremes, and Saskatchewan weather has all of these, so it was stressful just carrying a floppy disk around. We had no internet, either, so the stories and home-coded games within those vulnerable plastic squares were often the only copies we had. It was kind of a rush when everything worked after you'd made it to your friend's house in -40 degree weather with a disk held carefully inside your coat.

OH MY GOD. MAKE ME STOP BEFORE I START SHOUTING ABOUT KIDS TODAY.

Okay, I'll get on with it. Sort of.

A Bit of What Made Blogging Seem Like a Natural Course to Take In 2003

The first time I opened up with any vulnerability on a computer was in 1986. A friend had a computer program called ELIZA with a script called DOCTOR that behaved like a psychotherapist. It would ask me questions, I would answer, and my heart would literally flutter. (Here is a sample transcript of conversation with DOCTOR.)

Brother daisywheel electronic typewriter

Brother daisywheel electronic typewriter

The second time I opened up through a computer was in 1991 or 1992. I typed out journal entries on a Brother daisywheel electronic typewriter that had a small memory card, a 28-character display, and an internal dictionary. (It looked a lot like the model pictured here.) I was terrified that anyone might ever find that little memory card, so I routinely popped it out and hid it, which also meant that I eventually lost it. Luckily, I changed all identifying names when I wrote, so my secrets of the early 90s are secure. This is a blessing.

By 1995, I was living with a small handful of roommates in a rundown townhouse with dirt floors in the basement. A friend gifted me an ancient computer, which I hid in a corner of the basement. There were so many bugs on the floor that I had to put tin cans full of water under each of my chair legs to thwart their ascent while I typed in the dark. The computer so old enough that any master password and necessary memory devices were no longer around, so all I could do was type out dim, blue words in the dark and feel how their shapes felt. I wrote fantasy stories that disappeared every time I powered down the machine. It was a game of disappearance I played with myself, and it felt secret and powerful.

At some point in the late 1990s I lived with a friend who had a computer I wasn't really supposed to use, but I snuck on a couple of times to see what chat rooms were all about. My first ever chat was on an X-rated site with a bunch of separate "rooms" for particular fetishes. To be clear, "X-rated" refers to the content of people's chats alone, because the internet was largely image-free at the time. What fascinated me most was watching what people chatted about while they waited for someone interesting to show up. They talked about their hobbies, pets, and work stress — it was pretty mundane stuff — but it was kind of touching. There I was in a dark room, and they were likely in their own dark rooms, and the site itself was light type on a black background, so it felt unifying and warm to witness all these strangers being regular people together in the middle of the night. I'd never witnessed anything like it before.

I ended up getting hit there on by someone calling themself "Rocky". I can't remember what I called myself, but I do remember that I described myself as some stereotypically top-heavy, Hollywood-movie stripper. I truly spent most of that chat knitting my brother's Christmas scarf. There were long pauses after each of my replies that let me purl-knit-purl my way through a couple of rows. Rocky asked if I would meet him again the next Tuesday, so I guess it was a success. I still feel kind of bad that I lied about wanting to meet up again. I hope he found someone nice.

Later, I fell in love with and married Aidan. He started reading blogs sometime in 2002 and began his own blog in January of 2003, so blogs started to feel like a matter of course around our place. Of course I would have one! Who wouldn't?!

I signed up with Diaryland in August of 2003, and that was that. Apparently, this phase is terminal.

So, today I started feeling nostalgic about yesterday's blogging anniversary.

And now we're back to the beginning when I was telling you about how I was going through old computer files and blog entries. While I was doing that, I found a folder full of the different blog headers I made for myself from 2007 through 2010. I was intent on continual growth and change, and I didn't want to become stuck inside any particular voice or persona online, so I kept making different banners several times a year to shake things up on the old website.

This is what I've actually been meaning to get to throughout this whole post. I dug up these banners, and they make me feel quite tenderly towards the me of back then. I made these during and after my cervical cancer diagnosis and subsequent hysterectomy, I made these when I was still fully anonymous online, as I was for the first 7.5 years, I made these when I was just realizing my creativity might be worth something beyond my secret journal entries, even if I did set them free online.

I made these when I thought my life was not valuable most of the time.

I looked through these blog banners and watched this me of back then look long at the possibility of my death,

march with conviction away from bullshit, 

reach out through spaces that were hard to navigate,

joke about how I didn't die despite it all,

fight for myself,

find a little faith in kindness,

learn how to keep up that faith,

bravely edge my into sharing my identity,

get over myself (or at least some of myself (I'm still working on this one)),

basically tell people to stop asking me already if I knew what my pseudonym "Schmutzie" meant,

laugh at my navel-gazing,

accidentally scare people with a clown,

get a sense of humour (I let some rhinos fart on my blog name for an entire month),

show how alien I felt,

make little dolls that looked as alien as I felt,

get a little attitude back in my stride,

collect all the cats (Oskar and Onion and Lula),

toe the waters of a kind of work I never would have dreamed of,

and say fuck it and forge ahead instead of dying or wasting away in a terrible office. I DID THAT. 

There's something about this kind of machinery and the wandering way of the internet that draws me out and moves me forward. I learned (and am still learning) how to tell my own story (which is one of the most powerful tools a human can possess), my writing has grown, I changed careers, I quit smoking, I quit drinking, I worked hard on not wanting to kill myself, I started a gratitude community, and I met incredible people who changed who I am, the way I live, and the way I work.

Remember earlier when I said I was "really glad that I've kept all my blogging archives together here in one place"? This is why. Look at what just three years of blog banners brought back to me.

It's easy to forget where I've been. Life is loud, and I forget everything but this noisy moment I swim inside like a diving bell, but I've been places. It's so easy to forget when I'm feeling low and autumn is ebbing in on a slow tide of yellow leaves on the elms outside my window, but, in the evolution of my little life, I've travelled some good places. I am my own metaphorical hopeful monster

I'm still here.

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240/365: Hidden Sun

240/365: Hidden Sun

239/365: External Curative

239/365: External Curative