it’s all about me/it’s all about we

Hot summer, sitting with a dear friend at a street-side table of a hoppin’ restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis. It’s 1997 and I’ve just found out it’s possible to be cool and do cool things while not drinking alcohol. My cool friend and I are talking about our cool dreams and cool ideal futures, especially about our super-cool dream jobs. I’ve begun calling myself “a writer” and have been posting “web essays” (aka, these days, blog posts) every week.

Back then, I took my web essays so seriously I would stay up all night to be sure something worthwhile was published by Thursday morning each week. My topics varied from “What’s happening in Rwanda?” to “How I survived the beach in my bikini” and “All Whites are Racist.” Mostly, though, I wrote about me, myself, and I. As my friend and I laughed about ourselves while basking in our wonderfulness, we came up with the name for my web essays. I began calling my website, “It’s all about me! (the column).” The name was meant to be self-deprecating; poking some loving fun at my self-centeredness.

In the 90s, the most fascinating thing in my life was me. I was newly recovered from alcoholism. I was in my late 20s (becoming an adult). And I had left a relatively long-term relationship just a year or so before. “Who am I” was everything to me at that time. So, my friend Lisa and I were laughing about how self-centered we were. We knew even then, however, our self-centeredness and deep interest in “navel-gazing” wasn’t really about ourselves. We wanted to understand how we related to the world around us.

Who am I in relation to the world? What do I think of… racism, sexism, politics, art, relationships, social justice, sex, or anything that happened to cross my mind at the moment. What were my opinions? What role did I have in everything? And, most relevant to today’s “Blog Action Day,” what are my responsibilities to, for, and with the world outside of me?

During my earliest days of posting web essays, a fellow writer in the newsgroup where I hung out online, really let me have it about how vapid my perspective on life was. She counted the number of times I used the word “I” (14 times) in one of my essays. She railed against the uninteresting content of essays that were about me and only me, as she saw it.

It’s true there have been periods of my life where what I share online has been so much about my intimate self-discovery I’ve found it surprising other people have had any interest. But, many still seemed to enjoy my writing.

I no longer spend much time publicizing my now-it’s-called-a-blog. I also don’t write as regularly. I don’t spend hours researching so I can put together informative and in-depth essays about current events or important social issues. I write about thoughts I have that interest me. I write about experiences I have or about things that I’ve read. I write about me, myself, and I in relation to the greater world whether directly or indirectly.

Some people find their energy being with people. Their “power of we” comes from physically being with other human beings doing something social, political, creative, or otherwise. My “power of we” comes from within my own mind and from the connections I make with individuals, almost always one person at a time. My connection with other human beings, my true “power of we,” tends to be infrequent and almost always quite intimate and even intense.

It’s only through a fuller understanding of myself that I am able to engage in relationships with others. I still find me fascinating. I understand, now, that counting the number of times I write “I” doesn’t mean I think I am the only interesting topic. It doesn’t mean I think I am the only thing that matters. In fact, the reason I want to continue discovering myself is so I am better able to be in the world. Being alive in the present moment, fully connecting with myself and who I am, allows me the freedom to care for others close to me. It also creates in me a desire to make the world a better, more loving and just place for all of us.

My self-centered and self-discovery focused expositions are in a sense about me. But, ultimately, they are about the intersection of individuals with each other and in relation to each other. The mindfulness I practice helps me be fully alive and most able to be present, to care for and love others.

My blog’s name is no longer “It’s all about me! (the column).” Since around 2005 or 2006, this blog has been called, “It’s all about we!”

It’s through me, myself, and I that I uncover the “power of we.”

For these are my own particular opinions and fancies, and I deliver them as only what I myself believe, and not for what is to be believed by others. I have no other end in this writing, but only to discover myself, who, also shall, peradventure, be another thing to-morrow, if I chance to meet any new instruction to change me. — The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Volume 1, page 187

7 Comments

Filed under activism, this blog, writing

7 responses to “it’s all about me/it’s all about we

  1. Paula

    No one gives a shit what you think about Rwanda. When you write about yourself, people can connect your personal experiences to their own because, of course, they are all about themselves, too. My old blog was HUGELY popular because I babbled on about myself or how local events affected me. When I wrote about some newsy thing, it was always with my own warped slant. People liked that and were happy to then let loose with their own perspective in comments, even if it was to tell me how utterly wrong I was. That was great. Same now, but peeps aren’t into blogs so much, plus I’m super-lazy about reaching out and commenting on new blogs to pull in new readers. In any case, no one wants some dry scholarly essay on a freaking blog. Yuck!

    • serenebabe

      LOVE your first line. Back in the 90s, though, there wasn’t the saturation of information like there is now. So, my li’l old “I’m figuring this out because I have no idea what’s happening and I’m going to share it here” posts were actually pretty well received.

      The thing that makes me especially self-conscious about my “it’s all about me” posts is that unless I know the person already, I’m really not that interested in reading other people’s personal journeys, y’know? So, keeping track of the notion that readers might enjoy my innermost thoughts isn’t easy. And, writing for no readers just isn’t all that fun. I like to feel (imagine, at a minimum) I’m heard.

      SMOOCHES TO YOUCHES.

  2. re” The thing that makes me especially self-conscious about my “it’s all about me” posts is that unless I know the person already, I’m really not that interested in reading other people’s personal journeys ….”

    … Heather, I think this is the key to the whole question.Have you read essays by Barbara Kingsolver? Anne Lamott? These are 2 of my favorite writers of both fiction & memoirs. They both manage to start a piece with personal details or observations, & use that as a springboard to write about issues of concern to their readers & of import to society. A small detail from Anne’s personal life manages to illustrate a macro point about why she holds the views she does about (insert social justice issue here), or why she trusts some politicians & not others. Kingsolver used an essay about her 5 yr old daughter’s foray into raising chickens (egg birds) as a springboard to talk about food security – & went on to expand like crazy on that with her book ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.’ If you haven’t read these two women, do. I just started following Lamott on Faceboook. She is VERY FUNNY, quite Christian (!!) and totally right-on politically. Easy to get a taste of her style on facebook:

    https://www.facebook.com/AnneLamott?ref=ts&fref=ts

    Keep writing, girl!! xoxox

    • Love, love, love Lamott. And, yes, she’s a great example of turning introspection and “self-absorption” into thoughtful and interesting writing. Kingsolver’s good, too, though I’m less drawn to her (besides Animal, Vegetable, etc. that I loved) because she’s less meaty and messy.

      What I meant there was the personal blogs that are more like “journaling” — just writing to get stuff out. There have been times when my life has been so challenging, I’ve written stuff here that was so mundane, trite, or childish I would find it all terribly boring if I read them written by anyone else. Does that make sense? I don’t enjoy reading other people’s diaries if they haven’t done what Lamott (or Kingsolver) does, turning it into something more widely relevant.

      I am so happy that you’ve read my stuff again, Cathie. Thank you for taking the time. Seriously. :-) Hug hug hug.

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