Every once in a while, I check the site stats on my blog. I am continually intrigued that nearly daily, someone finds my blog by somehow stumbling upon the post “In Search of Lost Chai,” via Google. It’s a post I wrote back in February of 2011, after visiting Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic with my good friend, Todd, whose amazing photos you should definitely check out.
Another favorite on the blog stats? A post entitled “In Which I eat a white chocolate raspberry crepe too quickly (and am sad when it is gone),” from the summer of 2010, when I was studying at the University of Cambridge. This blog literally entails me raving about how much I like crepes and how sad I was that I was too poor to buy more than one over-priced crepe from a vendor near Gonville and Caius college.
I’ve been writing my opinions on politics and the news since the fall of 2003, when I was hired as a high school news correspondent for the Blackstone Valley Tribune. Instead of writing about the school or local news, I began to develop a personality in my writing and developed a column. I took a brief hiatus to settle into college in the fall of 2004, but back in January of 2005, I began writing my weekly column again, despite my crazy-busy school schedule because I missed it too much. Over the years, I’ve been grateful to have my column, and extremely grateful to the editors who publish it, because it has forced me to write weekly, and to try to write well because I know it will be read. Between the pressure of knowing your work will be read, and simply writing weekly for more than seven years, you begin to get better at the craft of writing. I’m grateful to my readers over the years for their feedback, encouragement, and criticisms, which have been published in numerous letters to the editor and have been sent to my personal e-mail account. If I have not responded to a reader, it has been a true oversight on my part, as I always try to, whenever I receive e-mails.
The funny thing, though, is that the longer I kept writing, the more I strayed from politics. As I grew older and learned more about the world, my opinions became more muddied. I was less sure of what I believe in because I had been exposed to new things. To be fair, I began writing my column at 17. It is normal and good for your opinions to shift and change as you get older. In the fall of 2007, I distinctly remember writing one column that criticized a political leader–only to follow up the next week retracting my own opinion and giving a more clear and nuanced look at things in my column. I was grateful to one reader who, in a letter to the editor, took note of this change and instead of criticizing me for flip-flopping on the issues, praised my desire to right a wrong I thought I’d committed by revising my opinion. In part, I think I have been cut some slack because, especially as a teenager, I was so young when I first began writing.
As I am now older and wiser (though my picture printed weekly next to the text of my columns shows me perpetually at 17), I have begun to do something strange… I’ve stopped, for the most part, writing about politics. Sure, I do it still on a few occasions, when I feel very impassioned or particularly informed on a key issue. (A week ago, for example, I sat down and interviewed my sister and her boyfriend, both of whom are in medical school, about their opinions on upcoming cuts to Medicare, and felt their concerns merited further research and drafted a column on Medicare reform).
Now, I write about looking for chai tea in Hungary. About eating crepes in Cambridge. About wandering up to the tops of hills where there are castles amidst a flurry of snowflakes in Slovenia.
I’ve written more personal narratives over the past few years: funny anecdotes, impressionistic pieces about my travels, and in general, things that have nothing to do with anything other than my own experiences of life. They’re easier to conceive of, are typically better written than my pieces on politics… and I feel incredibly self-centered writing them at times.
Now, this brings me back to the point of this post, anyways: they are the most frequently commented upon by my readers. I’ve gotten more e-mails over the past year than ever before with my column. In the past year, I’ve mostly written narratives about being in Slovenia (where I was living), or, more recently, memories of living in Slovenia during this time of year in 2010. Still, the e-mails come in: people who can relate to a feeling I described, people who have relatives in Central or Eastern Europe, people who are simply interested in learning more about Slovenia and other places.
When I was a high school student, I was super impressed by Megan McNeill Libby’s Postcards from France, which is a collection of newspaper essays that she wrote monthly while studying in France as a high school student. One day, I thought, maybe I can be like her: write my own narratives.
Without realizing it, I’ve begun to do that–in Slovenia and beyond.
What is so interesting–and gratifying–is that when you share a bit of yourself with someone (your real self–not just your political opinions), they seem to respond, more than to politics.
Maybe that’s why my posts on chai and crepes keep popping up on my site stats.
Either that, or people are just hungry :)