On this day seventeen years ago I sat down and wrote the first-ever blog post on Whatever (or “the Whatever”; the disposition about the indefinite article was not resolved for a number of years). I’m still doing it, on a more or less daily basis. It’s the longest amount of time that I’ve ever kept time with something, excepting my marriage, and basic functions like respiration; even my daughter is younger than this blog by about three months. I’ve said this before and it continues to be true: In many ways, this blog is my life’s work.
More accurately, it chronicles a very specific time in my life. I started the blog in 1998, after I had been laid off at America Online and I had begun freelancing, first (ironically) for AOL and then for a number of other companies, and also for various newspapers and magazines. Two years in I published my first book; four years in I posted Old Man’s War, which then got bought and was published when the blog was six and a half. Before the blog, I was employed by a company, first the McClatchy newspapers and then America Online. The blog covers what happened when I became “my own man,” entirely responsible for whether I was working or not.
Oddly, until today I never really thought about it in that way. Obviously, I was aware when I started the blog, and the context in which the blog existed. I just hadn’t tied it to being a chronicle of this particular era of my life in any explicit way. But it is, and in that light is even more interesting to me because of it.
I’m not the same person I was when I started it. I’m older, of course (by seventeen years), but my position in the world is also rather a bit different. I was struggling when I started the blog, albeit, and significantly, that struggle was more for notability than financial stability, which fortunately came early. I don’t expect I could be said to be struggling in any sense today. I wrote things then that I probably wouldn’t write now; many of the things I would say I might phrase differently. I think I’ve generally become more tolerant, although specifically there are people who I am less tolerant of, mostly people superficially like me, whose monstrous sense of entitlement I find both appalling and wearying. I’m more comfortable with the idea that my opinions are not necessarily an accurate model of How The World Really Is For Everyone. I’m definitely balder.
I feel a direct connection with the John Scalzi of seventeen years ago, who started this blog; he was me. But I am me now, and I like me today. I think he’s probably a better person in some critical ways. There’s always room for improvement, mind you. I hope in another seventeen years(!) future John Scalzi sees the same sort of forward motion.
Last year at this time, I noted that how I use Whatever was changing, in part because of other social media (notably, for me, Twitter) and in part because of the circumstances of my life changing — me getting busier, basically. This continues to be the case, and I’m also experiencing something like fatigue on a number of topics, most clearly politics. I find it difficult to write about politics these days because what I mostly feel about them is exasperation, and exasperation is kind of a Twitter thing, which is to say, nicely expressed in 140 characters, somewhat dreary after that. I do imagine I will write more about it the closer we get to the presidential election; I don’t imagine it will become less exasperating, but it might have more daily relevance for my life, and that will help, in terms of kvetching about it here.
And once again, no matter what form Whatever takes in the next year, I do intend to keep writing it. I’ve been doing this for seventeen years, after all, and for as long as I’ve been in this part of my career. It’s an integral part of my life. I can’t imagine not doing it.