net positive

Alex, tackling her homework in her room, Sunday, October 28th, 2018. Just a normal early evening around here.

Alex, tackling her homework in her room, Sunday, October 28th, 2018. Just a normal early evening around here.

Yesterday, one of my dearest friends, Asha Dornfest, wrote this post — words that are really a call to arms. You should read the whole thing, but it was this part that really got me:

“Back in the early 2000s, we started blogs, and started talking to each other, and became friends. REAL friends. We had no idea our individual, independent contributions would link up to create a movement that revolutionized media, marketing, and the national conversation (in my case, about parenting, but on other topics, too). …

Remember what the media landscape was like back then? Traditional publishing and media was closed to most, so very few people had access to an audience. We were part of changing that. It wasn’t “influence” or “personal branding” back then, it began as community.

Friends, our voices and the gathering spaces they created changed our world. I think we’re in a moment when we can do that again.”

I think Asha is onto something.

I began blogging back in 2004, before Alex was born (the original post can be found here). I started the blog to simply keep my Trinidadian family, my English family and close friends up-to-date on our adoption process — no more, no less. I didn’t think anyone other than the people who were related to Marcus and me would ever read it. And honestly, at the time, it wasn’t really that important to me that anyone read it. I liked writing, it was a place to dump my thoughts, and even though it was a public blog, it wasn’t really meant for public consumption, other than for people I already knew. There wasn’t an end-game. Its existence was its purpose.

Of course, things changed. Thousands of people around the world found the site. I quit my law job. And eventually, instead of thinking of Chookooloonks as purely a community of kindness (which it has always been), I’m ashamed to admit that I began to think about this blog more as marketing for my work. Now, admittedly, I’ve done very few sponsored posts in the 14 years that I’ve been sharing here, and everything I’ve ever done has been in line with my core values; however, there’s no denying that I began to think of Chookooloonks as A Brand — something I wouldn’t have even begun to articulate back when I began writing in 2004. A Brand, indeed.

But Asha is right: the writing that those of us who began blogging in the early 2000s was transformative, not just because we were helping mold and transform new media, but because we were owning our own stories and connecting through them, in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined. In fact, I remember once about 12 years ago, when our family was still living in Trinidad, a young woman wrote to me: “Karen, we don’t know each other, but I’m 24 years old, white, and a member of the Junior League here in New York City. And I love your blog. If you had ever asked me if I would have anything in common with a 30-something year old black woman in the Caribbean, I would’ve said no. And yet, everything you write resonates with me.”

Isn’t that incredible? The fact is, stories humanize. In these days, I think sometimes we forget that we are human.

In her book Braving the Wilderness, my friend Brené talks about dehumanization as the first step to becoming deeply siloed in our beliefs, and othering those who don’t share them — in fact, she says that there isn’t a genocide on the planet that didn’t begin with dehumanization. And just in the last week, we’ve seen this sort of evil at work: a monster who slaughtered the faithful in a synagogue proclaimed he “just wanted to kill Jews.” In Kentucky, a man who shot two black people in a supermarket muttered to a white bystander, “whites don’t kill whites.” And all we need to do is look in any unmonitored comment section on a major news network to witness how horrible we can be to each other. And I think it’s because we’ve forgotten to look at each other as brothers and sisters.

What if we could change that by sharing our stories — our humanity — allowing ourselves to share how we are connected?

I’ve mentioned before that the disruption of our lives changed what I was moved to share — in addition to our surroundings being a dearth of inspiration, I couldn’t help but wonder who would possibly want to read about our rather unremarkable lives while we’re in limbo, waiting to move back home. But maybe that’s the wrong question to ask. Instead, maybe I should ask: what would happen if I just wrote for writing’s sake, and in the process, create "an alternative to the messages and memes that keep floating to the top" of our social awareness, as Asha suggests? Is it possible that my real stories — humble though they may be — might be a tool for allowing people who might otherwise never come in contact with folks who share my background and experiences to view me as more human?

As I type those questions, the answers seem pretty obvious: it is possible, and that possibility might just be enough. And so, I’m back.

Incidentally, this is a great time to get back to my old school blogging: we’re about to move into our new home, and November is around the corner, so it’s NaBloPoMo season. And so, every day for the month of November, I hope to share a blog post right here on Chookooloonks, just to shake out the cobwebs, and get back to publishing again. I will admit: I can’t promise that every blog post will be long and thought-out — sometimes they might be just a photograph and a sentence, since November is promising to be crazy-busy. But what I will promise is that whatever I share will be real, without any thought to “branding” or “filtering.” What you see will be what you get — and always in the spirit of love and light. In return, I’d love to hear from you in the comments — let me know about what you think about what I write, whether it resonates, or even if you disagree. You’ve always been so kind and thoughtful in your responses, I know we can learn a lot from each other. (And as always, anything less than kindness won’t be allowed on the site — I reserve the right to remove any comments that, well, dehumanize.) And if you’re a writer yourself, or have a blog, I’d love to invite you to join me to share your own stories, “incubating community without a specific agenda beyond sharing of ourselves and connecting people,” as Asha says. We might even change the world for the better, you and me.

So stay tuned, sweet friends. I can’t wait to see all the light we’ll collectively make up in here.

We are complex beings who wake up every day and fight against being labeled and diminished with stereotypes and characterizations that don’t reflect our fullness. Yet when we don’t risk standing on our own and speaking out, when the options laid before us force us into the very categories we resist, we perpetuate our own disconnection and loneliness. When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even becoming our own wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most.
— Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness