What’s a Blogger To Do?

I’ve been sitting here staring at this keyboard, hoping somehow the words will leap onto the page by magic.

fantastical frog ironworks sculpture in Memphis

As if by magic…

But you and I know, as  readers and writers, that almost never happens… almost. There are those times when the stories flow and you know that your heart has gone into every word that poured forth. And then we wake up and realize, oh  #$%^#, that was just another wishful fantasy.

I have been struggling these past weeks- ok a few months- trying to reconcile myself ‘today’ to the blog I set out to write.  I keep coming back around to an article I wrote a lifetime ago for Azerbaijan International called, “Growing Up To Be“. In those days, I was writing for the magazine about all that I was seeing while living as an expat in Baku Azerbaijan. The country was fresh and new, and smelled of promise (and some other things as well, like oil money and corruption). Nobody knew who they were going to be.

At that time I was teaching, writing for a newspaper, and trying to run a business in the middle of a war zone- no not the one with Armenia, though that too- but the one between business and bribes, tax collectors and truth. I was new and fresh, and felt like I could (should) make a difference. I wanted to help others, and in the process I changed myself more than I ever imagined. Thus was born Life Lessons… What the world taught me.

Somewhere along the way though, this blog became not so much about my time in Baku as the experiences of change and things I learned around the world. I keep coming back to Baku as memories and ideas bubble up, and like to remember people and events that had a huge impact on me.  As Azerbaijan is more and more often in the news for Human Rights issues (not in a good way), I have struggled to reconcile the Azerbaijan I came to enjoy (historically a fascinating place), the people who became my friends, and the backward progress reported by those still there and journalists who cover the place.

Not long ago I posted a blog called “Give Me Back Old Baku: Why Am I Afraid of Change” and I think this was the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I like writing about the historical Azerbaijan, but find it harder and harder to separate myself from being a supporter of my friends and giving tacit approval or trying to justify the direction of the country.

As expats, does this make sense to you? Do you struggle with getting caught up in support for the policies versus support for your friendships?

I feel like I am abandoning people if I move on to new lessons, new things in my life. I don’t know, maybe you all are reading this not so much to hear about lessons I am learning as much as you want to hear what’s happening in distant areas.

I know that much of my identity is wrapped up in my “expat-ness”- what makes me fit in with one group and not another, what allows me to hold conversations with people I meet about topics in the world so far from my current borders, and what ultimately interests me beyond this weeks episode of “The Bachelorette“. It’s not that those things are small. I think it’s just that as expats and travellers, we have so many things in mind that it becomes like trying to shrink the font on a post so you can fit it all in- by comparison when there are many ideas and interests each one has to adjust to allow all topics to fit on the desktop of our brains.

So what’s a blogger to do?

Friends... Where Wopuld We Be Without You?

Friends… Where Would We Be Without You?

Can I write about other things and still remain true to my promises to you, to bring you insights and funny events that happen along my journey? “Will you still love me tomorrow”, as the song says?

It’s hard to write and not care who reads a blog.  I don’t know that it’s possible even. I do care. I want you to laugh with me and feel the angst of the situations I get myself into (and out of), to get the “Aha!” moment with me. As impersonal as people say the internet is, I feel like if I met some of you who have read and commented here for a long time, that I would immediately know you, and you would recognize me and the humor would come through in our conversations. I like this family of ours.

I love that Caitlin Kelly vacationed and met some of her long-time readers; it makes me smile when Margo Lestz shares things with BJ and Mary Jane- I feel like they are part of my extended family. I keep thinking the next time I go to California to visit family, that Alice is going to show up as one of my cousins.  Isn’t that what this is all about? No matter where we are in the world, if I ran into Terri and James we would have a wonderful time. If you end up in Washington DC on your next visit to the USA, I would hope I would be part of that visit. This brings me back to the early days in Baku where all the expats shared what we had and gave freely to help each other. So maybe I have finally come full circle, only to a bigger circle.

I don’t know what the future holds. Only that I want to include more. I want to grow into the future, not necessarily out of the past. Is that okay with you?

(Since I’m on a roll with song lyrics, I should tell you that my next post is about having the blues in Memphis… though not the Memphis in old Egypt, but the one on the banks of the big muddy here in the USA. So stay tuned!)

Thanks so much for being part of my family!  I appreciate you.

5 thoughts on “What’s a Blogger To Do?

  1. You’ve made an interesting link between the community of ex-pats and the community of bloggers. I think you’ve got something there, and maybe exploring the idea of community is worth some time – maybe even will loosen up those fingers poised over the keyboard.
    I completely agree with your hesitancy to write posts that people in Baku might find hurtful. I haven’t posted much about Ukraine’s current situation for those same reasons. As ex-pats living in a country that offers you welcome, you feel like a lousy guest when you say bad things, even though they may be true. It’s important to have an honest voice, and it’s also important to honor your host country. Too thin a line for me to walk right now. And yet, and yet…… if we (or you) don’t tell the stories, who will? To that end, I compiled my old stories about Ukraine, written just before their crisis, into a book. I wonder if you might do something similar? Or maybe you already have…


    • Hi Susan! Thanks for sharing your insights here. You know exactly what I mean!

      Several people have asked me about writing these stories in a book form. I have always hesitated because I have been so mixed up since I came back- wondering am I an expat who lives in a foreign culture “at home”? Or if I am simply a traveler who had some amazing experiences, just like thousands of others?

      It’s only been this year that I have felt I could move on from Azerbaijan and embrace other places, though so much of who I am is as a result of changes that those 10 years brought about. It’s difficult to compartmentalize sections of our lives.

      Am I too old to go through an identity crisis? 😉 When I came home I didn’t know what an MP3 player was; never heard of an iPod or a flash drive. Now I am teaching multi-media skills and recording MP3’s and MP4’s on flash drives and loading things up to iTunes. Ok, point made. If I can do that, I will probably be able to do this too! There’s a lot of life left in this dog I believe… Thanks for being a good sounding board, as always. My best to Stanley (I will forever picture him as the Boss!).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Old? What’s old?
        Ten years is a lifetime. We spent two years in Colombia in our twenties, and then 1 year in Ukraine in our fifties. I think the experience of living outside the USA puts you forevermore with one footstep across borders. Best of luck balancing it all!


  2. My point exactly, Susan! I think you’re right about having once been an expat, you’re forever changed.

    I think the biggest lesson I am learning now is to stop letting people “define” me. Here in DC the first question after being introduced is “what do you do?” I’ve taken to saying, “I’m a Comms Manager by trade, an expat by birth, and a problem-solver by nature- which would you like to talk about?”

    Making this next transition is the most interesting because I’m stepping outside the boxes in many ways. And you’re here to see history unfold… ;). I love your encouraging optimistic style!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Jonelle, I’ve been super busy and just now catching up on some of my social media reading – so this response is a bit late.
    I think we are always growing and changing as people and it’s ok if our writing reflects that. When I started blogging, it was about taking Italian lessons, then I floundered a bit and ended up “specializing” in France. But I also have sections for Italy and England. You can always add a new section or start another blog. You can also link two or more blogs.
    Well, there you have my 2 cents worth
    All the best, Margo


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