I am surrounded by writers. Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is scan my RSS reader for something to bring meaning to my day. I scan the loads of Moroccan blogs I subscribe to, I scan those of my Global Voices friends and colleagues, I read up on the Syrian blogosphere (to which I became addicted when covering for Yazan a couple of years ago), and then, or even if I have time for nothing else, I read through my small folder of favorites, parsed from the aforementioned categories and added by hand. My favorite writers are mostly like me – transient, global individuals with a penchant for parlaying minutiae, for expressing the daily suffering of being hyper-aware, for sharing their most intimate feelings in such a coded way that it would take the likes of Babbage to decipher them.
With some of these writers, I have an intimate relationship – with some, it involves through commenting on each other’s posts or sending behind-the-scenes e-mails; with others, it goes far deeper. And then there are those whose work I read as a stranger, just another anonymous IP address lurking in the shadows. Given that half of the time, I’m using Tor, my identity remains safely hidden from view.
What all of these writers have in common is that each of them intimidates me with their talent and insights. You see, I am a writer – and I rarely doubt my ability in that for a second. But what I lack is the introspection that so many of my compatriots possess. I am, or so I’m told, a wearer of masks, and I must only re-read my own blog to know the truth in that statement. It’s not as if I don’t try – but somehow, the ability to look inside myself was lost through years of containing my feelings so tightly that they spread throughout my soul and covered every inch of self-awareness.
In the so-subtle process of forming our identities, we are rarely aware as one thing changes to the next. Only after the fact are we ever able to look back and determine formative moments – at least most of the time. Occasionally, some such moment occurs and momentarily, you are able to pause the world around you and realize, at least in a very basic way, that that moment is something that will later define you.
It takes two hands to count the number of moments like that I’ve had in the past year.