It’s been a minute

“Well, that was short-lived.”

^^^ My thoughts as I looked over this website to make long-overdue updates and discovered the previous blog post. A whole pandemic stands between this musing and the promise of the first one.

Not only have I not written anything here in the interim, but–since March 2021–I did not post anything on my main blog, The PhCheese. The last post I wrote here dealt a bit with the academia-fueled anxiety that kept me away from reading and writing for too long after I finished my doctoral studies in 2016. I have struggled to overcome the malaise of imposter syndrome ever since. Funny enough (actually: not funny at all), I stopped writing The PhCheese Blog during the COVID-19 pandemic because Internet trolls basically bullied me off the web.

I had occasionally received jerky comments in the past, and my instinct is to respond like a true customer-service professional: with a sincere-seeming apology and a promise to do better next time. Some people clearly spent too much time rage-posting during the pandemic, because my inbox was flooded with notifications of random folks leaving mean-hearted comments on my cheese blog.

My cheese blog, for chrissakes.

Half of the posts–incidentally written by humans easily identified through the Google as men who do not work in the cheese or specialty food industry–were loftily penned rants that picked one minor detail from a long-form post as an example that I know “nothing” about the topic at hand. Mansplaining, if you will, but with bizarre malice. (Disclaimer: I don’t hate men.)

The others were miscellaneous meanies complaining about one word taken out of context, a foreign word pronounced for an American audience that did not sound “authentic” enough, or–for the oldest posts written closest to my time in academia–that the tone of my writing was too uppity and stood as proof that good cheese is totally unapproachable because of assholes like me.

At the end of the day, sticks and stones… right?

Yes and no. At the end of the day we are all human–most of us on the internet, that is–and humans have feelings. During a time of extreme stress, the river of internet bullies’ remarks felt like a biblical flood. To go to work in fear at a grocery store, to serve an unruly and pent-up general public during a pandemic, to return home exhausted and emotionally drained, and then to try to find join in the page was not possible beneath the weight of all that shit-posting.

So I stopped writing altogether. The only good thing that came of the pandemic for my intellectual well-being is that I actually started reading again (for fun! whole books!)–of course only after I had gone through the mandatory early-pandemic period of “anxiety-eating whilst stress-watching-the-news every day for several months” and decided I’d had enough existential anguish.

Over this summer, I began signing up for free one-hour writing workshops with the Hugo House. Held online, they are hosted by a different writer each month. The writer provides a few prompts, and the folks in the group can choose to share what they’ve written (or not). Those have been enjoyable, and I recommend them for anyone trying to find their writer’s voice.

Whether or not my words will flow again remains to be seen. For the meantime, at least a few have made it here.

It’s a blog!

My personal website was a static entity for several years, mainly showcasing my curriculum vitae and the business services I wanted to provide. In the past few months, a miscommunication with my web host prompted me to completely redo my personal site. Having to start fresh is annoying, but it is also a chance to try something new.

Eons ago when I was in college, I had a couple of different blogs that I worked on in my spare time. I had two Tumblr blogs that I posted to and I also wrote a food blog called the Femme Fatale Food Blog with my friends Ali, Kim, and Dani. At some point–possibly fueled by the burnout of my PhD studies–I stopped posting stuff online and decided to save my energies for the future greatness that I would one day publish.

Being in a PhD program gave me crippling anxiety surrounding reading and writing, so I pretty much stopped doing those things unless I had a deadline–and that’s pretty awful considering that the reason I went into a PhD program in the first place because I enjoyed reading and writing (and teaching, of course). For what it’s worth, impostor syndrome is a real thing.

When I graduated with my PhD in 2016, I went ahead and created a pet project I’d been stewing over for about a year, a cheese blog that I decided to call The PhCheese blog. Writing there has been a pleasure, but it has also been another outlet where that writer’s anxiety comes out to haunt me. Just as when I was in grad school, I agonize over each post, hoping that what I’m writing means something and that it matters–that it’s something worth writing.

One of my cheese friends told me a while back that we shouldn’t write our cheese blogs for an assumed audience, that we should write them for ourselves. And while that sounds contrary to the conventional wisdom that you must always cater to your audience, it’s actually smart to consider that when you write, you are also your audience.

My friend Tailor recently started a blog, and she has in essence inspired me to do the same. Not to write grandiose things that everyone will think are great, to impress anyone, or to really stand out–but to write for myself, because I want to, and heck, why not.

So in the spirit of writing for the sake of so doing, here goes.

© 2024 Courtney C Johnson

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