“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.