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The Year in Review

December 29, 2011

It’s been 388 days since I started this blog. When I started it, I did so for a number of reasons – to build a portfolio of writing, get back in the groove with writing creatively, and perhaps, raise some money for the Climate Ride. I’ve always had a dream of writing a book and hoped that writing essays regularly would be a good first step. Although getting back in the routine has been important, but the act of writing itself for this blog has made me both a better writer and better person.

Most obviously, it’s inspired me to participate in more events in D.C. relevant to my interests and values. So often, I read the paper and think, “Oh that’d be fun. Don’t really have time though.” But in writing this blog, I see myself as a representative of the D.C. region’s local food and cycling community. As such, I feel an obligation to get out and actually participate in said community! This sense of commitment inspired me to attend a lot of fun events that I might not have otherwise, like the I Street Social.

Beyond merely attending these events, writing about them also helped me reflect upon them in their larger context. The fact is that although we do need to talk about environmental and social justice problems, we also need to talk about solutions. My purpose in writing this blog is to not only inform people about issues, but also get them excited about carrying out fun, engaging solutions in their community. That’s why I talked about why the D.C. Grey Market (and this one too) is needed to help small businesses get started, not just the cupcake vendors, and how the Seersucker Ride makes biking fun and fashionable, not just the cool hats. (Even though the cupcakes were delicious and the hats quite fabulous.) It’s no surprise (to me at least) that these two entries are the two most popular posts on the entire blog.

As I’ve looked at specific events in a larger context, this reflection has seeped into the rest of my life as well. I’ve always found “deep meaning” in things that happen to me, but writing about these connections has helped me sort out what’s BS and what’s actually useful to other people. It’s helped me think more than ever about how my actions fit into larger societal trends and how my experience could be vastly different if I faced different circumstances. Some of my favorite pieces arise from these places, including A Brief Neighborhood Interlude, Occupy Together, Everywhere. and A Fitting Tribute. Even my trip to Disney gained a little depth!

Much of this insight has come from my continued participation in the amazing Slacktiverse web community. While I commented on Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog before he moved over to Patheos and still do, it was infrequent enough that I felt the need to reintroduce myself each time. When he handed over the blog URL to the commenting community, I took the opportunity to become a full-fledged member and have gained tremendously as a result. Having my posts be regularly posted in their weekly Blogaround summary made me feel as if I have a responsibility to the community. Fortunately, unlike blogs written by one person, the beauty of the Slacktiverse community is the vast diversity of experiences and perspectives. There’s a huge variety of economic situations, family backgrounds, religious / philosophical belief systems, ethnic backgrounds, and even native languages. Both the posts and comments, as well as other participants’ own personal blogs, have challenged my perspectives on social and economic issues. Although I’ve only had one piece actually published there, it’s affected my writing here. Without The Slacktiverse, I would have been much less likely to have thought enough about the day-to-day indignities of being poor to have written The Richness of Second Chances or the workings of the economic system in What Tomatoes Can Teach Us About Occupy Wall Street. It’s even challenged me through pieces that haven’t been published. I submitted a guest post to the site about the process of writing my masters’ thesis. After reading it very thoughtfully, the moderators sent it back to me with some extremely helpful critiques pointing out my big honking, blind Privilege in the piece. Reflecting upon their comments is leading me to not only revise the essay, but reconsider what that experience really meant in my life.

In addition to the metaphysical lessons learned, I’ve also gained some serious skills over the last year. As a member of the Transition movement, which values “reskilling” as an important element in preparing society for climate change and peak oil, I feel an obligation to share what I’ve learned. As I’ve always loved teaching (even though it was never meant to be my profession), it’s been a joy to write about my gardening triumphs and even losses, knowing it can help others. I hope that entries like my ones on worm composting and lasagna gardening have helped other people feel confident enough to try it themselves.

I don’t know that I could have said back in December 6, 2010 that I would be writing this blog a year later. But I’m glad I am. I don’t think I fund-raised any additional money from the Climate Ride for it, but perhaps I helped someone make the decision to sign up. I don’t know if anyone has actually started a garden as a result of reading, but hope that aspiring gardeners have been encouraged. It’s impossible for me to tell if a reader has used a bike to get to the grocery store who wouldn’t have otherwise, but I think that knowing about what good efforts are out there makes it seem less threatening. That’s the problem with writing – you throw your creation out there and it takes on a life of its own, one that you can never really know fully. I can just hope that it’s bringing a bit more light into the world. On the other hand, suggestions by readers are always welcome!

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