I’m sitting in bed, typing, as my husband sleeps. It’s Christmas morning — my first here in England. For the holidays, we’re staying at my mum-in-law’s home in Kent, and I’ve been surrounded by new friends, new family members (including two weeks-old nephews), two mellow cats, and a playful dog named Dylan.
In these quiet moments to myself, I think about how I got here. How I’m away from my family in California for the first time during Christmas. Or how I now have a gold wedding band on my finger.
The year 2012 turned out to be quite the year.
I trace the beginning of this path to November 2010, when I met someone I’d known from the Twitterverse and the world of online travel writing at a bar, Zeitgeist, in San Francisco. From there, it unraveled. In the beginning, I was never sure what it was, but it was something, despite that it stretched from San Francisco to Cairo — romantic and exciting, yet uncertain because of the distance.
I remember the tears of happiness that fell as I sat on a plane two Decembers ago, overlooking the glittering strip of Las Vegas — he and I had met there, only our third encounter, for a spontaneous day of hanging out. When we said goodbye at a taxi pick-up line outside of the Bellagio, I felt something I’d not felt for many years: the desire to look forward, to face the future — whatever that was.
I wondered: surely this couldn’t be it?
I had the opportunity to visit Egypt the following February with a good friend from college, and booked a flight to Cairo not long after those first meetings in San Francisco and Las Vegas. I was excited to spend more time with this person, but as I watched the events of January 25 and the revolution unfold from afar, I cancelled the trip. I rerouted my flight to Berlin and spent a chilly but lovely two weeks there on my own, and then stopped in London, so that he and I could cross paths again.
I did all of this despite not knowing what was happening, or when — or if — I’d see him again. But when I look back on our timeline, I now wonder how I couldn’t see it.
We met in London again in the summer, and made a journey to beautiful Cornwall. It was then that I realized this something was, in fact, a relationship. And how — despite parting ways once again, flying to opposite sides of the world, and resuming our romance on GMail, Skype, WhatsApp, and Twitter — I was the happiest I’d ever been.
By the end of 2011, I finally made a trip to Egypt. I experienced the delicious chaos of Cairo through his eyes, and we lazed along the Red Sea in the Sinai. Egypt challenged me, but I’m glad I went — to see his life there, to witness a place and culture in the midst of such dramatic change.
At the beginning of 2012, we met in Turkey. I recall the lavish breakfasts in our cozy Sultanahmet guesthouse, the majestic mosques of Istanbul lit up at night, the holding hands in light falling snow, the puffs of apple-flavored nargileh and glass cups of tea.
And of course, saying goodbye again.
Then, May arrived. He said goodbye to Cairo and flew to San Francisco. I remember how happy I was that he came. How my Internet immediately shrunk. How my space became our space. And how he proposed to me in the summer, and how we got married in a small ceremony in front of my family, closest friends, and his mum.
While on this path, I’ve spent much of the time writing around all of this. I kept my “Notes on Virtual Life” series vague — these posts focused on the distinction between online and offline and relationships within the digital sphere, but those who were aware of our story knew I was really exploring the idea of us. While I don’t hold the same opinions about the online/offline spheres as I did when I wrote those posts — and I’ve considered removing them — I like seeing how my thoughts have evolved.
And so, back to this morning’s question: How did I get here?
I realize this blog has documented the answer to this question over the past two years.
* * * * *
I complain about not writing enough, but when I do, I’m happy with what I write here. The posts from 2012 that I’m particularly attached to are very personal ones: “Notes on Home, Life, and Love,” which explores long-distance love in the time of the Internet, and “Online Mourning and the Unexpected Refuge of Facebook,” which describes the passing of a dear friend and my experience dealing with grief and loss on Facebook.
Over at The Equals Record, I mused mainly about social media, from my process of culling tweets and creating my own universe on Twitter to the filing away of dreams on Pinterest. In the spring, I was also invited to contribute to Cyborgology, a collaborative blog on sociology and technology, and wrote “We Danced to Become Machines” — a piece on techno, dancing, and the seeds of my augmented self. It’s different from what I post here, and describes an experience and time in my life of which I haven’t fully washed my hands. When I’m in the right place and have the time, it’s a project I’d like to work on.
Because right now, I’m focused on my new job. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’m now a story wrangler on the editorial team at Automattic, working on projects at WordPress.com and across the Automattic universe. (I began contract work in the summer and started full time in October.) I haven’t had time to write, and I suspect I won’t in general, especially for larger projects I’ve had in mind. But blog-wise, I hope to post at least once a month in 2013 (which is actually not so different from the frequency in 2012!).
After being featured on the Atlantic and numerous sites (like The Verge and The Daily Beast) last Christmas for my “On Eternal Sunshine, Erasing Memories, and Facebook Timeline” post, my sole New Year’s goal was to write better — to write tighter, cohesive, stand-alone pieces. I knew it meant posting less, but I didn’t mind that.
And that’s exactly what I did. Long-time followers of this blog know I’m very picky — about what I post, what I read, and who I follow. Given the ever-flowing streams of information we consume each day, I’m very happy with this selective approach in both my writing and reading. After a bit of freaking out about feeling left out, I’ve accepted I can’t read everything — nor do I want to — and have learned to pare things down, from my Twitter feed to my blogroll.
So, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for reading and following along. I know there’s so much to read and discover out there, and I’m happy to receive comments from readers who identify with something I’ve written. I don’t always know what I mean to say, and tend to ask questions in my posts because I don’t know the answers, so I appreciate when others say they’ve read something of mine that has resonated with them.
Happy holidays and New Year, everyone.
Cheri Lucas Rowlands
Blogger at Writing Through the Fog. Story Wrangler at Automattic.