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19 Mar

Deep thoughts – OK, I’ll admit it right up front—I have an ulterior motive for writing today’s journal entry. I had said that I would keep the birthday scheme up until my next journal entry, but I began to grow sick of it about five minutes after it went live. Thus there was extra incentive for me to write a new journal entry.

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and—gosh darn it—people like me.”

Ulterior motives aside, I wanted to write soon anyway. After a trickle of visits over the course of the past year, traffic to Liminality spiked this past week, with about 6,000 page hits and 1,100 distinct visitors over the course of the week. Looking at my bandwidth chart, this was an increase by several orders of magnitude. The busiest day was 15 March—Liminality’s first birthday—with 1,543 page hits.

I owe over half of my visitors during this period to two different websites: the Korea Life Blog, where I submitted a link to my recent entry on my experiences with international marriage, and The Marmot’s Hole, where Liminality was pointed out with very kind words (ironically enough, I took down the color schemes the day that the Marmot posted this—yet more incentive to get things back to normal). My thanks to both of these bloggers for their kindness.

I am used to getting the occasional e-mail from friends and family members commenting on my latest journal entry, but this past week I suddenly began to receive a number of e-mails from people who had found me through the two blogs mentioned above. I was stunned, not by getting the e-mails, but by what the e-mails said.

Two journal entries ago, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I had just stumbled on a whole community of Korea-related blogs that I hadn’t even known existed, and rapidly grew depressed at not being a part of this community. It ran deeper than that, of course, and led me to question who I was and who I was becoming. I’ll be honest—I was quite depressed for a day or so.

Then the e-mails started coming in. As I said above, I was stunned by what I read. People told me how much they enjoyed reading through Liminality, how they had had similar experiences, and how they could relate to what I wrote about. And they all encouraged me to keep writing.

I’m not really good at accepting compliments. Criticism I can handle, but compliments make me quite uncomfortable. This may seem a bit paradoxical, but I think it is because of the difficulty I have with my pride. I struggle to achieve humility, and I sometimes feel guilty when I feel good about a compliment, as if it will lead to a bout of pride. I know that is a rather twisted conception of humility, but that’s the way I think sometimes.

So, when I first started getting these e-mails I was a bit shocked and slightly uncomfortable at the compliments people were giving me. I didn’t know what to think or feel when I read something like “I came to your blog almost purely by chance, and for that reason I dub today my lucky day.” I could not deny that it felt good to read these e-mails, and I slowly realized that it had nothing to do with pride. It felt good because I had reached out and managed to touch these people, and they were responding to that and touching me in return. I had never met these people before, yet through Liminality I was able to share myself with them, and it drew us closer together, whether they lived in Korea or halfway around the world.

I think I learned some valuable lessons this past week. Nothing new or earth-shaking of course, but when you’re depressed you can have all the rational knowledge you want—it won’t make a difference unless you actually believe it.

First of all, I have come to what may seem to be a rather trivial realization about Liminality. In all the e-mails I got (and the link at The Marmot’s Hole), Liminality was referred to as a “blog.” Regular readers will know that I have, from day one, resisted this label, primarily because of its negative connotations—that blogs are just the vapid, meaningless dronings of people who have nothing better to do than report on every pointless little detail of their tedious existences.

As time went by, though, I grew less hostile toward the term, even occasionally adopting blog conventions, such as the link-and-comment technique. I still refused to call Liminality a blog, though, and even went so far as to correct friends who referred to it as such. With all these e-mails matter-of-factly calling Liminality a blog, though, I was forced to rethink my position. These people thought of my site as a blog, yet they had nothing but praise for it. Conclusion: not all blogs are bad and Liminality is, in fact, a blog. I’ll repeat that, because this is a big step for me: Liminality is a blog. It just happens to be of the good variety, if I do say so myself.

Of course, helping me get over my petty hang-ups was the least of what these e-mails did for me. One of the latest e-mails I received had this line in it: “Keep it about yourself, it makes it a more interesting read.” I must admit I didn’t quite catch that on the first read, but when I went back and read it again it hit me—people actually like reading about my personal thoughts and feelings.

I don’t think it is that I am an inherently interesting person, or any more interesting than anyone else. I think it is the fact that I am honest with myself, that I don’t pull any punches. By delving deep into the darkest corners of my soul, I open my world up and let people inside. It’s actually quite frightening if I really think about it, but I think it is this openness that allows people to really connect with me. It underscores the fact that we are all human, no matter what our skin color might be or where we were raised, and we all experience the same emotions. When you read about someone else’s inner self, I think you recognize a bit of your own self in there, and it fosters a feeling of closeness.

Having realized that people actually enjoy reading Liminality, I moved on to the next logical conclusion: that it’s OK if I’m not like other people. I am not the Marmot. I am not the Flying Yangban. I am not Oranckay. They are all intelligent and eloquent individuals, and they offer valuable insights into Korea everyday on their blogs. I respect and admire them for what they do, but I am not them. I am me, and that’s OK.

Yeah, I know, I sound like some correspondence-course self-help guru, right? You wouldn’t be at all surprised if I turned to the mirror and said (with a slight lisp), “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and—gosh darn it—people like me.” Well, sappy as it may sound, I needed to realize that this week. I needed to realize that it’s OK to be me.

From the shadows of my identity crisis last week I posed questions to the silence, and no answers returned. Am I losing my way? Who am I becoming? Is there even any point to what I do? At that point in time and in that state of mind, I could not foresee a day when I would find the answers to these questions. Today, however, I can tell you that I do have the answers—or, at the least, I realize that I was asking the wrong questions. I am not losing my way, I am blazing a trail. I don’t know who exactly I am becoming, but whoever it is it will be me, and I’m OK with that. There is a point to what I do, not in spite of the fact that it’s not what others are doing, but because of it. No one else can do exactly what I do, and that’s why it’s important. That’s why I need to keep doing it.

There. I’ve said what I wanted to say, and now I feel like a big sap. Still, though self-affirmation may not be nearly as hip as blinding depression, it sure feels a heck of a lot better. And I figured that I would finish what I started—I chronicled the depths of my crisis, it is only natural that I should show its resolution as well. There will most likely be days when I will again question myself and my purpose in this world, and when those times come I hope I can look back on today and this entry and remember what it felt like to believe—to know—that everything is going to be OK.

Finally, I want to express my thanks to everyone who had kind words about Liminality and my writing. I made it a point to respond to each e-mail I received, but I just wanted to say it again—to everyone who wrote me, your comments meant more to me than you know. Thank you so very much.

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