Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Blog

I’ve had this post saved in draft form for eight days, but I’m going to publish it now. I was originally going to try to cram discussion of actual issues I’m working through and thinking about in here, but the post is too freaking long, so that’s not going to work. I’ll do that stuff later.

First off, a little revelation: When I post a bunch of tiny blurbs but no long entries, and especially when you notice that those tiny blurbs are written without wit (or at least with really half-hearted wit), you can be almost certain that I’m under a lot of stress for whatever reason. We’re most of the way through with March and I haven’t posted a real entry this entire month. It’s been 100% Blurbville. Well, I’m under a lot of stress.

The entry Steph posted awhile ago brought something to light for me. When I read the last paragraph of that entry, I actually went to her and said, “Hey, are you sure you want to be saying things like that on your blog? I mean, that’s public and it’s a pretty vulnerable, personal topic.” As if that isn’t bad enough, I told her I was worried that people would think that I had said things to her that inspired her initial feelings she blogged about. So I was being self-conscious enough to turn her issue into a “What will your struggles make people think of me?” issue, and that’s pretty bad. I mean, seriously. How low can you go? It’s limbo time.

Anyhow, when she posted that, something totally unexpected (by me) happened. People on and off her blog started responding with “Yeah, I struggle with ______, and reading about your struggles really encouraged me.” I was totally blown away and realized at that point that I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to stuff like this. I know how to put on a good public face and deal with personal issues only with people who are extremely close to me (like Steph or my parents or something), but I had never considered the fact that sometimes my silence about myself might be hurting someone else. I mean, what if I’m struggling with something, and the fact that I don’t say anything about it means that someone else who is struggling feels more alone, and Satan has the ability to tempt them more easily and be more successful with tempting them because of those feelings of being alone? I take partial responsibility for that. I should have spoken out about myself in order to help them, even if I didn’t know they were struggling when I initially made my statements about myself. Honesty can heal, as long as it doesn’t expose things about someone else that ought to be private for some reason.

I’m not saying that I should put all my deepest, darkest secrets up here on this blog and totally destroy myself publicly so others can feel good about themselves. I’m not going to, because there are a few cases where other people could get hurt by that, and clearly that’s not a good idea. I’m just realizing and advocating the idea that we don’t have to seem like super-people or always keep our difficulties to ourselves. Be a little open and help the people you love to see that you can still be a beautiful person and not be a perfect person who never has doubts and never has weak moments. That’s true beauty, because Christ shines through imperfect people. I think many or most of my blogging friends already get this, so I’m probably saying it mostly for myself.

I think some of my way of thinking about this may have come from growing up in a pastor’s home. My dad is an imperfect man, yes, but pastors are a special exception with things like this. Christians can be very odd, picky people. If they hear that their pastor has problems of any kind (not just serious stuff), they can sometimes be predisposed to say, “OK, let’s get a new pastor.” Seriously. It’s happened. So my dad and mom have tended to keep their personal problems between them (and sometimes discuss them with my sister and I, of course), but they didn’t often go outside that circle to talk about things of that nature. Sometimes they would talk with the other pastors in our church. But certainly not to larger groups. It’s just unwise for a pastor to do that and risk being picked apart and fired (or at least emasculated) because even if some people in the congregation will protect him and recognize that pastors are human and struggle as humans do, many won’t recognize that. They may call for his job, depending on what the problem is.

But I’m not a pastor.

And now, page two.

One of the things that has hindered me writing about the deeper side of my personal self on this blog is the fact that I believe one or more of my coworkers may read it from time to time. Frankly, sometimes I wish they wouldn’t read it, or I wish that they didn’t know about it. But they do, so I have to deal with that.

I really like them as people and they teach me a lot about myself and how to get along in the workplace, so don’t get me wrong there. I’m only leery of the idea of them reading my more-serious entries because awhile back I learned an important lesson about mixing the personal and the professional, namely: don’t. If you’re feeling weak or sad about some personal thing, don’t let that show at work. If you just had a fight with your spouse, don’t tell your coworkers about it. If you feel insecure about something, showing that insecurity at work is a definite mistake. Not because your coworkers are ravenous vultures. They’re not! It’s only because the workplace and personal issues don’t mix well. Like water and oil. There’s just no room for it. Dealing with personal stuff doesn’t fit into the mission of whatever you’re trying to accomplish at work, and there’s something about the way the working world operates that will push you down quite quickly if you bring your personal baggage in there. It’s like a chemical reaction. I can’t explain it, but it’s real.

So the general difficulty I have here is that my coworkers now have the opportunity to read some very personal things about me (since I’m now going to be more in the habit of blogging about more personal things) and that is, essentially, bringing personal things into the workplace, isn’t it? So it’s like I’m violating my own rule. Well… we’ll see how it goes. I’ll risk it this once and hopefully stay afloat. If you work with me, you’re welcome to continue reading, but do me one favor and pretend like you didn’t. 🙂 I’m paranoid enough knowing that all my friends and relatives can see this. I just don’t need that thought going through my mind when it comes to work. I hope you understand.

OK, I think this is long enough, and if I try to put more in here, it’ll just take me another day, so I’m going to let this entry out to run around and breathe fresh bloggy air.

21 thoughts on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Blog

  1. I’ve struggled with this very issue. My boss is a reader of my blog, so maybe I’ll say work was fun, but nothing detailed or negative. I also had the pleasure to be in school with a fair number of my coworkers, so there’s a decent amount of them that I’d call my friends before I’d call them coworkers, and I realize that’s not the norm, but that allows me to be less worried about them reading the personal blog. I do actually have a work blog too, but its restricted to the Bethel community and really really boring if you’re not me or my boss.

    I’ve actually hurt people by venting frustrations, so I’m a lot more careful about what personal things I say now. For awhile I nearly gave up on the whole personal content thing and was going to turn it into more of a “check out this link, its shiny” journal, but that seemed too boring and wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I think the key is picking personal topics/struggles that are truly personal and don’t involve anyone but yourself.

  2. Yeah, I’m not planning on airing out any dirty laundry about problems with my coworkers. I’m lucky to be able to say that I rarely if ever have any problems with my coworkers at all, so I wouldn’t have much to say. They’re good people.

    If I do have problems at work, it’s more often something I’m struggling with inside my own mind, something I’m disappointed in myself over, etc. Still, even that kind of thing can be scary to discuss if you know your coworkers may read it, simply because of the vulnerability of it all.

  3. One fascinating thing about bloging is that it is a culture of people who are still working to identify their cultural norms. What is and is not acceptable has not been completely defined. And, you kind of set your own tone for your own blog. I have stopped reading some blogs because I did not appreciate or identify with the culture they had established. I’ve also started reading blogs I never thought I’d read.

    I agree with schdav. I think it is fine to blog about personal issues, but take care with how you state it. Do not blog about things that could be harmful toward others. It doesn’t really do us any good to dwell on what annoys us about other people anyway. We can only change ourselves and our attitude, so it is really only best to reflect on ourselves and how we might better serve others.

    Not that I’m always good at that…but I do try to seek the ideal.

  4. I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of strictly separating your personal life and your professional life. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my professional life happens six feet down the hall from my bedroom.

    But seriously, that smacks of a compartmentalization mentality that I’m not sure is entirely healthy. There does need to be some personal and professional separation — you need a family life, you need to get a way from your job, there needs to be a line.

    But never mixing the two at all sounds pretty dangerous. If something’s bothering you at home and it’s affecting your job that could be the difference between getting the help you need and getting fired. Bottling up professional issues and not dealing with them can make your home like chaotic.

    And if your professional life is strictly business, personally I’d wonder how invested I am in my work. I’d wonder if it’s just a job and what I’m really accomplishing. This shouldn’t happen all the time, but if I can’t sleep because I’m mulling over a cool idea from work — that’s a good sign I like my job.

    I’m not saying you need total cross over. And maybe you’re not even advocating complete compartmentalization. I just wanted to make the statement. I’ve met some really good people at work, and keeping them strictly “work friends” would be pretty lame.

  5. I’m not advocating the idea that I shouldn’t bring my worklife home. I talk with Steph about work and frustrations there, and that’s fine. But I don’t bring my homelife to work. So I’m advocating a one-directional flow. I think in my situation, and in the situations of many, that’s the most appropriate.

    I must point out, Kevin, that since you’ve worked with the BGEA and you’ve done freelance, that you’ve never been in a “real” business situation where the people you work with every day for your full-time job don’t share anything that even remotely resembles your worldview. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s true.

  6. Hmmmmm, interesting. I actually have refused to share my blog address with any relatives or coworkers. I just want to blog without having to think of those things. Even then, most of my personal stuff tends to get written in some semblance of my nonfiction writing style (as I’ve said before). For some reason that makes it okay for me, as I’ve gotten used to sharing my “writing” with the world, even when it contains personal things.

    I would say that blogs are much more fun when there’s at least some personal or emotional feeling from the writer: they’re pretty bland otherwise. You can still have that without being too revealing about yourself.

    As for mixing work with personal issues, it’s a total judgement call. It’s like the rest of your life: if you have a close friend at work, you can share whatever with them. Otherwise, you keep everything but the necessities on the downlow.

    Also, if you have a bunch of gossiping backstabbers at work (I’ve worked at a few such offices, as have some people I know), you’re best to keep your cards close to your chest. So I think it kinda depends on your situation.

  7. My work environs have been different than yours, certainly, Josh. Grad school requires a certain amount of confessional therapy, and it’s great when that can be other grad students (as it often was for me). My library job has me waltzing in and out with narry a nod of the head.

    But something else you said struck me, as I had been thinking a bit about it recently. Who we are, especially what our expecations are, is largely learned from our parents. Do we bring work home? Well, what did your dad and mom do? Do we take home outside? What did your mom and dad do? Not just with work, of course, but our expectations for our spouse, for our leisure, for much of our lives is passed down from our parents. It’s not that we can’t unlearn it, but it is what we have to unlearn.

    So like anything that is handed down to us, we must notice it, evaluate it, and toss it or treasure it. It sounds like that’s what you’re doing, Josh.

  8. I have a blog set up, but haven’t used it yet. One reason was that I didn’t want people I worked with to find it somehow and see what’s going on in my life. And I’d undoubtedly want to blog about some of the stuff going on at my job, so it could cause some problems.

    But since I quit my job last Friday, I may actually get started on blogging (I’ll probably start by blogging about the fact that I quit my job). I had thought I could maybe talk about some of my work issues after the fact, but that’s probably not a good idea. People know people, and you never know who’s going to see what you write. This point became very apparent when someone I’ve seen posting here was mentioned as a possible replacement for me. So there are some things I don’t think I’m going to share in an open forum.

    I can see your frustration. There are a lot of things I’d like to blog about, but posts don’t allow for some of the clarification that may be necessary for some people. As a result, the wrong person could stumble upon what I’ve written and it could cause an embarrassing or even hurtful situation. It’s tough to draw the line.

  9. That’d be sweet if you had a blog we could read Mike! Let us know when it’s up!

    Also, sometimes I’ll write a blog, but not publish it. Then, down the road when it is more safe to publish it, I can do it then. I think it’s important to get your thoughts out, especially about those issues. It’s just a question of when (if ever) you take those thoughts public.

  10. I don’t think that this particular issue is being misunderstood, but I wanted to clarify, just in case.

    I’m not saying that I’ve got all these secrets about what’s going on at work, or some deep drama of interpersonal relationships at my job. My relationships with my coworkers are, at worst, uneventful. There’s no deep spite or backstabbing. There’s no hatred or malice. They’re all good people.

    The issue I think I’ll get into in another blog, as far as my work goes, is more centering around the fact that I’m having a harder time acclimating to the “working world” than I ever guessed I would. It’s taking me longer than I think it should. But then I don’t know what “should” means in that context, so I don’t know what to say. But that’s another entry.

    Still, it’s understandable that we all probably have little stories about people that we would love to tell, but we’re afraid that those people will come to our blogs and find the stories, and get upset, etc. My only advice on that is 1) Avoid doing that if possible. If not possible for some unexplainable reason, 2) Change all the names and obscure as many facts as possible so no one has to be embarrassed by it, and 3) never, ever under any circumstance should you reveal confidential information that could hurt another person personally or hurt the company or its employees professionally. That’s just dirty. It seems like that would be something to pray about, but not to blog about.

    Unless you’re trying to somehow relate prayer and blogging. But what kind of insane person would do that?

  11. I learned some important lessons about what to post and what not to post on my blog. Peers from four different high schools, teachers, college admissions committees, school board members from by high school, relatives, my parents, the parents of my friends, and potential employers are aware of my blog. This reader base sometimes leads to some sticky situations if I post something I shouldn’t be.

    My Golden Rule of Blogging: If you don’t want people to know something, don’t write about it on the internet for all to see.

  12. Again Josh, I’m going to go back to the personal/professional life deal. I’m glad to see you’re at least taking things home to Steph and not bottling stuff up. That’s good. I half expected that.

    But I don’t think I agree with the closed-life approach to workmates. Certainly I have some odd work experiences. Being a freelancer is completely different than anything else, and the BGEA is a pretty odd world. But the BGEA isn’t that odd. And I have worked at other places in the “real” world.

    I guess I don’t get the point of not opening up a little bit to your coworkers. We’re not talking about divulging life secrets here, are we? We’re not talking about sharing the latest fight with your spouse, are we? Yeah, that kind of stuff is a bit much to be sharing with anyone but close friends.

    But if you don’t share anything, if you just share laughs over break and stories of TV — what kind of interaction are you having? What kind of impact are you having in your workplace?

    Part of what I’m concerned about is simple evangelism. If you don’t care enough to at least minimally interact with your coworkers, then ouch. I’m not expecting Billy Graham in the Office, but there are minor relationships you can develop and moments when you can show a coworker love. I’ve had that happen in multiple jobs, and I’ve seen people come to Christ because of it. Isn’t that what Christianity is about?

    This sounds harsher than I mean it to — I’m just trying to explain my point and see if you’ve thought about the same things. Having worked at the BGEA and by myself for over 3 years, I have a difficult time counting a single real interaction I have with a non-Christian that I actually know. School and work used to provide those interactions, and it gave me a sense of mission. Again, not that I’m evangelism boy, cuz I’m not, but it simply gave me a chance to live my faith in front of non-believers. I wish I had that opportunity right now. I think it’d be difficult to take advantage of that opportunity if you don’t form at least some kind of relationship with your coworkers.

    I guess another thing that concerns me is how lame work would be. I remember working at a grocery store two different times. The first time I was the quiet bag boy who never bothered to talk to anyone else much and never developed even acquaintences. The other time I developed some casual friendships, guys I’d spend my break with, maybe spend one afternoon with outside of work the entire time I knew them. Those guys made work a lot of fun.

    Just some thoughts. I realize you’re probably dealing with more difficult things like fierece competition and the what not, but I find it hard to believe that shutting off completely at work is the way to go. Perhaps you’d have an easier time adjusting to the working world if you had even casual friendships at work.

  13. Whew! Yes, you do win! 🙂 Good job.

    Those are good thoughts. I’m still mulling them over, but they seem solid. I’ll come back to it later.

  14. I think having relationships with people at work is similar to blogging…you can talk about what’s going on, but not in a way that would hurt others or damage the company or yourself in the company. I have good friends at work that I hang out with often. I sit at lunch with various groups of teachers and we talk about the going-ons of the day. They call me “crazy conservative” and I call them “communists.” It’s a fun relationship. We agree and we disagree. As long as we’re not hurting each other and we know when to politely end a conversation or change the subject.

    The story is different, though, depending on what your work environment is like. If you work at Crazy Backstabbing Land, for example, you may want to be more careful with what/how you share.

    I’m glad I don’t work at Crazy Backstabbing Land. I hear their benefits are terrible.

  15. *groans* Such places are the worst for temps: you don’t really exist or count as an office worker, so you usually overhear most stuff that’s going on in the office.

    Or the office may be quite good, with just two people in it that hate each other. And you get stuck in the office of one of them when the other one comes in and has a verbal fight with the other. Oh yeah, that’s fun.

    Most of the teacher’s I’ve hung out with in the lounge or the office have a pretty good attitude. We joke about our and our students silliness, how to do things better, etc. I’ve heard some teacher’s lounges are dens of depression and chainsmoking waiting for a paycheck type teachers, but I’ve avoided that so far, luckily.

  16. Wow! I come one day (probably just after you posted) and you have 0 posts, then I come the next day (which was yesterday, but I didn’t have time to write this)and there are 17!!! Might be a sign. Anyway, I have no complaints or worries about you sharing more about you. I’d love it and I trust your judgement as to what is appropriate.

  17. OOOPS!!! For some reason I wasn’t thinking and I typed in “Josh” under name. Ugh! Anyway, the last post is by me, Eddie.

  18. I wouldn’t fire anyone who had a blog that looked that good. Man, if she designed and coded that, I would be certain not to fire her.

    I mean, it’s not fancy, but it’s nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *