De-Inventing Myself

Today, I deleted nine years’ worth of posts from this blog.

Around 800 posts. Probably hundreds of thousands of words. Years of my younger self figuring out who I was, talking about my life, sharing my thoughts, slowly developing my skills as a writer and as a person as I continued to live my life almost entirely on the internet.

They’re not gone forever. I’ve moved them all to a password-protected blog so that if I decide I made a mistake, I can import them again. And nothing on the internet can ever be gone forever. Anyone who really wanted to know what fifteen-year-old me thought about something could use the Wayback Machine or something similar to find it; while I admit I’m partly motivated by not wanting all of my younger self’s ignorant, elitist, and otherwise problematic opinions immediately connected to my professional name, I’m also aware that somebody who cared enough could still find them.

The fact is that I have lived too much of my life online, for too long. It’s become harder and harder to keep sight of who I am. What’s the real me, and what’s the online me? Is the me on this blog even really me, or just an entire persona I’ve constructed for your benefit? I’ve often mistaken openness for honesty, and I sometimes think maybe I overshare without ever really being honest and vulnerable.

You don’t know me. You might have followed this blog for nine years, but all you’ve seen is a small part of me. And that’s okay. But I’m not sure the me that I was here is really the me I want to be.

I’m not re-inventing myself. I’m de-inventing myself. Stripping away years of self-creation through text. Can we just pretend it never happened? Can we start again, as though we’ve just met, and all the artifice is gone? Maybe you won’t notice the difference, but I’ll know, at least, that even if I’m dancing the same steps, I’m doing it in new shoes.

I made this blog in 2010, replacing an earlier one. It’s been through four URL changes, three site hosts, and dozens of themes and layouts. And I don’t regret that I blogged my teenage years, because there’s value in being able to look back at those posts and see the progress that I’ve made. Blogging brought me friends, gave me a voice, gave me a platform — even if that platform has seemed to shrink in the last few years. Blogging was the medium through which fourteen-year-old me learned to share my thoughts.

But I’m 23 years old now, and I want to start again.

Hello. My name is Finn Longman. I’m a writer, medievalist, folk musician, dancer, librarian, procrastinator, Quaker, reader — and blogger. I don’t know what I want to talk about yet, but this is where I’ll do it, when I know. It’s nice to meet you.

10 comments

  1. I’ve done this a few times myself- but every time, I always bring the posts back in one way or another. Still, the peace it creates to ensure you’re being your genuine self and not falling into the persona of the online is… Both helpful and cathartic in a great number of ways <3 I hope it brings you the same peace it does me, whether you ever bring them back or not (and no matter how sad I am, having just found your blog recently, to not have the opportunity to have watched you grow retroactively)!

    • Finn Longman says:

      I assure you that you’re not missing much, particularly from the earlier years 😂 And with luck there’ll be more growth in future! I hope I haven’t reached the end of my capacity to change and learn…

      I can see myself perhaps resurrecting some of the more recent posts, but honestly, one thing I noticed while deleting them was how many of my old posts just… weren’t worth reading. It was a useful clear-out. These posts don’t spark joy: YEET.

  2. dreguan says:

    I think it’s good that you’re realistic about the impossibility of deleting something forever. Now that I am taking one foot out of freelance/backpacker/digital nomadry and dipping my toe into being part of society, I have thought a lot about how to separate myself from my antics of the past (and present). A nom de plume helps, but a cursory google search will quickly reveal my legal, and I don’t try and keep it a secret either.

    I guess I am against deleting or curating our past. Please don’t take this as me shitting on you, it’s just a personal choice, but I really think that I would do myself greater harm by going back to facebook circa 2010 and deleting comments like “gimme a call when you this, nigga!” from a friend’s wall.

    I cringe when I go back looking for old photos and see comments like this but I also laugh at how carefree we were playing in the frontier that was social media before it got suburbanized.

    But it’s more than memories, its this bad feeling in my gut I get when I even think about deleting comments; when I do something wrong by my own standards. It’s like I’m trying to change the past. Or better yet, reality.

    A wise man at a party once told me about his trinary….. trinitarian?? -he viewed life as three thirds:

    Actor: The discrete facts of your life.
    Character: The narrative you create.
    Performance: How you are received by society.

    I can’t change the facts of my life, but I can control which character I am playing. My character spoke frivolously and carelessly when he was younger, and even today he maintains an irreverence and sense of mischief which he is convinced he must preserve to maintain the twinkle in his eye and the joy in his heart. It’s a good character I think -I’ve been researching it for years and I’m ready to lean into the role.

    If the audience doesn’t like my masterful performance, I’ll seek a stage elsewhere.

    Thanks for the inspiration to write, Finn

    -Dre

    • Finn Longman says:

      Thanks for the comment! I deliberated for a while about deleting everything. On some level it felt dishonest — removing a post from public view doesn’t mean it was never written. On another level, it felt unhelpful — if others only ever see the carefully curated grown-up self, they don’t have a sense of where I came from, and for younger people in particular, sometimes it’s comforting to see people’s growth rather than feeling you need to match up to a later point in time. (Did that sentence make any sense? I know what I meant.)

      But ultimately… the vast majority of those posts weren’t doing anything except taking up space, making me feel a pressure to conform to a particular style of blogging, and potentially doing harm if somebody found them and found my younger self’s ignorance or insensitivity hurtful. And a lot of them were just boring, or badly written, or superseded by later posts. (Some of them were none of these things. Some of them were massively confessional and honest personal posts. Some of them were book reviews. It was easier to wipe it all than to pick and choose what to keep; by doing that I’m also not being selective or constructing a particular narrative, I’m just closing that book entirely and starting a new one.)

      *I* kept them. *I* still have access to them. But my past is mine. It doesn’t have to be open to the whole world, to be perused by anyone who takes the whim. I lived a lot of my adolescence in the public eye when I didn’t have to, and now I would like to take my adolescence *out* of the public eye. And honestly, I think I owed it to myself to retrospectively give myself that small freedom.

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