I started this blog 12 years ago, the same year Zuckerberg launched theFacebook at Harvard, and a full year before he dropped the "the," moved the company to Palo Alto, and opened registration to anyone over the age of 13. We had Friendster and MySpace back then (although I may have opened a profile at each site, I was never active on either) and I belonged to a community of personal bloggers. At the time I was married and living in South Orange County CA, I had a quirky tabby named Boo who barked like a dog, and I was still figuring out how to make a pocket garden out of a pile of dirt in the back of our townhome.
How times have changed.
Most of the blogs I visited regularly back then have either shut down or are still up and refreshed with a new post once in a rare while, as this one is, and all the bloggers I got to know only through their words and photographs are now my active friends on Facebook. About six years ago, my beloved 18-year-old cat died, my marriage ended, and I left my home that had become a thriving green space and a refuge for birds, bees, and even the neighborhood cats. A few years after that my mother died, followed by my father eight months later. In between I fled to Manila then shortly after I flew off to Seattle in search of a new home. I was homeless for a while there; I remember filling out an immigration form on the plane, not knowing what to write in the section that asked for my permanent address.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest at the tail-end of the recession and discovered that not only was looking for a job difficult when you had no job, but even more so when you didn't know anyone in the city and had no one to refer you to their company HR department. So with my tail between my legs I walked into the nearest Victoria's Secret and applied for a part-time sales position. In the '90s I had been a store manager for the company and swore I'd never go back when I left. With my meager paycheck I lived in subsidized housing on a street so infamous it has its own Wikipedia page, in an apartment with barely no furniture, not even a plant or a bed. I had no health insurance when I needed it most and on days when I saw Andrew Jackson's face on the bill in my wallet I'd feel relieved, knowing I'd have enough for groceries for the week.
Things got better. I started making more money and was able to move into a brand-new apartment community; I no longer had to keep looking out my bedroom window to check if my car was still in the parking lot. My divorce was finalized but my ex and I were not only friendly but laughing together again. A former co-worker was able to help me find a temp job that paid about three times my hourly wage at the store. I was able to replace my Mac desktop that had conked out on me and no longer had to reserve one at the neighborhood library. I saw a doctor again and started getting my health back on track. I now made regular hair appointments with my stylist (no longer only twice a year) and get occasional manipedis when I felt I needed one.
Today I'm still living in that apartment -- now with furniture, a sweet one-year-old shih tzu named Scout, and a man who is typing on his laptop across from me as I now type this post on mine. The balcony teems with scented plants and edibles, and there are now pops of green in various corners indoors. My temp job became a permanent one complete with a generous benefits package. I moved from a corner cube to an office and was recently one of 100 nominees culled from across the entire company considered for this year's short list of "essential" employees.
Nothing's perfect, to be sure, and there's been the bad (emergency appendectomy and subsequent medical bills) to offset the very good (Camino de Santiago). If the past few years have taught me anything it's that one day we can be in the gutter looking up at the stars, wondering if and when we'll be able to stand up again just to get a closer peek at the light. The point is to keep looking up, to keep pushing up and out with your palms and heels and then get up, no matter how wobbly you may feel at first. Whatever happens -- whether you reach the stars or settle for a cloud or simply have your feet planted firmly on the ground -- you'll be grateful to be standing up at all.
It's been 12 years since I started this blog -- and I'm still here, standing. And writing now again, because it's the only thing I do that I don't have to question doing.