In between the Miley Cyrus debacle and the drama of the Australian campaign trail, in between news of Donald Trump’s latest antics and the anxiety over the escalating tensions surrounding the gas attacks in Syria, a quiet tragedy occurred this week. It wasn’t an earthquake or a natural disaster. It wasn’t a military attack. A garment factory didn’t collapse. There wasn’t a school shooting. A single woman died, of heartbreak, apparently.
She was not someone that I knew personally. We ran in the same travel blogger circles. I knew her name. I knew her blog. I knew her brand. We have friends in common.
She took her life just a few days after her 43rd birthday, alone, heartbroken. The travel community is rocked. The thousands who read her blog are shocked. Her family is reeling, no doubt. Her light, absorbed by the darkness.
There’s been a lot of buzz about her life, how this could possibly have happened, and how come no one knew. As there always is, following a tragedy like this. And there is talk about what we, as writers and bloggers share about our lives, the intentional branding of ourselves, the ways that our lives become packaged commodities that are marketed in a sense. I don’t know one single blogger who set out to do that, but everyone does, eventually, if they stay at it long enough. We make decisions about what we will and will not say, or share, or write about. We tell a story, our story, but not ever the whole story.
My Dad summed it up well for me once, when paying me a compliment about my writing:
“Everything you write is absolutely true… but you don’t write absolutely everything.”
He’s right, and that’s very much on purpose.
I meet people and get email regularly from folks who really think that they know me because they read what I write. The very thorough ones read everything, Uncommon Childhood, Walkin’ It Off, Dream: Reboot, as well as all of the freelance articles I write and post links to. They feel as though I’m a friend because we swap three emails in pursuit of their dream, or because I’ve friended them on Facebook.
I get it. I do the same thing. I make assumptions about other writers that I’ve followed for a long time. I feel like I “know” their families from the stories they tell. And then, I remind myself what that feels like, and I back off, lower my expectations, and give them space. They’re strangers, they have lives I don’t see, and what I do see is only what they choose to share with me: another stranger.
In the wake of Anita’s untimely passing, as we feel the shock of the disconnect between her happy, upbeat persona through her blog and online interactions and the private torment that lead her to take her own life, it seems that some reflection, some clarification, and some transparency are in order; in the interests of truth in advertising in the blogging world. Or in my own world at least.
You read our blog. Thank you for that.
Your time is precious. That you spend some of it with us is an honor. I’m glad you find amusement, or encouragement, or value of some kind in my offerings. It means a lot to me that you’re here. When you interact with me, through comments or email, I appreciate it more than you know. I’ve made some dear friends out of the ranks of readers.
There are a few things I would like you to know:
1. What you read is the top water of life.
I’m a Canadian girl, raised on long winters and ice crossings in heavy boots. Sometimes, on either end of a freeze-thaw cycle, there will be water under a thin crust of ice on top of the harder, thicker, ice beneath; which is on top of the deep water of the lake below. This is called “top water.” It’s not the “real water,” it’s just floating on top of the hard shell protecting the depth beneath.
What you read here: top water. You get your feet wet in our life. You slide around on top of the funny bits on the outside of the barrier protecting the well-spring of our life, the deep part, the fishy part, the muddy part, the part there’s danger of drowning in.
2. My Dad is correct
What I write is absolutely true. What I share of our life is authentic. I try to share the good and the bad. I try not to be one of “those” writers who makes you think everything is perfect all the time, because it’s not, not for any of us, ever. I try to share the struggles as well as the successes.
But I do not share absolutely everything. Not even close.
What I write about are the snapshots that take place in a five minute window, the musings that meander through my odd little brain when no one else is noticing, and a kaleidoscope of the “wow” and the mundane moments of family life on the road. You’re getting postcards from me, not long letters; Youtube videos, not a serious documentary. A blog, not a dissertation.
Please keep that in mind.
3. I have “rules”
There are self-imposed rules that I adhere to, hell and high water, as I write:
I never talk trash about people, if I don’t have something nice to say, I won’t say anything.
- That doesn’t mean there aren’t negative people
- That doesn’t mean there aren’t negative moments in our relationships
- It doesn’t mean that my kids are 100% sunny all the time
- It doesn’t mean that my marriage is perfect
- It doesn’t mean that I get along with everyone or like everyone
What it means is that I watched Bambi and got the message Thumper’s mother was trying to impart: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
I ask people before I write about them
Some of the best people in our lives and our travels you’ll never meet on our blog. Why? They don’t want to be there. For reasons of their own they don’t want to appear in print or pictures, and you know what? That’s their prerogative.
4. I protect my kids
You probably feel like you know my kids, but I promise you, you don’t. You know about them, in some ways. You’d recognize them. But you don’t know them, and unless they choose to reveal themselves to you in their own time, in their own way, in the real world, you never will.
I don’t write about what matters most with my kids. I don’t write about their struggles, their tears, their arguments, their personal triumphs, their dreams, their educational progress, their hormonal days, the moments when they lose the plot and are less than lovely. What I do write about is with their permission. There are things they veto. They’re allowed to.
My kids get to grow up not in a fishbowl. They get to just be kids. They get to fail. They get to cry. They get to struggle through middle childhood and the sometimes tumultuous teen years without an audience.
I respect them as humans. They are not “my kids.” They are their own people. I have the privilege of getting them started on this planet, but they do not belong to me, nor do their stories.
5. I protect my marriage
Guess what? My marriage is none of your business.
I know that there are other bloggers who believe in airing all of their dirty laundry and letting the details of their personal life play out for an audience. I’m not one of them.
I respect myself, and I respect my husband too much to let you inside. There are seasons that are great, and seasons that are hard as hell, and both are private. You’ll never read anything negative about The Man or our marriage on this blog, not ever. Does that mean nothing negative ever happens? Ha. Obviously not, but we have boundaries, as you do too, I’m sure.
6. Edventure Project is branded
Perhaps some of you aren’t familiar with the term “branding,” so I’ll explain. Branding is the intentional “marketing” or “packaging” of a particular product or message: like a blog.
We have, quite intentionally, developed a particular niche for ourselves in the independent family travel community. We focus on the intersection of education and adventure, as our tagline suggests. We focus on family life on the road, location independence and long term, slow travel. This is a story driven blog, which means that we tell our story.
What does that mean? There is a lot we don’t write about or try to “do” here. We are not Trip Advisor, or Lonely Planet.
You should know that as you read, it’s good to remember that we’re trying to accomplish something specific here: encouragement and inspiration for families to learn and adventure together.
7. What you don’t know could kill me
I keep thinking about Anita and what must have been going on behind the scenes with her for a good long time. The struggles and difficulties that she couldn’t or wouldn’t, or just didn’t write about. The deep water underneath her protective shell of happy-travel-bloggerdom. I ache for her.
I ache for her because I know about that.
The past five years have been an amazing adventure for our family. You know that, you’ve been reading.
Three of those five have also been the absolute worst of my life on an internal, personal level.
Did you know that? It had nothing to do with the travel and everything to do with the things I choose not to write about. Everything I thought I knew, it turns out I did not know. Everything I thought I was, it turns out, I am not. I cried every day for over a year and a half. My kids thought I might never stop crying. In reality, I probably should have been medicated, but instead I self medicated; some methods more effective than others, it turns out. My soul crumbled and was in danger of blowing away like dust.
I turned the corner the day I heard myself say out loud to my best friend, “I don’t know if happiness is even possible for me…” He literally took me by the shoulders to get my attention, so I would hear myself. That was about a year and a half ago. Slowly but surely, I’ve put myself back together. I am continually putting myself back together. I expect to be working at it for many years to come.
Why am I telling you this now?
Because Anita died of heartbreak, and that could have been me, and you’d have been shocked, as we are all shocked by her death.
I’m telling you this now because it’s imperative that you understand that what you read here, and on every other blog, is the top water of life. There are things going on below the surface, hard things, fun things, miserable things. There is joy that you don’t read about (the very best things never make the blog) and there is suffering that words could never express. And then, there are the things that are just plain private and should remain that way.
Thank you for reading this post, and the blog.
Thank you for honoring Anita’s memory by remembering that there are real, three dimensional people behind the many stories, and versions of lives represented in the blogging world. Thank you for interacting with us as people, not personas.
Thank you for enjoying what we authentically share, and thank you for understanding that there is more beneath the surface that belongs to us alone.