Rapid Eye Reality turns ten

Two weeks before nineteen men crashed airplanes into my country, I started a blog. This blog. It was an exercise, an outlet suggested to me by my friend, Susannah. We were eating shrimp and drinking beer on Tybee Island. It was a wedding rehearsal dinner for our friends Mike and Julia. Though I’d already been a working journalist for six or seven years, I kept most serious writing to the confines of journals, emails, or Word documents that would never see a printed page. Susannah asked me if I’d ever heard of blogging. She explained it, and told me how to get started.

We all lived an idyllic life during that time. I was 27 years old, nearing the end of my contract at the TV station, and wallowing in a particular ennui that would seem almost offensive two weeks later. On August 29, 2001, I started writing for an audience of my friends. Ten years later, I’m still doing it.

I sometimes wonder if I’d ever have started this blog if I knew how much was going to change in our country, in our world, in my life, or in the way I see everything. The hardest part in continuing to write here is that it forces me to be completely honest with an ever-growing group of friends and readers. I know how to write dishonestly, but I can’t do it here. Over the past ten years, there have been two long periods (one very recently) in which the frequency of my posts dropped off significantly. Those were times in which I couldn’t write honestly and, therefore, stayed away from this place. A changing world and an aging man force constant confrontations with honesty.

But here it is. Rapid Eye Reality is still here ten years later.

Susannah moved to London. Mike went to war. My father nearly died. My wife gave me two beautiful sons. I got out of TV and joined the traveling circus of the high stakes poker world in which I helped create a cottage industry. I traveled the world as it imploded and exploded around me. I lost faith in humanity and found faith in friends, many of whom I found because I started blogging. I became a better person, became a worse person, and became a better person again. All the while, I wrote here for a group of friends like I was still writing my Deep South Update emails from 1997. Over the time, the readership here has grown to include people I’ve never met. I still consider them–you, in fact–friends. Because, who else but a friend would stick around so long?

It’s impossible to hold most folks’ attention for very long. I am a frequent user of Twitter and Facebook. Nobody wants to read anything that’s longer than 140 characters anymore. I’ve read and largely agree with the pronouncements that blogging as we know it is dead. I’m fine with that. Though Rapid Eye Reality began as and continues to be a blog, it’s–at least to me–become more than that. I fear we live in a culture that feeds on dishonesty. Intellectual dishonesty. Personal dishonesty. Spiritual dishonesty. It’s easy to hide all of that when everything you say has to be contained inside a 140-character blanket. I know, because I spend a lot time in that realm. I make no judgments, but I speak from experience.

Anyone who has read here for very long knows that I struggle with confidence. I have a very hard time defining myself as a writer when most of my so-called professional work is not what I would normally call writing. It often feels dishonest of me to tell people I’m a writer. I fight with myself daily on the subject. That’s what makes Rapid Eye Reality’s continued existence so confounding. Why would I continue to write here and live my life so…so, out loud…if I didn’t consider myself worthy of people’s attention?

When I wrote Notes on Fear, I called my wife into my office and told her I didn’t know what to do with the post. I felt like it was, as a dear friend once described my writing, “too honest.” I felt like it revealed too much or opened me up to opinions that could derail…well, I didn’t know. I was simply afraid to hit publish.

“Did it do you any good to write it?” my wife asked. I said it did.

“Would it be enough to just keep it for yourself and not publish it?” she asked. Immediately, I said it wouldn’t. I surprised myself with how quickly I answered. I realized that–for me–the writing is only half of the the therapy. Somebody has to read it, or it doesn’t work.

It’s taken me a long time to recognize and even longer to admit that I need feedback. I write here because I know people will tell me what they think. Whether it’s ego, human nature, or both, despite my inherently introverted nature, I thrive on people enjoying what I write and telling me about it. After I wrote To the man buying my house, I had people coming up to me in person–people I barely knew or didn’t know at all–thanking me for writing it. It was gratifying in a way that I can’t explain.

When I wrote “Notes on Fear,” I had a lot of people tell me it helped them recognize the same fear in themselves. I wanted to cry, because that’s ultimately why I sit down to write. I want to tell people something honest about myself, I want my uncomfortable honesty to have some effect on somebody else, and I want to know about it. That last sentence is the hardest I’ve had to write in as long as I can remember. It’s as honest as I can be.

I just looked at myself in the mirror. I haven’t shaved in a few days, and my beard is growing from my gray temples, down my jaw, and into a pool of salt and pepper on my chin. Despite wearing a hat and sunglasses outside all weekend, the sun did its work on the wrinkles around my eyes. With a shrug I accepted that I’m just not the same guy I was ten years ago today. I’m older. I’m different. Nearly everything about my life has changed. I’ve written about a lot of that change on Rapid Eye Reality. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, this blog, or anything else over the next ten years. I don’t know what’s going to happen next month. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight.

For today, however, let me offer this:

Thank you to the people who started reading in 2001 and are still here today.

Thank you to the people who have helped shape the person and writer I am.

Thank you to the people who helped me launch a new career and have supported me in my efforts to survive a non-traditional life.

Thank you to the people who took the time out to comment, send emails, or pull me aside and tell me you liked something I wrote.

Thank you to my friends.

Thank you to the people who read to the end.