Until then, I’d like to share with you a little story from my childhood.
It’s kind of like a metaphor.
Or a cry for help.
Seriously, we had a club.
And I was in it.
To be honest, the club did not start out being the cool kids’ club. It was just this group that my three friends and I had created. We hung out all the time, and we decided we wanted to make things, you know, official.
At the time we were kind of obsessed with Grease 2.
No, not the original Grease. That would have made sense. I mean, I’m still kind of obsessed with the original Grease. Who isn’t?
We were obsessed with the sequel to Grease. And, yes, there was a sequel to Grease, and, yes, it’s just as bad as you can imagine. Possibly worse.
We would watch the video over and over again, and to this day I can still remember the words to the song, “Cool Rider.” (In which a young, fresh-faced Michelle Pfeiffer, playing the part of the lead Pink Lady, explains to her hapless suitor that she’s looking for a “dream on a mean machine with hell in his eyes” and “a devil in skin tight leather.” And, yes, this was a totally appropriate song selection for a ten-year-old. Why do you ask?)Inspired by the Pink Ladies, we decided we needed to give our little posse a name. So we called ourselves the Calicos.
Well, the Pink Ladies all had pink jackets, and the four of us all had cats – calico cats, to be exact.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
I was in a club for girls with cats.
It’s obvious I was destined to be a crazy cat lady from a very early age. You just can’t fight fate, people.Once we had the name of our super secret club down, we decided that we each needed a code name to sign the secret notes we would pass to each other in class – this being the number one activity of our super secret club.
We all went to this small Catholic school where the nuns were really vigilant about cracking down on secret clubs because, according to them, exclusive clubs were not the Christian way of doing things. (Umm, Apostles, anyone?) By using code names, we were sure we could avoid being found out should the notes ever be intercepted.
For some reason, we decided to use the first names of the Beatles for our code names, even though I’m pretty sure none of us actually listened to the Beatles. And I’m pretty sure when my friend first suggested this I had no idea who the Beatles actually were. I mean, I was ten years old at the time, and this was my idea of thought-provoking song lyrics:
I want a coooooool rider,
A cool, cool, cool, cool rider.
I want a coooooool rider,
A cool, cool, cool, cool rider.
I want a C-O-O-L R-I-D-E-R.
I need a C-O-O-L R-I-D-E-R.
So, yeah, I wasn’t exactly a music connoisseur back in the day.
But I went along with the plan because I was pretty sure passing around notes signed “John” and “Paul” was totally going to throw those nuns off our track. And possibly make them think we were referring to the Pope.
Well, I wasn’t going to be signing my notes “John” or “Paul.” I would be signing my notes, “Ringo.” Because that’s the name I chose for myself. Like, on purpose.
Looking back on this now, it’s obvious to me that my stint as a cool kid was going to be short-lived. Like really short-lived. (I mean, Ringo? Really?)
But, back then, I thought I had finally made it. I was in a super secret club named after cats. (Cats, people! Cats! How cool is that? Wait. Don’t answer that.)
I had a super secret code name.
I was passing around super secret notes in class even though super secret notes were strictly prohibited and could get you in deep, Catholic school trouble – which usually involved lots of praying and the Beatitudes.
We even had a super secret club oath, which, sadly, I can’t remember. But I’m pretty sure we all meowed at the end. (Seriously. And, in case you’re wondering, I’m sure that was my idea. Sure of it.)And, then, word got out.
One day during our lunch period, news of the Calicos’ existence spread through class like wildfire. I’m really not sure how this happened considering our CIA-level of information security. (I mean, code names, people! It’s like we were leading double lives! Which is not easy when you’re ten years old, go to Catholic school and believe that Jesus will personally smite you every time you say something that’s not technically true.)
Pretty soon all the other girls in class were clamoring to be part of our club.
At first, we were resistant. After all, we had some strict membership guidelines. You had to own a cat. And it had to be a calico. I mean, we weren’t about to let just anyone into this club.
Besides, we’d kind of run out of code names.But, then, the pressure started getting to us.
We let in a girl who had a black cat, but she was willing to give us enough scratch-and-sniff stickers to make up for the difference.
Then, this new girl from New Jersey convinced us that we should let her into the club even though her family didn’t own a cat, but they did have a rabbit once, and it had some spots on its back kind of like a calico cat. Plus, she let me wear her gummy bracelets every afternoon after lunch if I’d plead her case to the rest of the club.
Then the girls who were not in our club started to form their own clubs. Except things weren’t so super secret anymore.
One group called themselves the Jellies because they all owned jelly sandals. And rather than being like, “Cool, we all own jelly sandals. Let’s form a secret club and not tell anyone about it because it’s secret,” they totally told everyone about it. This was not how things were supposed to work– especially because it made those of us who didn’t own jelly sandals (like, umm, me) feel really bad about ourselves.Well, it wasn’t long before the nuns got wind of our secret club formations. The principal of the school, Sister Diane, forced all the fourth grade girls to go out into the hallway together while the boys sat in the classroom. (The boys, apparently, had not been using their lunch breaks and recess time to form secret clubs. I’m sure there’s some sociological reason behind that, but, at the time, I figured it was just because they were stupid. I mean, if you had the option of creating a super secret club named after cats, wouldn’t you? Wait. Don’t answer that.)
In the hallway, we each confessed to our club-making-ways, and then we joined hands to pray (because that’s how crackdowns are done in Catholic school, yo).
By the end of the whole thing, we were all crying and hugging each other and promising to abolish our secret clubs. (While secretly hoping that this didn’t mean we’d have to give back all the scratch-and-sniff stickers and gummy bracelets we’d manage to score along the way.)
We returned to class, where the boys were all sitting with this stunned look on their collective faces that said, “What the hell just happened?”Anyway, if there’s a lesson that I learned from my very brief stint as a cool kid, it’s that excluding others is really not as cool as it may seem.
And you should probably do a little research before picking out a code name. (I mean, Ringo? Really?)
Oh, and don’t try to keep secrets from nuns because those ladies have ways of getting the secrets out of you – and usually these ways include the Beatitudes.Warning: Remember back at the beginning of this post when I told you that at some point I’d be putting on my ranty-pants about blogging and travel blogging and writing and all that other stuff that some of you may not care about?
Well, that time has come.
If you are not interested in these topics, please feel free to mosey along.
May I suggest you check out my photo album from my recent trip to Hangzhou? The photos are quite lovely, and I even included captions this time, which I’m usually pretty lazy about, but I wanted to show you I cared.
Or, can I interest you in a kitten video?
Or feel free to go buy yourself some adult-sized jelly sandals should you, too, have missed out on this essential fashion stable as a child. You’re never too old for impractical footwear! Trust me on this.
Still with me?
My ranty-pants are now officially on.
Consider yourself warned.Yesterday, I read a blog post entitled, “Why we need a clear definition of a travel blogger.” In the article, the author defined a travel blogger as “someone whose main income-generating activities are derived from the site or sites that they own and manage.”
I don’t make any money off my blog, so this means that, according to this article, I am not a travel blogger. This also means that most of the travel bloggers whom I read and enjoy on a regular basis can also not consider themselves travel bloggers as they also do not make money off their blogs – or at least not enough to qualify it as a “main income-generating activity.” Whatever that is.
Now, I understand that this is only one person’s opinion on the topic (and judging from the comments the author received on the post, it’s definitely not everyone’s opinion).
Plus, to be honest, I’ve never really considered myself a travel blogger. Yes, I do travel. Yes, I do have a blog. And, yes, I do blog about travel. But I also blog about cookies and my couch and the super secret girl club I was in during the fourth grade.Despite all this, I still couldn’t help feeling a bit excluded.
And I can’t say this feeling is anything new.
In the past year and a half, I’ve read a lot of travel blogs and expat blogs and bloggy-blogs. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts telling me what is and what is not a blog and who is and who is not a blogger. I’ve also read plenty of posts defining travelers and travel bloggers and travelers who blog and bloggers who travel and bloggers who just want everyone to draw camels.
And then there are the articles expounding on the differences between writers and bloggers — as apparently these are two entirely different species and they’re not allowed to mix for fear that they may produce some weird Labroodle-like hybrid.
I usually come away from reading these articles feeling left out – like I somehow didn’t make it into the club. Either it’s because I’m not making money off my blog or because my blog doesn’t get a million hits per week. Or maybe it’s because I don’t really know what SEO means. Or I’m not living out of a backpack. Or my posts are longer than the constitutions for most countries and apparently that’s wrong.
My usual reaction is, well, kind of stompy and annoyed. I huff and puff and blurt out things like, “Fine, I didn’t want to be in your stinking blog club anyway! I’ll just go write more 2,000-word posts about my couch, and we’ll see what you have to say about that. And, oh, those jelly sandals make your feet look stupid.”But this article irked me in a different way.
It irked me in the same way that the articles that differentiate between writers and bloggers irk me.
It wasn’t because it was telling me I couldn’t be part of the club.
It was because it was telling me what I was allowed to call myself and what I wasn’t.
I’m fine with not calling myself a travel blogger, but, frankly, I think that choice should be mine.
If I got to call myself Ringo Starr in the fourth grade, I think I should be able to decide what I want to call myself now.Usually I just call myself a writer as I feel that pretty much sums up what I do. I write stuff. And then I edit that stuff. And then I send that stuff out into the world hoping against hope that someone might read it. And maybe like it. (And then make it official by liking it on Facebook.)
And, well, isn’t that what a writer does? Writes stuff and edits it and sends it off into the world?
Okay, so, sure, I’m not making an income off of my writing.
And, yes, I write words and a lot of those words end up on my blog, but I’m still the one writing them. These words were not strung together by some blog-post-generating robot. (I swear! I mean, would a robot know anything about jelly sandals? I think not, my friends, I think not.)
Besides, I wrote stuff long before I had a blog and a lot of the things I write now never even end up on my blog. It stays on my computer where I continue to polish it and poke at it and prod at it into the hopes that it will one day blossom into something I can publish.
And that’s why I call myself a writer – because I write stuff. I’ve always written stuff. And, frankly, I can’t imagine not writing stuff.
If I can’t call myself a writer, I don’t really know what else to call myself.
Maybe I should just call myself a Labroodle?