November 30, 2011, Washington, DC: This morning marks a milestone: My 100th blog post. Not only have I made it this far, but the list of ideas for future posts is longer than ever. Funny what happens when you dip a toe in the water.
What have I learned through the course of 100 posts? Have there been many surprises? Unexpected challenges or observations? Several of you have asked. Read on for lessons and reflections 100 posts in. (Then come back for blog post 101.)
1. Talk of home is everywhere.
Sure, it all depends on what you’re tuned into. But it seems everyone these days is talking about their homes, their neighborhoods, their beloved cities, and the power of place. Last week at Peregrine Espresso, I overheard one woman tell her friend, “The fact that you refer to college as home is such a gift.” Last month, I sat down to a table full of people I’d never met and was immediately pressed about how my Barracks Row neighborhood had evolved in the past decade without ever mentioning my interest in the topic. This weekend, Salon.com kicked off a series on dream cities; the New York Times reported on where baby boomers are looking to live in retirement and published an op-ed examining the death of the fringe suburb. Last month, the Washington Post published a series on the rise of global neighborhoods. Demographics are shifting; bicycles are revolutionizing city life; people are committing to their local communities. They’re looking for places they belong. Listen up, you’ll hear it too.
2. Family has come out of the woodwork.
The most welcome surprise of Neighborhood Nomad is that it’s given family members who live far away from one another a great excuse to reconnect. Both the relatives I’ve always been close to and others I’ve never known well have begun to email and call with increasing frequency to discuss the topics explored on the blog. We live far apart and haven’t always had shared interests through which to connect, but conversations about why we live where we do are bringing us together.
3. Twitter is (thankfully) for geeks.
Through Twitter, I’ve connected to another set of people, too – to urban policy experts and planners and advocates for alternative transportation and those who are running small businesses both in my current neighborhood and my old ones. Using my account @dcneighbor exclusively for this project, I’m able to post links to my blog, alert businesses when I’ve mentioned them in a post, and join conversations related to the topics I write about. Twitter has been a place to establish my presence on a new beat, so to speak, and above all, a place to listen and learn rather than talk. Predominately, it serves as a news feed that I’ve tailored specifically to news related to our neighborhoods, our cities, and talk of livable, walkable communities. (View my Twitter feed on the right side of my home page or scroll to the bottom if you’re using a mobile device.) If anything, the challenge is finding time to invest in these conversations and to tackle the pages of new ideas that have come as a result.
4. Blogging is not isolating.
Some types of writing are isolating. Blogging is not one of them. It’s tuning me in, reconnecting me to family and introducing me to people with similar interests. Given the topics of this blog in particular, it’s also providing me with the perfect reason to get out and do things. It’s a prerequisite of a blog about our neighborhoods and the power of place to most fully experience them firsthand. Increased participation from readers and other bloggers remains a goal moving forward; leave your comments below.
5. I have a newfound appreciation for where I am.
Another welcome outcome? I’m living in the moment. Experiencing these places to the fullest means it’s imperative to “be here now”, and I haven’t always done that. There was a period when I first moved to Washington when I spent entirely too much time wishing I were still in San Francisco, when I couldn’t have told you a thing about what was going on down the street. This project makes me tune in to the present. Even as I look back to my former hometowns and ahead to places I might live later, Neighborhood Nomad makes me appreciate where I am right now.
There’s a pattern here. In writing down these five observations, a theme emerges. It’s about fostering community. Whether in our hometowns, our neighborhoods, our cities, or in the virtual world, it’s about cultivating connections.