This blog did not start out the way it turned out. I had got tired of WeightWatchers not working for the eleventy-thousandth time and I decided to do a diet in public. If I put lists of what I ate and details of my weekly weight and measurements on the internet, then five or six close friends would skim through it and keep me accountable, I’d lose the weight and that would be that.
By the second or third post, people were writing to me, telling me how much they loved the blog and it became clear that I had thirty or forty readers. I basked in my newfound celebrity.
People were reading what I wrote. I felt like I mattered. And I enjoyed the writing. I’d wanted to be a writer all my life and never been brave enough to try. By the end of the first week, I was writing about more than just my battles against cigarettes and bread. I was writing my life. Writing it for everyone to see.
But it kept to its theme of weightloss and of healthy living, especially in the first year. Readership grew slowly and I got a few emails from strangers, generally middle-aged English women, telling me how inspirational I was. Friends and acquaintances started begging to be included in the blog and, in one way, it was terribly exciting.
It was also deeply embarrassing. Some of my early posts are so clunky that they make me squirm. And I wasn’t losing weight. I kept on trying, but essentially, I was failing for everyone to see.
The first big goal I set myself was the Dublin City Marathon, six months after I started the blog. I felt like the whole world had got behind me. I got so many texts and messages of support from all around the world. And I didn’t finish it, because I wasn’t fit enough and I hadn’t trained enough (/at all).
I was mortified. And as I was lying in bed after getting a taxi home from the halfway point, hiding from the world, my brother rang me and revealed he’d been reading my blog. I’d written a post about my financial troubles and he called me to lecture me that it wasn’t fair for him to know something that he’d read on my blog and for my parents not to know and it was job to come clean to them about my financial situation. And for the only time in my life, I cried on the phone. I had just failed, in a horribly public way, the bank were threatening to hand me over to a debt collection agency and my big brother was reading my life and finding fault.
The following week I wrote a blogpost, threatening to shut the blog down if I didn’t start seeing results and actually losing a significant amount of weight. A few friends were probably relieved. But the responses I got were mainly negative, telling me that I wasn’t to even consider shutting it down.
At this stage, I was beginning to consider myself a writer. And people were already encouraging me to try my hand at journalism, or even to look at publishing Project Connor.
I began to write about more and more things, and I was somewhat more honest. Readers who only came to my blog recently might be surprised to hear that I was never “gay” on the blog at this time. Sure, I mentioned my love of musicals and I made it clear that I was voting for One Direction on the X Factor, but I never mentioned boys or sex or anything like that. Around this time, it was more of a self-improvement blog than a weightloss one, but it was very clear that it was a “project”.
After the marathon, readership dropped off, and although I still got lots of positive feedback, readership didn’t really start to grow again until I moved into Hall and into my flat of fourteen Boys almost a year later. People started contacting me, telling me how much they liked the posts about the Boys. For the first time, my blog had a cast.
And then I came out and everything changed. My coming out post, exactly a year ago today, went around the world and got five times the number of readers of any post before that. And all of a sudden, my blogging became more personal. I started getting emotional, I broke barriers and I kissed a boy. And all the world was my friend. People contacted me who I hadn’t heard from in ten years or more. Relative strangers demanded to hear about my third date.
And for a second time, I wrote a post threatening to shut down the blog. I genuinely didn’t know how I could write about the issues I was facing: my guilt about coming out, my relationship with my family, my dad’s illness, my desperation about my relationship with food, my dread of the Boys’ leaving and being alone in Hall and my relationship with this new man. I couldn’t possibly write about sex, could I? And how could I write about a break-up? It was just too confusing.
But I carried on blogging. I couldn’t face the idea of life without the blog. And as my summer descended into a mess, I kept blogging. And people started telling me off for writing about sad things and making them sad, but I kept on going. The blog was one of the only things in my days that I looked forward to.
And I revealed more of myself. I couldn’t believe what I was writing. One day, I told the whole world I was experimenting with make-up and wanted to try my female side. And then, one night, I was grabbed by an impulse and I stayed up all night writing the story of my stay in a psychiatric hospital. And I felt so cleansed and I felt as if a burden had lifted. My dirty secrets were crumbling. It was exhilarating.
Once again, I got a massive response and my readership rocketed. Once again, I got messages from strangers and friends. My life and/or my writing touched people.
And this year, I found myself slowly chronicling the details of my embarrassing and pathetic sexual history. Again, this has boosted readership, and I have mixed feelings about it.
I remember telling someone recently enough that I kept a blog. He asked what it was about. And I said that it was about me, about being an Assistant Warden, about losing weight, about my nights out and about my PhD. And he said, “But why would anyone read that?” And I don’t really understand either.
I consider this blog to be my greatest achievement. This is a time of anniversaries. One year ago today, I came out and in nine days time, this blog will be three years old. In those three years, I’ve written three hundred and forty two posts. Even on my worst days, I looked forward to writing it. I read back over posts and I laugh at myself and I cry at myself. I’m funny, and I’m weepy and sentimental and I love that. Two different professionals in the field of publishing have said, more or less, that my work is publishable. And I know I want to be a writer. Over three hundred people read every post I write and in the last two months, my readership stats just keep going up and up. Strangers on twitter follow my blog and send me direct messages to check whether I’ve had sex yet, and I still get e-mails out of the blue from people who find the blog and end up spending all night reading it.
And yet, I fear this blog too. This blog has become me. I have become the blog. I am incapable of having an experience, an emotion or a thought without wondering whether or not I will blog it and how it will read. Many of my friends have stopped reading the blog completely; some are too upset by it and others are jealous of it, jealous that I tell the blog things I don’t tell them. And it’s true. When I have big news, the first person I want to tell is Project Connor.
An awful lot of people know me much better through this blog than through spending time with me, and I often feel that spending time with Connor is not as good as spending time with Project Connor.
After three years, I have no idea how life would be as a non-blogger. How would I process experiences and emotions? Who would I tell my news to? What would I have to look forward to? Who would I be? How would I justify myself to the world?
But with my blog, how will I ever get a job? A quick google search would render me more or less unemployable. In fact, yesterday, the Warden mentioned something that he said he trusted to our discretion but at that stage, I had already blogged about it, and while I think I know which residents of Hall read my blog, I can’t be sure.
And with my blog, how will I ever get a boyfriend? A quick google search would render me more or less undateable.
I can neither contemplate life without the blog, nor can I imagine it with it. I need to step outside its comfort zone and write something else. And I need to try maintaining relations with the world without having to write about it for regular public consumption.
I have learned two things about my future since I started this blog. As I’ve stated before, I need to find a way of life for myself where I can work with young people and where I can write. I’m not sure what that job/path/way of life is, but I’ll find it.
Project Connor is my greatest triumph and it’s my ball and chain. And I’m not really sure how long I’ll keep it up, but for now I can’t see myself stopping.