No Limits, a Yooralla Media Award, a Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars grant (and surfing!), an Australia Day Award, mentoring at the hospital, about five hospital stays and countless visits to the outpatients and emergency departments, two human deaths and two dog deaths in the family, three boys I have loved, finding out a past love lied about his whole life (and that situation being perfect for a journalism assignment), one brief return home to Albury to live, speaking at a range of functions, four meetings of Darren hayes, an invitation to speak in England, a lot of friends made and a few lost, and this blog.
I have had a six month break from study (if you don't count the short course I did through the Sydney Writers Centre in September) and already I am looking at what I could study next. I am thinking Health Promotion or a PhD in storytelling through blogging. But I am also enjoying not studying, having my weekends free, and not pressuring myself to achieve a high distinction.
Yesterday this blog turned three years old. I put so many of those events and achievements down to this blog. Even including the completion of my degree (and it probably distracted me from it too). I became more confident, developed a portfolio of writing, and finally identified with being a member of the disability community. I have been able to share my story, and have it heard - it matters. I was able to use this blog as the topic and references for my thesis. The most important thing though, is how this blog has allowed me to form so many friendships.
Lots of people I know don't get blogging and social media. Twitter seems the most complex to figure out - why share every thought, who really cares? Why do you have to upload another photo of your breakfast? What is your opinion so important that you have to let the whole world know? How can you discuss a TV show that you are watching with strangers online? Won't you miss out on living life? They can't understand the sharing of often intimate thoughts to the wide world. They can't understand that someone out there may be listening, when there is sometimes no one physically around us to listen. They can't understand how someone you talk to via a keyboard and an Internet connection can make for a deep, trusting and loving friendship.
Before I started this blog - when I had my other blogs - I never really connected with my readers. Our conversations never strayed from the blog. Meeting someone from the Internet was taboo, and me, being the outcast, always seemed to be meeting boys from the internet. Well not that many, just a few. Meeting people from the internet was considered a little bit daggy - even five years ago. There was an assumption you are lonely and without social skills.
I met this guy once, Chameleon was his ICQ name. I was 17, he was the same age. I guess I had a crush on him. When I came to Melbourne for a hospital trip, my (adult) friends brought me into the city to meet him. I had to give my friends his number, you know, just in case he murdered me. We met at Flinders Street station, under the clocks on the steps. He'd been up all night at a party, and was rather disheveled, with the faint smell of beer and pot on his clothes. My friends were freaking out, calling me on his mobile phone two hours in, to see if they needed to pick me up. He and I walked around the city, we went to see American Pie, and talked. The time spent with each other in person was no where near as interesting as time spent talking on ICQ. There seemed to be an online/offline disconnect. Very different to the way I connect online/offline now.
This past weekend I hung out with three people I met on the Internet. It's the done thing for me. I had lunch with a guy I've been talking with on Twitter - its a small world, we work in buildings next to each other. I saw a concert with Tash - we met via blogging and tweeting, and Camille and I had a cake feast/present exchange yesterday - I joked that I had to stalk her after I read an article she had written about illness that resonated with me, and found out she too was a blogger. Since starting this blog, I have met so many people that I may not have necessarily crossed paths with. Some bloggers, others tweeters. Some are online friends only - the distance keeps us apart, and others are online-come-offline friends. Too many to mention, but I can proudly call some of these online-come-offline friends some of my best friends. I've formed twitter friendships with people I admire - musicians, media personalities and writers - including Charlotte Dawson, Bob Evans, Patience Hodgson and Chrissie Swan. And then there's keeping in touch with old friends and those who have moved away (and even friends that never were my friends back at school) plus relatives I have never met until getting in touch online. We are connected more than ever. And if we allow it - like I have - our social lives can increase considerably.
Even my parents are embracing the Internet. For so many years, I felt they didn't understand my love of connecting online. They'd tell me to get off the internet, and joke about going outside to see what's happening in the real world. Now they are avid Facebook users, Mum has an iPad and Dad writes for an online publication called Think Tasmania. Just recently he declared that the best thing about writing for Think Tasmania was the great people he has met in his travels. It made my heart sing. They get it! They get why I'm so passionate about online connection. And though I am 31, it still feels good to have my parents' approval.
So to close, happy birthday Tune into Radio Carly! Thank you for the outlet to vent, clarify my thoughts, share my achievements, develop a writing portfolio, be the basis of my thesis, and for connecting me with so many wonderful people. And thank you for reading, commenting and sharing. My online life is my real life, and I'm ok with that. I'm not missing out on anything - in fact I'm living life more than ever.
And here's some celebration cake. Because my blog is an extension of me and it too likes cake.