Today, Nerdy Girl Notes turns four years old. In my first post on this site, I wrote a sentence that I still believe with every fiber of my being:
I can’t imagine a better, more fulfilling life than the life of a nerdy girl.
A lot of things can change in four years. And a lot of things have changed over the last four years—not just for NGN as a site but for me as a person. But my goal from the start has always been to keep NGN moving forward, and I’d like to think I’ve done that—moving forward in the process of becoming not just a better writer but a better version of myself through running this site.
When I look back on some of my oldest NGN posts, I’m struck by how much distance I kept between myself and what I was writing about. I was afraid to get too personal—and the secret is, sometimes I still am. It’s scary to be vulnerable, it’s scary to talk about how much something means to you, and it’s scary to talk about yourself through a medium that makes that writing available to anyone who wants to read it and comment on it. In my quest to be as open as I can be in my writing, I’ve discovered that emotional honesty is a double-edged sword. It allows you to form genuine connections with people through your writing, but it also allows people who don’t like a particular thing you’ve written or an opinion you’ve shared to believe they can judge you as a person because of it. There have been plenty of occasions—this year perhaps more than any other—where it’s felt easier to just hide behind a more impersonal approach to writing or to just stop writing altogether. Because writing with honesty and vulnerability is hard.
But to quote one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard…The hard is what makes it great.” And it is great. And part of the reason it’s so great is because it’s scary. Running this site and sharing my writing with all of you has made me feel braver than I could ever have hoped to feel. And this year I’ve felt braver than ever before.
A year ago, I wrote a post to celebrate NGN’s birthday, and I was already formulating plans in my head (and with Heather) to tell all of you about the idea that would become The Fan Mail Project. Today, I’m writing this post with a folder on my computer filled with 70+ letters from people around the world who’ve trusted me with the stories of their personal connections to female characters. In writing my own letters for this book and in reading all of yours, I’ve learned that it takes incredible courage to stand in your truth and share that truth with others. I’ve also learned that when you write with your walls down and your heart open, you have more room to let people in, and those people will stand beside you as you find the courage to share your truth.
NGN is different than it was when I first started it, and that’s because I’m different. Its posts are less academic and critical in nature and more personal. And I hope that people who visit this site see that change as something that’s made NGN stronger, because I certainly feel stronger than I was four years ago.
If I feel stronger now, it’s because my support system is also stronger. As Leslie Knope said, “No one achieves anything alone.” And that’s certainly true for NGN. This site isn’t just a reflection of me. It’s a reflection of every brave and beautiful contributing writer who’s ever posted here. It’s a reflection of every warm, welcoming, and wonderful commenter who’s ever graced an NGN comments section. It’s a reflection of every supportive person who’s ever spread the word about this site or shared a kind thought with me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or any other form of social media. And it’s a reflection of the unbreakable bonds of friendship that have been forged or strengthened through our little NGN Family. I am honored to call so many of you my friends, and I hope you know that NGN exists as it does today because of you. On days when writing the way I do feels hard, you make me stronger and braver than I ever could have been without you.
This has been an exciting year of big steps forward at NGN, and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning or are just visiting the site for the first time today, thanks for coming along for the ride!