Letter 2: A missing text-based YouTuber

Hi everyone,

I'm writing this from the rooftop of my campervan somewhere in Germany near Strasbourg, France. The baby is asleep at the back and I can hear my wife brushing her teeth in the toilet. Oh, and our poodle Brownie is sitting next to me looking at me weirdly. All is normal.

This post is really a letter - an update to you about my headspace, what I'm up to, and why I haven't posted in something like two weeks. You hadn't noticed? That's a relief.

Person missing for weeks

Why haven't I posted something in some weeks? Wasn't I supposed to be sending you these emails once a week, damn it?! The reason is the simplest one of all... I prioritised other things. I believe we all need breaks from any long-term endeavour. Being a dad? Need a break sometimes. Being a newsletter writer? Need a break sometimes.

While I've been away from writing, I've been mostly travelling. A good friend of ours travelled to Berlin recently with their family, and we hosted them in our apartment. After which, we travelled to Innsbruck (wow!), Salzburg, and Vienna together. We visited too many Christkindlemärkte (Christmas markets) to count! All were great. Their dad likes beer, so I drank a lot in a week.

The beautiful Wiener Christkindlemarkt in Vienna, Austria

Then I got back to our apartment in Berlin, worked for two days, and hit the road again. This time we're taking the longest drive on our campervan ever. We'll be driving some 3,000 km by the time we're done, and we'll be somewhere an hour's drive from Málaga, on the southern coast of Spain. It will be warm(er) and there will be a beach within walking distance. We've booked ourselves an apartment there for 3 months. The total rent is 2,700 euros all-in.

This is to say that for the winter months of December to February, I should be in better moods than hypothetical Nick-who-is-still-in-cold-Berlin. Good riddance!

It's a really weird thing for a person who grew up sweating profusely on a tropical island to say that he is sick of the cold. But here we are; it has happened. I, Singaporean Nick, after just 3 winters, am tired of being cold for a whole season.

As I sit here pondering how this came to be, I recall the scene of exchange students sitting on the fields at my university, baking under the heat of the equatorial sun. If you asked them, they'd probably prefer the word "basking." They enjoyed it. I passed it off as a novelty. Try living here for 20 years; see if you'd still do such a thing!, I'd murmur to myself.

Well, novelty indeed. For the first 3 winters in Berlin, I enjoyed getting out of the warm apartment and stepping in the crisp cold morning air. It reminded me of my month-long exchange to Imperial College London where I first experienced waking regularly to that kind of air. Every morning when I started my commute to work (I did use to work in an office, which seems like a long time ago) I felt like I was living the dream. Now I'm escaping winter by heading south like those Europeans who can afford to.

So, yeah, that's why I haven't posted anything in a few weeks. I expect my travelling to slow down once we arrive in Spain. Barring the potential of terrible internet there, I should be getting back to the rhythm of publishing weekly again.

My headspace

TL;DR: It's a mess up there, but I'm learning to go with it. To be honest, I'm feeling pretty good.

I often wonder what I should write about next. Most of the time I shoot my own ideas down before I sit down to write a draft because I'm overly critical about what is worthy of landing in your inbox. It's a stupid thing, really, because I don't actually want to care about your opinions on what I write. I just want to be free to write whatever I find interesting. But I do. I do care about your opinion. I write and publish a letter like this in all its me-centricity despite knowing that some of you might not care.

I'm not trying to fish for encouragement or "I know how you feel"s here. I'm merely trying to put into words how I feel - feelings that I have noticed myself refusing to acknowledge as legitimate time and again. Writing words and publishing to people's inboxes is terrifying and so easy at the same time that it's hard to know how to feel about it, especially if you don't know what niche you are writing in and are really just fumbling around in the dark, knocking shit over while groping the wrong things.

Yet, I know I will keep trying to figure it out. I will keep writing. You will keep hearing from this bumble bee.

A text-based YouTuber?

One idea I've had recently is to start writing like I'm a text-based YouTuber. Funny how I needed to do this kind of mental gymnastics to legitimise my itch to blog. YouTube is synonymous with vlogging, which is video blogging. Text-based vlogging is just blogging, dummy.

The yucky thing for me about blogging is the fact that I am de-facto the centre of the post. I am writing a weblog (blog) about something that happened in my life. It reeks of narcissism and I hate the idea. Yet I'm drawn to it.

Back when I was in university I co-wrote a paper that eventually got published in Environmental Education Research. The method we used was called autoethnography - ethnography meaning "studying something by being embedded such that the things/people being studied don't know you are studying them" and auto meaning "done by oneself, drawing from one's personal experience."

I like the fact that that paper got published, but I love the fact that blogging, done somewhat professionally, has a legitimate place in academia. From the Wikipedia entry for autoethnography:

Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore anecdotal and personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings.

Perhaps this is the way I need to frame the idea of trying to be a text-based YouTuber for me to actually do it. A mind hack, ladies and gentlemen. I be doing autoethnography as a text-based YouTuber.

... Alright, my body is freezing as I'm wearing only a tee-shirt with my arms exposed to the 3-degree celsius air. I will end this letter here for now.

I hope you had a fantastic weekend. Have a good new week!

Oh, and I’ve recently made public a paying subscribers-only post about the environment in which we raise our children - you can read it now.


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