A moment that changed me: my boss discovered my secret blog | Life and style
I I wouldn’t say I was a model employee at the law firm where I worked for almost 10 years, but I was quietly reliable and stayed out of trouble. Everything changed when I was summoned to the office of the senior partner – a man I had never met – to face him, my distinctly somber-looking boss and a stone-faced HR rep. . I was definitely in trouble: my employers knew about my anonymous blog.
The blog and the work were linked from the start. Trying to reconcile the parenthood of two small children, the intense hours and the demands of our terrifying clients as a lawyer in the City having proved impossible, I had therefore taken a secondary role in Brussels. It wasn’t a job that I particularly liked, but it was easy and I never had to talk to bankers. The work was not stressful, but boring; I inevitably spent those boring hours on the internet.
It was 2008, the heyday of blogging, and, in what we strangely called the “blogosphere,” women were telling their lives in raw, unsupervised, and funny ways. It was like a special moment and, looking back, I’m even more aware of how special and short-lived it was. Nothing was off limits: bloggers I loved wrote about their minds, bodies and relationships (an acquaintance from Brussels wrote a blog called My Boyfriend is a Twat) or the disconcerting experience of parenthood, how it could to be an alienating and exhausting boredom as well as a joy. There were no “brand partnerships”, but blogging seemed to offer something even better: community and real connection.
I had always wanted to write, but without experience, without contacts and without knowing how to go about it, I had never tried. Stuck in my boring office, reading blog after blog, I thought to myself: I could do it. I chose the simplest platform and a silly blog name that still haunts my professional life: Belgian Waffling (Belgian Waffle was taken).
Blogging made the impossible possible: I wrote voraciously, never short of material. A lot had happened in the previous years: I had had two babies, moved three times, lost a parent, and lost my mind more than once. Sometimes I wrote about it; more often than not, I reviewed snacks, told about strange encounters in the street or explained Belgian supermarkets. The sweet nonsense of office life – unnecessary internal meetings, corporate jargon, and bizarre office traditions – was also fruitful material, and I made my colleagues a cast of characters: the chic French junior in dizzying Louboutin; the outrageously anti-PC boss; the office colleague of a disarming frankness.
Little by little, I found a few readers and, little by little, this readership grew. It was a truly transformative time: to finally be writing was finally exhilarating, and I made real connections, making friends who remain deeply rooted in the fabric of my life and enjoying a multitude. odd or moving occasional exchanges. My blog wasn’t very popular, but a handful of “decent” writers also read it and apparently liked it, so I ended up with an offer to appear and be photographed for an article. from the Sunday Times on blogs. Eventually, I felt like something that I really wanted was happening in my life.
Looking back, it’s mind boggling that I didn’t realize by appearing in a national newspaper that I published myself. I called my workplace “the corridor of boredom” online: surely I should have seen problems coming? But I didn’t, until the night of the article’s release, when I realized with a wave of terror that almost every blog visitor in the last few hours had my IP address. employer.
In fact, that dark panel of my bosses was pretty sweet. I was not fired or asked to stop writing. I just had to delete all work related messages and never write about work again. Even so, afterwards, I felt obscurely ashamed every time I walked into the office, knowing everything my coworkers had read about my life. I had written casually and freely, as if the Internet was a fairy-tale circle of protected trust in which nothing bad could happen. It was an illusion that I could no longer support.
A few months later, I was back in the same office, laid off. I can’t be sure the two events were related, but if you have to let someone go, the person who wrote about how boring their job was might not be the worst choice. “Why are you still here if you hate it?” »The HR manager hissed at me one day as he passed. It was a good question, and unhappy as I was, my firing looked like a good cop.
I did not try to find another legal job: my indiscretion had made me unemployable in the sector. It was terrifying, but also galvanizing: I needed to find another way to make a living, quickly. Blogging had shown me that living could, perhaps, be written: 12 years later, it turns out it is.
I always cringe when I think of the sloppy idiocy of writing about online work, something any 16-year-old knows not to do. I write differently now, agonizing over any possible injustice or inaccuracy, guessing what reaction she might have; I did this while writing this. I write, ironically, much like a lawyer. But if I hadn’t given myself this stupid, illegal push, I might still be in the hall of boredom.