i recently took yet another nostalgic tour through my thousands of usenet postings, spanning five or six years. (my previous lj entry was something i dug up, having completely forgotten i wrote it.) thank god for groups.google.com. once they shut that thing down, i will have lost a major connection with my past.
eighty percent of what i wrote back then is solid, honest, well-informed, and easy to follow. i know it's hard to believe, since i'm not very popular on livejournal, but back then it was rare for me to write anything that didn't get 15 follow-ups. but every now and then i would go off on some ridiculous tirade or unnecessary personal attack, all this rage boiling up from nowhere. worse, it was entirely unpredictable. i'll be reading some thread that starts with a top-level post i wrote, then some snotty reply from somebody else, and then, here in the present, i hold my breath: what's it going to be this time? sometimes i would ignore the responder entirely. rarely, i would do the right thing, look past the snark, and respond to whatever else that person might have said. sometimes i would respond with exactly the same amount of snark i'd been given. every once in a great while, i'd haul out the big guns and use something i'd learned about that person months or years earlier and really whop them a good one, drawing blood. yeah, i wonder which relative of mine that type of behavior reminds me of. i know a bunch of those flames must have connected, because many times that would be the catalyst that starts that person responding to everything i say with endless vitriol. i'd usually ignore such a person afterwards, because it was never personal. i had my little rage attack and then it was over, as far as i was concerned. but the archives often show that person still ladling on the snark, months later. not exactly the sort of long-term effect on other human beings that a guy can be proud of.
reading those old usenet interactions lets me get a good look at the way i was back then, in a way that nothing else can. my memory is faulty and slanted. nobody was following me around with a tape recorder in those days. i wasn't quite so unpredictable in real life as i was in cyberspace, but the principal still holds: sometimes i would go off on people due to tiny, insignificant slights, not because i was angry specifically at whoever my current target was, but because i was angry in general. i burned a lot of bridges that way.
i think it's safe to say i've got phase one of my recovery out of the way. i don't write on lj nearly as often as i did on usenet, but in the couple of years i've been here, i've never once written an entry or a reply with the sort of ugly negativity that marred my years on usenet. no vendettas, no attacks, not one single flame war. what it means, though, is that i've not been able to write many of the stories going through my head. i've lost track of the number of times i've gone to type up something, it turns ugly, i put it away for the night, i look at it the next day, i think "this is the sort of thing that you're going to read years from now and regret," then trash it. i've got a whole lot of stories like that, in limbo. the next phase is being able to write "my job is challenging for all the wrong reasons" and let my audience fill in the blanks. i'm not there yet.