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Today is my 2-year Rico-versary. Two years ago, I took the plunge, forked over the cost of a grande latte at Starbucks (remember that?), and put up my first post.
Life has certainly changed since then, and Ricochet has been a very positive part of that. I think I would have been pretty thrilled two years ago if you’d shown me what my life would be like today.
At the time I had a two-year-old and a four-month-old, both of whom are now little perpetual motion machines brimming over with energy. That cast has expanded to include a third little boy, now closing in on his first birthday, intently focused on assuming the upright posture before he gets there. Any day now we’re going to have three sets of feet scampering through the kitchen, tracking garden mud all over the place. The Lu household can be a mad, mad, mad, mad world sometimes, but as the younger ones grew to assume playmate status, I came to realize what a blessing it was to have them all close together like this. Little boys are so much happier in packs.
Then there’s Ricochet. When I joined I was coming off a somewhat unhappy period of chasing a career I really wanted but that just wasn’t going to happen. It’s hard to know when to call it quits, especially when (as so often happens in life) the reasons why things aren’t working seem kind of stupid and circumstantial. Also, my family situation had me semi-trapped at the fringes of the professional world I wanted to be in, and that made it hard to throw in the towel. But I’d finally made my peace with the situation and decided to get more creative about looking for some new horizons. I couldn’t just up and move (one problem with the academic career), but, happily, we live in an information age. Opportunity is only as far away as your nearest computer console.
Joining Ricochet was my husband’s idea. He was one of those podcast listeners who never really participated on the site. (As a junior academic working on his tenure file, he didn’t need any extra distractions.) But he realized that it might be just the ticket for me, since I was looking for a place where I could try some non-academic styles of writing. Ricochet seemed to have all the right ingredients: friendly atmosphere, smart interlocutors, the potential to attract a little attention if you wrote something good, but no real performance pressure. Perfect for a beginner.
Joining Ricochet was everything I wanted and much more. It’s sort of hard to describe how great it felt to post on any topic of my choosing. I had stayed away from politics for several years, partly to keep focus on my graduate work, but also because I knew perfectly well that connecting myself to conservative politics would poison my academic prospects. Conservative graduate students sometimes dream about the crazy things they’ll do and say once they get tenure and don’t have to “hide” anymore. I never got tenure, but Ricochet gave me that “coming out” party in a different way. Posting conservative opinions under my own name was so liberating. And after years of lobbying my dissertation committee to read drafts of my work (and to be honest, I’m not totally confident that some of them ever read the whole thing), it seemed like a preposterous luxury to post an argument and then discuss it with intelligent people that same afternoon. What a world!
There was another side to Ricochet, though, that I hadn’t considered at all — but that, in the end, was really the best part. Ricochet is a real community made up of ordinary conservatives, which is to say people trying to live good and honorable lives under a whole variety of circumstances. For someone like me (a young adult immersed in a world of Catholic academics), it isn’t always easy to get that kind of perspective on life. Ricochet connected me to older, more experienced people who had a lot of wisdom and precious insight into the vicissitudes of life. People talk here about the various challenges they’ve faced in the course of adult life. They build businesses and they cope with bankruptcy. They weather marital challenges, or they make the most of the single life. They take pride in parenting successes, and they make peace with disappointments or sometimes tragic loss.
Before Ricochet, I don’t think I’d fully reflected on how hard it is for young people to get that breadth of insight into life. Nor had I realized how badly we need it. It really shows how many sides there are to Ricochet.
On one hand the site has served as a wonderful platform from which to start a new semi-career. As writers go, I’m small-time for sure, but small-time can be great for a busy mom. Remembering how I felt two years ago (trapped, muzzled, overlooked), it seems like I have a totally different life. Even my marginal freelance earnings really make a significant difference. This semester, when my university didn’t have a course for me to adjunct, I was able to replace most of that income as a freelancer. How wonderful to have options! It would have been hard to find an entry point to that world without the warm-water introduction of Ricochet.
At the same time, though, I really feel humbled to be part of the community here. Hanging around the Member Feed, I start to appreciate that America’s real strength is found in people like the ones I meet here, who raise families and balance budgets and work difficult, unglamorous jobs without complaining. People here understand that it’s better to live a meaningful life than an easy one. They know that virtue and honor matter more than wealth or recognition. Being here makes me realize how far I have to go, but it’s also encouraging, because I can see that I already have the ingredients of a great life (family, happy marriage, church community etc.). Thirty years from now, I hope I can reflect back with satisfaction on what I’ve made of those gifts, as I often see people do here.
Thanks, Ricochet community, for two very good years. I’m so grateful to be included, and I feel really honored to know you all. To many more happy Rico-years!