Ten years ago today, I opened wordpress.com for the first time and started this blog. I published a short, not terribly interesting post about why I named the blog 2Summers and my recent experience obtaining an international driver’s license for my impending move from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg. (I started the blog six weeks before moving.)
There were no photos in that first post and I didn’t share it on social media. About five people read it at the time.
It’s strange that this ten-year anniversary is happening so soon after I celebrated the publication of my 1000th blog post. Ten years, 2010 to 2020, 1000 posts, 100 posts per year…Everything is so neatly divisible by ten. Nine has always been my lucky number but maybe it should be ten.
It’s also strange to be experiencing all these huge personal milestones during a global pandemic, which — much like the past ten years of my life — feels at once both unfathomable and inevitable.
New people are always asking: How did you wind up in South Africa? If the time is right, and the person asking the question is right, I’ll occasionally give a detailed answer. But most of the time I deliver a simple one-liner — “I moved here to be with my South African boyfriend” — and hope that will suffice. If the person probes further I’ll say something like, “It’s a long, dramatic story”, or “It was an Eat Pray Love kind of thing.”
Eat Pray Love, a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, was published in 2006. It’s about a 30-something American woman writer, married and preparing to have children, who suddenly realizes she’s unhappy. She abruptly leaves her husband, experiences acute emotional turmoil, then gets a book deal and embarks on a one-year journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia, where she rediscovers her passion for life, finds her true self, and of course meets a wonderful man at the end. (She later divorces that man but it happens in another book.)
I’m not sure exactly when I read Eat Pray Love, probably around 2008 or 2009. But I distinctly remember sitting on the train on my way home from work and reading the passage in which Liz finds herself sobbing on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night, knowing she has to tell her husband she’s leaving him. I was thunderstruck but didn’t know why.
I didn’t realize that at some point soon, I was going to experience a nearly identical moment to Liz’s moment on the bathroom floor. I had no idea that on a freezing January night in the very near future, I would stand on the deck of my suburban townhome, take a deep breath and a drag from a cigarette, and say to my husband: “I am living the wrong life.” Then pack a suitcase the next morning and leave and never come back. To this day, I still can’t believe I did that.
I didn’t realize I was about to embark on a parallel journey to Liz Gilbert’s, except my journey would be ten-plus years instead of one. And I didn’t have a book deal.
I didn’t realize that more than ten years later, I would be sitting in my house in Johannesburg watching the film adaptation of Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts. I did that last night, on the eve of my ten-year blogiversary. Somehow I’d never watched the film before and suddenly there it was, staring at me on Netflix. I pressed play.
I wound up turning it off two-thirds of the way through — the Eat Pray Love film is nowhere near as good as the book. But it did give me an idea for this blog post.
I think I can do what Liz Gilbert did. Maybe my book won’t be a number-one New York Times bestseller and the most successful memoir of all time, but I think I can make a book about this decade of my life. I just need to figure out a way to be clever and brave like Liz was, and sit the fuck down and write it.
That was my original intent when I started this blog: It was meant to be the jumping-off point for a book. Then 2Summers turned into something else and I got sidetracked, for a decade.
I need to do it now — I KNOW I do — and the signs seem to be pointing me in that direction. I’m not yet ready to say I definitely will do it. But I probably will, soon.
I think you sell yourself short by comparing your story to Eat, Pray, Love (nothing against that book). Just saying that you are so perfectly unique and your journey is incredible, complicated, inspirational, layered and most important, your own. Congrats on 10 years. What a great gift you gave yourself, first and foremost, and thanks so much for sharing it with us as well. I feel very lucky to be along for the ride. Peace.
Thanks so much, Gary. It’s funny — I hadn’t done that Eat Pray Love comparison for a while and then it showed up on my screen all of a sudden last night. I thought it was a sign. Anyway, thanks for continuing to read and comment all these years. I really appreciate it and I still miss those EGPAF days.
Thank you so much for your hard work in putting stories that have touched too many lives especially mine. I remember you and Jon like it was yesterday. Love you and hang in there. I can’t wait to read more books that you are going to author!❤️❤️🤟
I love you too Flo. Miss you, as always! ❤️
The book is almost never as good as the movie.
Writing a book is not easy. But neither is blogging for ten years! Congrats on both (because I know you’re gonna write that book).
Thanks 🙂 Yeah, I actually started the book about 5-6 years ago but floundered and quit — it’s a lot different from blogging. But I’m running out of excuses…Writing a book is a pretty good way to pass the time during a pandemic.
It is, although I find myself distracted and slow about everything right now!
You don’t need to find a way to be clever and brave like Liz was. You are already clever and brave as the Heather that you are. You’ve already started the book, and when you find a way to harness your cleverness and courage, you will write it
Thank you so much, Amaechi. I really appreciate that 🙂
Wow! What a ride Heather. I must be one of the 5 that read that first post and have read each once ever since. I have laughed, cried and been part of this life that you share so generously with all of us. You are an inspiration. Congratulations on 10 years and please write the book. It will be a bestseller with the 2summers gang for sure.
Rhoda! It’s so mice to hear from you. All of my EGPAF friends are speaking up on this post. I hope you’re doing well. Thank you so much for reading all these years. xxx
I have to admit, I don’t often read blog posts anymore as I have been out of the blogging game for so long but I still occasionally read yours. Also I think you are still one of the few people who still regularly updates their blog from all the people I subscribed to years ago!
I don’t think you need to compare yourself to Liz Gilbert. Your story is so much more interesting, heartbreaking, moving, and deeper than hers with lots of twists and turns. I really hated Eat, Pray, Love and really did not find it remarkable at all. Liz Gilbert comes off as a bored, shallow, whiny suburban housewife who wanted more adventure out of her life. Okay, fine, that’s cool. But then she specifically got a book deal to travel the world to “find herself as if that were some groundbreaking idea. She didn’t even travel the world for herself, she did it for a book deal! She did that Western white lady thing where she parroted BS wisdom as she goes around the world (this was particularly egregious when she was in India and Indonesia). In the end, her story has a happy ending and she falls in love with a new guy. I know she eventually divorced him to go be with her female friend who was dying of cancer–that’s a whole other story I won’t get into but it’ll probably become a book too.
Your story is so much richer. It’s messy, it’s up and down, it’s real life. You didn’t move to South Africa for a book deal, you did it for yourself and because you wanted to be with Jon. I would totally read it if you ever decided to write and publish it. I hope you do someday!
Hi Amelie! It’s so nice to hear from you and I hope you’re doing well. Thank you so much for the comment. In my original draft of this post I had actually written, “I think my story is more interesting than Liz Gilbert’s” but then I took it out because it sounded obnoxious. The truth is she knows how to write a successful book. But thank you for confirming my suspicions 🙂 All the best!
Congrats Heather! Thanks for your blog! I support the book, you have a story to tell and you will reach hearts… Go for it!
Thanks Russell 🙂
Heather, I am an avid follower of your blogs and I can’t wait to see any book you will produce. It must be a difficult thing to do but but so is anything else that is worthwhile.
I follow an Irish novelist by the name of Jean Grainger who publishes several best-sellers every year. She was asked how she maintains such an output and her answer was, “You can only edit work after it has been typed. I set myself to type 2000 new words per day. They are not perfect, but at least I then have something to work on and soon it all falls into place. A blank page is not good to anyone.”
That’s good advice. Thanks Stan.
We are waiting…..you have a very unique story to tell after all – don’t even draw parallels to Eat Pray Love. I’m busy listening (this must be the new reading) to ‘Restless’ by William Boyd narrated by Rosamund Pike who does an incredible job. Superb story telling and the narration just gives it a whole new dimension. So many of us are wishing you well….
Thank you so much Rosemary.
As always, go girl!👍😀
A book!!! Of course! You have an incredibly interesting story and a special, warm writing style.
Please do it.
Oh, and congratulations on your 10th anniversary! And 1000th post! 🎉🎊
Well done for keeping it up! 😊
Thanks Catrina 🙂
I’ve only been reading your blog for a few months, but I think you have a fascinating story here! And you already have a blog audience, which will go far with agents and publishers considering signing you up. I really hope you go for it.
Thank you Connie! I really appreciate that.
I can’t wait to read that book. From just reading your blog posts, I can tell it’s gonna be an amazing book
Thank you so much Jane!
Also… you could start by turning your story into a really tight, really abbreviated version of itself for the NYT’s Modern Love column. I’m told that many, many memoir deals come out of that. It’s hard to get in, so you’d need to study the thing, but if it worked out, you’d be on track to a book contract.
I am obsessed with the Modern Love podcast and I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. I just struggle to figure out what the angle will be. But thanks for the reminder – it could definitely be a good way to start, even if I dint make it into the column.
As they say in the Chinese shoe sweat shops, Just Do It! I received – if that is not too innocent a way to describe the experience – 174 rejections for my first paperback back in 2016. I have now just completed my fourth manuscript, the first three having been “best sellers” here in SA. Your strength on the publishing side will be having an easier portal into US publishing where they love “into Africa” stories by their own (not so much “in Africa” ones by actual Africans, apparently). Yours is too good to not succeed. BTW, Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Last Man in America” is an amazing book too, but in a very different way. Bon voyage to lots and lots and lots of bum time.
Thank you so much David! 174 rejections must have been hard – well done for pushing through. I really appreciate the advice.
Wow thank you for the blog and can’t wait for the book. So glad you chose South Africa.
Thank you Graham!
I am formally placing my order for your book now. Go write.
Ok, done 🙂
Just write paragraphs, make notes. So it can start developing in the back of the mind, so to speak. …No need to think about the beginning and the process or structure or anything.
Thanks you. That’s good advice.
Writing your story is the way to go; agree that it will be a best seller 🙂
The advice about just getting something down on paper (or screen) – so that there is something to work off – is priceless.
And – hey – it’s cold but the sun is shining in Jozi today!
Yes. There’s always a bright side.
Sending you many congratulations, much love and a huge hug. This is a wonderful idea – and you’re already 1000 blog posts closer to a bound copy… xoxo
Congrats on 10 years! You made me wonder if I already acknowledged that on my own; can’t remember anymore. Sometimes milestones just roll on by, and I’m okay with that too.
Writing a book on the past 10 years will probably be therapeutic and help organize your thoughts. But perhaps instead of declaring, “I’m writing a book” which is daunting and hard to start, you might just tell yourself, “I want to write down the last 10 yrs of my life” and then it might come easier, and you don’t have the pressure of it becoming SOMETHING. Do it for you. xo
That’s a good suggestion! Thanks.
Bring on the book!!! Happy blogiversary 🙂
Thanks Rebecca 🙂