Twenty years is a long time.
My first day here, half a lifetime ago, I was lured in by an argument about a game show. At the time I was a weird, shy, polite boy whose online presence was tied heavily to angelic imagery. I wanted to try on a sharper, more sardonic persona, so instead of naming myself after another choir of angel, I picked up on a comment a classicist I'd dated made about one of my poems. In the beginning, E2 was play. Mostly, it gave me some place to write without any preconceived notions of what my writing looked like. But without realizing it had happened, instead of a place where I could practice trying on different masks, it became a place where I could express myself honestly. It became something like family. And later, noders literally became family. I wrote pompous things with terrible titles, and some people liked what I put out anyway, while others gave kind constructive feedback.
I was already a grownup before I hit submit on my first writeup, but in a very real way, I grew up here. I workshopped ideas, collaborated with others, fell in love, got married, mourned departed friends. And then life happened, as life does, and I found myself here less and less frequently.
The boy who came here in 2000 would never have guessed he would be reviewed favorably in Publishers Weekly, and Locus. The not-quite-young person is still frankly astonished that he's made the shortlist for an award. People pay me to write things. Me! It's hard to know what paths our lives would take if we had made different choices, but I don't know if I'd be in the same place right now as a writer without both the freedom to make mistakes and the found family I discovered here. And I know I wouldn't be in the same place if I had never met Montag late one February night almost a decade ago.
I'm still bad at titles, a thing people have skewered me for before. And I don't do much writing for free anymore, although the sheer joy of it has never left me. I miss what E2 was, but part of growing up is knowing that even if you go back home, it's not the way it was, no matter how many keepsafes remain exactly where you left them. Still, this place has so much goodness left in it.
I hope it's still around when I'm twenty years older.