I remember screaming in the middle of a filled parking lot several months ago. My sophomore year in college had just ended, and my entire high school friend group had discarded me, for reasons belonging to both me and them. I felt so alone sitting in my car, right outside the central shopping mall of my hometown where we all used to hang out. My hands gripped the plastic covering of the steering wheel as ugly animal sounds shot out of my body and filled the stale air around me. I hated myself in that moment: I hated how isolated and weak I felt, I hated how I had pushed my friends away and how they had stayed away, and most of all, I hated my inability to treat myself with the compassion I so often applied to others. This is painful and this is pathetic, I recall thinking to myself. Pull yourself together. Now.
Words have always done more than pull me together; they have given me the strength to save myself, again and again and again. Writing and reading have supplied me with the tools to sharpen my arguments, to hone my empathy, and to find solidarity even in the darkest of times. At their most powerful, words act as an invitation, as an opening of the self that asks, with just the right amount of conviction: do you want to join the conversation? An article about a Harvard-trained neuroscientist opening up about her failed marriages, an essay about the essence of female pain, a book about living and thriving with a mental illness – all of these words shed light on difficult subjects, on the challenges we all face yet often feel too scared to talk about.
But words can fail us, too. They can fail us when we use them without thinking about how they will impact others, when our audience refuses to listen to them, and when they provide an incomplete snapshot of our inner and outer worlds. Echoing that third concern, I often hesitate when it comes to this blog – what if someone were to come across an old post and judge me for my past beliefs? What if someone I respect criticizes my current ideas? What if someone reads my writing and finds it too self-centered, too redemptive, or too meandering?
If you had just read about what happened in my car, you would have received an incomplete picture. You would not have seen how I then sat straight back in my seat and calmed myself through meditation, how I drove for two and a half hours to see my therapist, and how I have worked since then to grow and accept my emotions. Yes, that time in the parking lot sucked. But so much more came after it. All pain and all feelings fade with time, and that incident provided an opening for progress and new beginnings.
I feel the same way about this blog: it serves as an opening. You may see my in-the-moment angst or my previous opinions on things, but you do not see all the hours I have spent having deep conversations or laughing out loud with my friends, the time I have spent creating and leading mental health initiatives, and the more nuanced and fulfilling perspective I approach life with. Of course I have an obligation to portray myself a certain way on this blog and face the consequences, to take the critiques as they come and learn from them. But in the end, like with all words, this blog acts as an invitation – for you to learn more and lend your own voice to the conversation.
I have written this blog for five years now. I hope you can see how much I have changed since 2010. Maybe I will have to delete this blog at some point for circumstances outside of my control, but for now, as I sit and finish this post in my hotel room overlooking Boston, I want you to join me. Writing comes from humans, and humans are imperfect, so our writing will be imperfect too – but that is no reason to stop trying, to stop writing. I cannot wait to read what you have to say.
What do you think of your writing and of the purpose of writing overall? How have you all been? Friends, I just embarked on my winter break, so expect at least a couple more posts in the upcoming weeks. I also have some good news to share in a future post as well. I have been meaning to write more on this blog and the general argument of this post came to mind, in particular because of how I have explored creative nonfiction more as of late. Hope to hear your thoughts and thanks for sticking with me through all these years!