Love Me, Hate Me, Talk to Me: Why I Will Keep the Quiet Voice

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.

self compassion selfie

Flashback to seven months ago when I took a self-compassion selfie, aka, a selfie with the book Self-Compassion.

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.

charles river in boston

Flash forward to today when I took this picture of the Charles River in Boston, where my favorite writer – Caroline Knapp – used to row before she passed away.

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!


Filed under Personal

24 responses to “Love Me, Hate Me, Talk to Me: Why I Will Keep the Quiet Voice

  1. Thomas, thank you for writing this post. Lately I’ve been feeling the same way, and have thus resorted more and more to poetry, as opposed to blog posts. Words are so tricky and often feel unfair, but you manage to capture the beauty and the meaning of them time and time again.

    All the best, and hope you are enjoying your winter break!
    Grace 🙂

    • Writing can be a painful process at times, and I am sure there are many who have taken breaks from certain styles – or from writing altogether – to regain their stamina and to let their voices heal. I hope you are finding fulfillment with your poetry, and thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. (:

  2. Yay! First off, it makes me happy for that you’re keeping the blog. But also, yes, yes, yes, I agree with everything. Writing is powerful and great, and can be an important window to a different perspective. It’s so educational.

    And yet that power can be used for bad, too. Anything with power can be distorted to bring about negative results. I’m glad you’re using it for the opposite 🙂

  3. Please don’t delete this blog, ever (even if you want to, keep a copy of it somehow. I even got joy from reading some seriously embarrassing journals I found when clearing out a box – far worse than anything you’ve ever written here, I mean, seriously bad … YET, I wrote down the day I met a friend I still have now, 25 years later. How often do we find we have a note of the very day we met a particular friend?).

    I love reading about what you’re up to and seeing how you’re doing. I like that you have this more private and ruminative space to balance all the sterling work you do for other people in more public spaces. I’m glad to know you read our responses and look out for them. I wish you peace and friendship over the winter break.

    • Aw, Liz, thank you for your kindness and for guiding me with your maturity throughout the time we have known each other. You are right that it is important to keep a recollection of memories, especially the embarrassing ones – even if for me that will involve sharing them all in a public space. Glad to know you are doing well and I love your use of the word “sterling.” I hope your transition into 2016 is fabulous.

  4. I love your blog and how you use words to describe my feeling. I don’t comment here very often, because I feel inadequate expressing myself in English, but I do today to tell you that I enjoy reading your posts, and I think you have a wonderful taste in books & you’re an amazing human being. Please keep on writing and knowing that there are many “incognito” readers out there rooting for you 🙂 Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

    • Oh, Phuong, please do not feel inadequate expressing yourself in English – it’s the ideas and thoughts that matter the most, not the gritty details of how we get them across. Your message means the world to me and I appreciate your time and compassion so much. Thank you for stopping by, and I also hope you have had a great holiday season.

  5. Maddie

    Thank you for writing this blog for this long. I started reading it about a year and a half ago, and some of the things you write really make me think. From what you’ve revealed, I think that you and I have a lot of differences, but I also think that you and I would be fast friends, if we ever got the chance to meet.
    Anyway, writing. Writing isn’t really as important to me as it is to some, but it has been very influential in my life. When I feel strong emotions, I write. If I’m exceedingly angry about something, I’ve always found some degree of solace in a pen and paper. When I’m overwhelmingly in love with my boyfriend, I write letters to him. When I’m terribly sad about some small or large crisis, I write.
    One of the beautiful things about writing, to me, is that it can be so personal and so private. I can write the most ridiculous, embarrassing, unacceptable things in my journal, and no one ever has to know those thoughts crossed my mind. I can write an absurdly cheesy, mushy-gushy letter to Nate (my boyfriend), but no one ever will have to read it.
    I guess writing is so beautiful for me because it allows me to be my true self without having to worry about what the world thinks about me. I know that I should just be myself and show it off, but it’s not that easy. Writing helps me do that.
    Thank you for encouraging me to think about this, Thomas. Happy holidays!

    • Maddie, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I love how you believe that we would be fast friends even if we have our differences; I feel that understanding and appreciating each others’ differences can often bring great reward in relationships. As for your writing, I find it so cool that you can use it to express a gamut of emotions. However, what I find most striking about what you have written is the idea of the “public vs. private” sphere of writing – and how we have the option of determining which sphere we want our writing to inhabit. I feel like that grants us another level of autonomy in our writing, our ability to choose our target audience, which is perhaps something I have thought less about because so much of my writing is either public or for very specific people.

      It brings much warmth to my heart to know that you have been reading this blog for awhile, and I appreciate your genuine insight so much. Hope your holiday season had been solid and that you have a fabulous transition into 2016!

  6. I’m glad that you’re keeping this blog. You are much braver than I to post about all the really personal stuff and share it with the world, so I totally commend you for that. Thanks for keeping us all posted and I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future. I think writing is very important, at least in my life. It’s a way for me to process through my feelings and getting them on paper, or at the very least on a computer screen, really helps. It’s the reason I’ve started journaling again and writing poetry when I’m able. It also helps me feel a little bit less screwed up. Feel free to share some of the nonfiction on here if you want, I would read it.

    • Rachel, as the end of 2015 year approaches, I just want to say thank you for being such a consistent reader and supporter of mine through this blog – it means the world to me. I am glad to hear that you can use a variety of writing styles to process your feelings and express yourself, and I would also love to read more of your writing if you ever decide to post it or share it. As for my nonfiction, I am pretty sure I will be able to share some of it in the upcoming months, so stay tuned. (:

      Hope your transition into 2016 is flawless!

      • Your welcome 🙂 I enjoy reading your blog and commenting, and I know how hard it is to be depressed and want to do anything, much less have a very creative and active output like you do. Thanks for commenting on my blog as well; you’re one of the few that does. Not sure how to make it more interactive, still working on that.

  7. Thomas I think this post sums up why I like you so much LOL XD

    • Aw, thank you! Part of me – my ego, perhaps – wants to ask for more detail, though I will accept your compliment in this moment and stay mindful of it. Hope your transition into 2016 will be wonderful!

  8. It’s unreal that it has already been five years, Thomas!

    I’ve always admired how raw and honest you were with your readers and friends through your blog. And it’s something I strive to do from now on, being more personal on my blog all the while sticking to a more book themed focus that is.

    Last spring semester, after blogging only for half year I kind of felt overwhelmed with blogging with school and extracurriculars, but I’m so glad I never decided to abandon Xingsings. But all things, even the good and fun, come to an end. So it’s good to just, as people often say, “live in the moment.” I’m glad it’s not time to say goodbye to The Quiet Voice yet. Because, though we’re connected on other social media (I hardly ever use FB though), it’s great keeping up and learning more about you through this platform, Thomas.

    And to answer your question, I think your blog is one that helps inspire others. Even though we all know you’re an avid reader and blogger, you write about a different range of topics that seems to apply to us all. And it’s nice to be reminded of significant things in life like acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion, which you’ve talked about before on here.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy your winter break. Have a wonderful and safe holiday in the company of your family and friends, Thomas! (And thanks for always taking the time to visit my blog and keeping in touch!) Happy new year! 🙂

    • Summer, thank you for your consistent support and warmth! It has been a joy to see you grow as a writer, reader, and person through your blog, and I always appreciate your honesty and maturity when you discuss books or opinions you have about your blog itself. I hope we can stay in touch via our blogs or other social media for many years to come and that your transition into 2016 looks solid!

  9. Yaaas. Words have been a place of solace for me, too. I can empathize with you when you mention that words can serve as an underrepresentation of our inner and outer worlds. At one point, I wouldn’t write because I was getting frustrated that I could not articulate how I feel (#INFJproblems). In these moments, I needed to remind myself to be graceful and compassionate toward a scatterbrained INFJ like myself. Thanks for writing! I find so much solidarity with you and your words!

    • Yas to all of this, in particular the note about grace and compassion toward oneself. Writing can be a challenge, and like with all challenges, we must approach them with determination and kindness. Glad we have had each others’ backs for so long now, and I hope you are doing well, Elayna! Also, a quote from an Anne Lamott quote about perfectionism you may enjoy:

      “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

  10. ericadsouza

    Dear Friend,

    Congratulations on expressing how you feel through words for the whole world to read. It must be really tough. You’ve been doing well for 5 years! (Cheers to that Thomas!)
    I really hope you weren’t hinting at something when you said “Maybe I will have to delete this blog at some point for circumstances outside of my control ” ,
    It’s very important for people to learn to speak up. At some point, the person responsible for that certain outburst will read that particular post but it doesn’t mean I should be afraid to write, right? Because that’s what I am afraid of. I`m afraid of people thinking the reason for the way I talk and act is a new blog post! Hence, I stick to fiction.
    You must know, I admire THE QUIET VOICE, it must take more than courage to write honestly and then face those people.

    You can see you are doing well. Even if your friends who are with you in person make you sad at times, you have us! Your followers, readers who love you for what you do and who you are.

    I have a blog of my own. On WordPress and Blogspot. It takes time to get recognized by people so my confidence level when it comes to blogging is pretty low. Doesn’t mean I`ve stopped blogging…but yeah, I think you get what I`m saying.

    I`m eager to read your upcoming posts. Have a fun Christmas!!!

    • Oh Erica, thank you for your amazing and effusive comment, I appreciate it so much – readers like you make me feel so much more connected with the world. First, in terms of blogging, I think it takes awhile to develop an inner confidence that radiates. I feel like for the first few years in my blogging foray I paid so much attention to how many comments I got, how many followers I got, etc. but with time I learned to just try and produce quality content and let the rest do the rest. Also, as I always say, I would rather have one really thoughtful comment than 100000 views, just to know that at least one person has found something I’ve written meaningful to them. There are still days when I feel insecure about my writing, and that is natural for all of us; so please know you are not alone in this writing venture. There are many of us standing next to you and cheering you on.

      Also, you’re right that it does take courage to write about your personal experiences and share them with public. People I know have disagreed with me on certain subjects (and then have not taken the time to talk to me about such disagreements face-to-face), but I think this practice builds resilience. All writing requires courage and vulnerability, really, because even if you write fiction, you are putting your work out there to the world, where they can either criticize it, ignore it, or maybe even like it. It’s learning to accept all outcomes and using every reaction to hone your inner sense of strength that makes writing – and a lot of practices in life – joyful, in my opinion.

      Again, thank you so much for your sincerity and your enthusiasm! Definitely not getting rid of this blog soon, in large part because of amazing readers like you. Hope your transition into 2016 is amazing.

  11. Peter

    Excellent blog, Thomas. Yours is the only blog I follow and I love your honesty, your clear ability to see yourself warts and all and the fact that when you’re down you always find a way to get up again. I agree with you entirely about the power of the written word and hope that one day, when the time is right, you’ll find also the power of classical music – those old guys Bach, Beethoven and all the rest that followed over the centuries always have the power to nudge one out of the depths of despair and point to a hope that can sometimes lie beyond the reach even of words.

    • Peter, thank you for your mature, eloquent voice and for your confidence in me. You have without a doubt inspired me to grow as a writer and add more nuance to my words, which I hope will come across in my posts in 2016. Also, as to the classical music, I will try to get into that too – for now Ariana Grande is my jam, but I will try to expand to include some Bach and Beethoven as well. I appreciate your comments so much, and I hope you have an amazing transition int 2016.

  12. I wrote at different times in my life to process what I was dealing with day to day. For your young age, you tend toward a mature focus which is relayed in your writings. Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s