I was encouraged to write a piece for Jill Malone’s blog, for her Marriage Project. She has asked others to write in and be guests on her blog, to write about what marriage means to them, to celebrate Washington State stepping up and ending marriage discrimination. You can see what I wrote here: http://www.jillmalone.com/marriage-project-day-18.
I was pretty nervous about writing. Writing something for the whole wide world to read and have access to. I’m oddly insecure about my writing. I’m insecure about my truth (or rather about it being criticized). Basically I’m insecure.
Something surprising happened after she published this piece though. Well, surprising for me. I’ve received several messages on Facebook, telling me what a beautiful piece it is and thanking me for sharing my story. This has brought me to tears. They are mixed tears. Tears of relief. Tears of joy. Tears of fear and insecurity that others, total strangers, just got a glimpse of my soul. Tears of oh-my-god I just made myself vulnerable to total strangers. I let down my defenses. People saw a little glimpse of the real me, without my being able to put up a wall of defenses first.
Writing has always been my outlet. Since I was a small child I loved to write. I’d write “fictional” stories about girls being rescued from wicked witches or evil monsters. I was writing my truth at the time. My wishes for rescue from the indescribable tortures I was enduring at the hands of the people who were supposed to love and care for me. As I grew older, my writing, while remaining literary in style, transformed into essays rather than short stories of fiction.
I remember in the ninth grade my English teacher asking the class to write an essay on Fear. To write about what scared us. The rest of the class wrote about the silly things thirteen year olds should be scared of: roller coasters, haunted houses, rabid dogs. I wrote about my fear of growing up. My instructor, Mr. Joel, was so touched and apparently awed by my essay that he asked to share it with the class. I nodded my hesitant consent and as he read aloud to the class tears rolled down my face. I was both honored and mortified. I’d never given much thought prior to that moment how I was sharing my soul, my truth, with another human being, without armor of sarcasm or self-depreciation. That is a day I will remember for the rest as my life, as it was the first time I realized I needed to create a buffer between myself and those who read my writing.
Time marched on and I continued to write. Both in journals for myself and in essays and stories for classes. My first year of college I wrote three short stories from the perspective of street kids which impressed my instructor so much he urged me to get them published (I never did). Then I somehow ended up as a Physics major towards the end of college and working as an Electrical Engineer for twelve years post graduation and my writing pretty much came to an end, with the exceptions of random posts on livejournal.
Now I’m in Graduate School, in the midst of a career transition. I’m studying psychology and my degree when I graduate will be a Masters in Psychology with emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Yes, a far cry from engineering. I’m getting to write again, and write from my soul. Writing about my past, my present, my hopeful future. It is an academic setting though, and so there is the expectation that my writing will be academic.
Most of my instructors have loved my writing. So much that while others in my program have had to do rewrites, I haven’t yet. I’ve received compliment after compliment for my writing. Except in one class. Except by one professor.
This professor constantly commented on my “literary voice” and how I need to tone it down and become more academic. The fact that she was the only instructor who thought this is telling. Yet, her comments haunt me.
The truth is I have no desire to become a great academic writer. I have no aspirations of getting a PhD or becoming published in academic or trade journals. I’m going to school so that I can do the work my heart is calling me to do. That’s it. I know this. I know this in my soul. I know this in my heart. I know this in my head. And yet…
And yet her comments haunt me. They bring up all my insecurities. Not just about my writing, but about where I fit in the world. Her comments scream to me that I don’t measure up, that I’m not good enough, that I don’t fit in this program and that I will never succeed at doing what I want to do.
This is a LOT to put on her comments. Her comments, which I know came from a soft heart and good place. A place of wanting me to succeed and trying to give me the tools to do so. She did not have any intent to be mean or to damage my soul. She was truly trying to help.
But here’s the rub, see. She was trying to help me to measure up to someone else’s standard of what is “good”, what is “correct” and what is “acceptable”. And to be quite honest, I’m too old to be worrying about measuring up to someone else’s standards. I need to set my own standards to measure up to. Not my professors’. Not my parents’. Not even my husband’s. Mine.
So, here I am. Baring my soul. Because one of my self-standards is to share my truth. To hold up my truth. To defend my truth and to see other’s truth. To acknowledge when another’s truth fits better for me too and to try it on. To also acknowledge when another’s truth doesn’t fit me, and to let it pass through the world without taking it in to damage my soul. And in this process, perhaps, help others to do the same. And maybe, just maybe, we can all create a little more peace, a little more hope, a little more joy in this world.