2004-11-02 - 2:42 p.m.
It has recently come to my attention that some people find the level of openness and candour with which I speak about my life on this page to be inappropriate. Some people have a viewpoint that “Private things are meant to be private”, and find the emotionally exhibitionistic nature of this journal to be lacking in good taste. This is, of course, not the first time I have been confronted with such sentiments. I’ve been accused of being arrogant, self-indulgent, didactic, attention-seeking, and just plain “whiny” as a result of this journal.
There is a reason I choose to share so much of myself, of my life, via this page. It has little to do with seeking attention. I am, by nature of my personality, an extroverted spirit who has a great desire to “connect” with others. I am, by nature, a terribly introspective person who seeks to understand herself, the people in her life, and the world she lives in.. I am also an artist, and I use art as a way both to connect with the rest of the world, and to understand it.
One of the results of that mixture of personality quirks is this page. I consider this page, the writings on this page, to be a form of art. It is how I express the essence of who I am, my feelings and life experiences, the thoughts and ideals and observations I form and collect along the way. It is a giving of the person that I am to the world, and I do not apologise for it. Not everyone likes or approves of this page, or my experiences, or what I have to say. Not everyone out there likes or approves of me. And, while I can’t say I’m unaffected by that knowledge, on some level, I am fine with that…. I don’t edit what I have to say, what thoughts and feelings I have to express, just because some people are uncomfortable, or would prefer I didn’t say that…or simply because they disagree, or find it “not appropriate”. I approach this page, and all forms of self-expression, in the same way I choose to live my life. Of course I want to be liked, and accepted, and given encouragement…and perhaps,even praised and admired. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t want these things. But,when it comes down to it, I suppose I’m simply not willing to be a little less of who I am, in order to be liked and accepted a little more. It is a hard thing to be criticised and disliked and judged, especially by those who don’t know you; especially when you are an insecure person at heart. And I am. I am the sensitive girl who would cry every time I heard someone say a harsh word against me. Growing up, I was told I needed to develop a “tougher skin”; I’m not sure I ever will.
But it is easy to hide who you are,what you genuinely think and feel. A large majority of us do it with most people, in most situations, virtually every day. We do it to be “polite”, we do it because it is what is expected, we do it because we want to be liked and to please others, even at the expense of being true to ourselves. We do it to protect ourselves, because we feel less threatened when we hide behind a mask and say that when others judge us, they are judging the appearance of the person, rather than the real person. We do it in order to hide our fears, our weaknesses, to avoid confronting those things that even make us uncomfortable in our own hearts to acknowledge. We do it because we are taught to take the path of least resistance, and that the less we conform, the more we throw ourselves into the line of fire. We do it because it takes courage not to. It is a risk, and many times, the reward is too uncertain to justify taking.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, and nothing makes a person more vulnerable than sharing their innermost feelings, their hopes and dreams and insecurities and fears that they hope the rest of the world never sees when they walk down the street every day. You may not like me, or agree with me, or even respect me…but it takes courage to be emotionally vulnerable, whether with friends or strangers…and I do ask that be respected.
There are so many things in the world that create boundaries and distance us from one another. What we all share is the human experience; the feelings and thoughts and frustrations that we, oddly enough, choose to share with others the least. We all laugh, we all cry, we all have our hearts broken, we all question our purpose in life, we all have moments where we wonder if we are good enough, or why others mistreat us or judge us. We all have ups and downs, and those feelings are almost universal, regardless of age, or sex, or political beliefs, or geography, or occupation. That is why I believe love, and compassion and understanding are the most important gifts we have to offer . The human experience is universal…and when we put away our judgements and fears and differences, we often see the same struggles, the same strengths and weaknesses we see in ourselves.
Artists share the human experience. Artists cause us to feel and think and question, and don’t apologise for what they do, or ask to be loved or understood…they simply ask to share some essential part of themselves with you. I, and all those who share their worlds with you on their blog or journal or webpage, are doing exactly that. If my words and experiences have caused you to feel,or think,or question, or relate, or share your own words and experiences…then my sharing with you has fulfilled its purpose. You may not consider this page to be “art”, or even “real writing”. It is what it is, a diary…sometimes, it is even a newspaper or magazine column…but mostly, it’s just the journal of one girl you probably don’t know, living out there in the same world as you are. There are, in fact, well known writers who are “diarists”, who have published their personal journals and diaries in book form, and put themselves out there to the world. I have always believed in this medium because it allows the average,everyday person to do that, to share the pieces of themselves that make them extraordinary,and flawed,and human. Personally, I believe that is art, and self-expression, and wonderful.
One of the best parts of my experiences with this journal is not the friendships I’ve made with people from all over the world, not the opportunity it affords me to vent about my life and keep my sanity, not the feedback and reassurance and praise I might get from my readers. Yes, all of those things are wonderful. But what makes my day is when I hear from someone I’ve never met, whom I’ve helped through sharing my life. It means something significant to me when I get a letter from a stranger who tells me my words have somehow helped them through their divorce, or losing their job, or the death of a family member, or dealing with a troubling relationship. It means something to me when a stranger takes the time to say “I know how you feel, because I feel that way, too…I just don’t like telling anyone.” It touches me to know that I am able to affect someone who has no personal stake in me, and I may never meet…but I am more like than I ever might have imagined. That is why I do this.
I’m just like everyone else. Yes, I’m fairly open. Yes, some people are even thrown off-balance around me because I will share more than most people. But there are things I’d like to say, and do, feelings I’d like to express…and sometimes, I don’t, because I am insecure or afraid. I do not share everything on this journal; I am not as “uninhibited” as I’d like to be. (My personal e-mails to friends sometimes run 10 to 15 pages, and are VERY open and vulnerable. Sometimes painfully so. I would never have the courage to write those things on here, for everyone to read. I wish I did, though. I admire those who do.) This journal helps me with that. I find that most of my closest friends enjoy this page,because I am able to share feelings with them I might not have the nerve or coherent thought process to share in person. This journal has helped me to think things through, by writing out and examining my feelings, rather than always indulging my tendency to react in an impulsive,emotional way…and perhaps say things I don’t mean, or may later regret. It has done good things for me.
You don’t have to like me, or agree with me. Perhaps you do, and that’s great. Perhaps you hate every single thing I have to say, and that’s OK, too. It takes all kinds to make a world. But I do believe you should respect what I do, and that I am putting myself out there, because it takes courage to be vulnerable. It always takes strength to know you will be judged and criticised, and perhaps disliked, and to do it anyway. It always takes a certain kind of strength to believe in yourself, especially when others may want you not to. The road less travelled is exactly that for a reason….but for some of us, it is the only path that ever means anything.