Reading blogs, I’ve met wonderful people, found wonderful things, learned wonderful ideas that opened my mind and my heart and my world. It’s a wonderful medium: Writers aren’t bound by the impersonality that traditional journalism requires, and while that has its drawbacks, it lets impassioned, funny, touching, heartfelt words pour from people who have something to say.
The problem is, you can take those words as the person. You can forget that those words are carefully chosen and start to see those people as just those words. This can do a number on you. After all, in comparison, you see all of yourself: the nice moments you’re proud of, but also the tired, sad, embarrassing, despairing moments.
There’s a lot of envy out in this world creating misery, and I think it’s because we forget that everyone else has those moments too. We forget that celebrities wear makeup, that politicians have speechwriters, and that people generally keep the most presentable parts of themselves for everyone else. Even when they’re writing very personably.
Like me. I deliberately don’t make this a very confessional site. I do that for both professional and personal reasons. Very sensible ones, and ones that serve me well. But I also do it to be selfish.
I’m smart, I come off as gregarious and competent, and I’ve been incredibly blessed. But I can be painfully, debilitatingly self-conscious. I need to take off weight in stones, not ounces. I can’t have a relationship without losing myself. And I still have times where I’m just desperately sad, knowing how grateful I am for all I have, but swallowed by a dark night of the soul, full of guilt and doubt.
I was describing an old friend, and the best way I could explain her is that she’s never been a work-in-progress. Even when we were teenagers, when everyone was a big confused mess, she always seemed to float on a plane above that, sure of her place in the world and of her trajectory.
Now, me, I should walk around with a sheet over my head and a placard labeled “Under Construction”. Growing up, I developed a wary way of learning to fit in, always looking out of the corner of my eye to see how other people did things, and I can’t kick the habit. I’m always trying to fix myself. This is often a creative, joyful, surprising journey. But sometimes? Sometimes, it wears me down.
Sometimes, I just wish I knew what the hell I was doing already.
And I don’t often have the nerve to write publicly about that feeling, because it’s hard enough to have that feeling. Anyway, if I’m frustrated and ashamed and disgusted, why would anybody want to hear that? Those explorations and efforts to be better are what I tell you about instead: the positive side of it, the majority. But it’s not the whole truth. And so I worry that it’s disingenuous.
I think we all get worn down by the difference between who we are and who we seem. I think it’s one of the hardest things to admit the ways we’re most broken. But I think we have to. And that we know everybody else is too. And that we don’t just like those other people in spite of their brokenness – we actually love them for it. Then, perhaps, we’d realize that if that’s how we feel… maybe that’s how everybody else is feeling too.
I’m not sure if I can let myself believe that, but I do think it’s worth thinking about.
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