I am a writer. This has been a core part of my identity since second grade when I won a red ribbon in a county writing contest. We were asked to reimagine a fairy tale and I selected Little Red Riding Hood. Red, upon seeing grandma had been offed by the wolf, took it upon herself to call the Supreme Court (there was an impossibly expedient direct line for animalistic murders within the cottage, naturally) and have him tried for his crimes. Justice was served, the end.
It was obvious then that I was destined to put pen to paper. The only way anyone knew what I was thinking or feeling was when I would write stuff down. I didn’t know any other way. I still don’t without prolonged pauses to reflect and comb through data/feelings. Yet I resisted writing in my adult years, insisting to myself that I needed a real job. Practicality nearly killed my creativity. That resistance, I realize now, was not to writing, but to vulnerability. I was scared of showing my messy to the general public, let alone those close to me. Still, here I am, splitting my ribcage open and inviting you to poke around, awkwardly leaning in to the discomfort of it.
What I’ve been reading lately centers on this topic. Vulnerability cannot exist without connection, and connection is why we’re here. My existence is about finding it and cultivating it. And damn, it’s a brutal, worthwhile struggle. What I once conceived of as strength was thinly veiled stoicism fueled by fear and pain. I spent entire relationships hiding behind stone walls, fearing that my partner would leave if I deviated from my own misguided notions of strength. Real strength, I learned, began when I advocated for my own needs. Easier said than done.
Mind the gap, they say. Mind the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This starts with knowing oneself. Sounds simple enough, right? “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be,” writes Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher. In picking up her bestseller, I realized I was stumbling into the gap.
I reached a turning point when, at 28, I found myself dating again. Now a grown up, single, out queerdo, I started from scratch. I knew how to talk about what I knew--my job, my rats, dull surface conversation. The self-assured facade I maintained at work and among friends crumbled when people wanted to know who I really was. My blase habit of deflecting answers did not suffice. I intuitively held space for them to open up but flailed when that space was actually held. I didn’t know what to do when that spotlight turned my way. When they realized that I had no clue, they bailed. Who can really blame them? I tried, believe me I tried. (In the future I will devote an entire post to how I identify dichotomously with Shane and Alice from the L Word, but that is another thing entirely)
Caught up in the pursuit of an ideal me, I was scraping my knees in the attempt to meet every bit of feedback and criticism with being better, penitent for the shortcomings I didn’t know I had. There were numerous fights, breakdowns, and breakups. In seeing myself through the eyes of my partners, I feverishly hacked away at flaws that might be better smoothed by a lathe. Or sandpaper. If in fact these were flaws at all. I saw where I wanted to be and I flung myself at their mercy. I was not worthy.
Why did I value their opinions so highly? When you spend a decade surrounding yourself with people who are too fleeting or numb to care, too naive to know better, or too scared to push you off a pedestal, you don’t expect real. You forget that it exists. You recognize the value of real and you nearly lose yourself trying not to lose it.
Now I’m in this process. Aided by conversations, research, family (chosen and blood), and time, I’m sifting through my stuff. Daring to be real with people is to say I am worthy of my standards and my boundaries because they are mine and they are valid. I am still figuring me out and I don’t know what parts of me will be left behind or what will be carried through--and I am ok with that. It’s totally uncomfortable, but I’m pursuing it relentlessly, all while making sure I don’t freefall again.
Now, because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, I will leave you with this:
“This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen ... to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
-Brene Brown, TEDxHouston
See You Soon,
is a genderqueer, intersectional feminist writer who perseveres to impose positive change on a personal and professional level. They live, work, and play in LA. The Wednesday Pivot is their attempt to put their ideas and challenges on the table to connect with a broader community of wellness- and growth-minded folks.