Why Write 52 Memoirs?
At this point in my journey, I feel it is important to reflect on this project as a whole, as it’s been uniquely challenging to write a short memoir every single week. But first you may wonder how this whole 52 Memoirs thing even started, since I realise I’ve never actually shared that information.
This project wasn’t thoroughly planned out or considered for months, weeks, or even days. One morning, I decided it would be a good thing to do, and by the end of that day I’d launched the blog. That’s how I am — impulsive, decisive, and committed. If I start a project, I launch with an end-date or exit-goal in mind from step one. If an idea seems good enough, I run with it. It maybe isn’t always the best approach, but I’m learning to accept it as one of my unique strengths. I’m not someone who sits around waiting for a moment to be handed to me, I create one. I don’t ponder actions for a long time, I just take them. I dive in, adapt and learn on the go, and it means I live with purpose and impact nearly all of the time — even if sometimes it’s risky or physically and emotionally draining.
But why did I have the idea in the first place? Well, it comes down to the power of storytelling. I find it incredibly powerful to connect with other people’s stories. Stories that I can empathise with to one extent or another. Those stories mean more to me than I can explain. Conversely, whenever I’m not able to connect a part of my identity — something I’m perhaps struggling with — to a story, I feel the cold ache that comes with feeling like you’re all alone.
After I did my TEDx talk, and shared a relatively small part of myself in a public platform, a large number of people have reached out to me. They mostly thanked me for opening up because they found meaning or inspiration in my words. To be honest that was quite surprising because I didn’t think my talk was a particularly intimate revelation — but it was still very much an honest part of myself and I’m so humbled and grateful that people could connect with it.
I haven’t yet gone into what it was like to grow up biracial in a very white part of Australia, to be declared a child genius then struggle with a fear of inadequacy and unfulfilled potential over a lifetime, to care for a parent with stage four cancer, to carry the shadow of a horrifyingly abusive father around with me — but I will tell each of these stories, when the right week comes along.
Telling these stories helps me to live unashamedly and occupy my own identity and my own space, which I think is incredibly important for anyone to do. Storytelling can also displace power, and there are a few issues I want to unpack and narratives I want to reclaim. But most importantly — I want these stories to be out in the public arena so that other people who have maybe lived similar lives in these small and specific ways will realise they aren’t alone, like I too often believe I am.
The impacts on my writing have so far been tremendous, and it’s only been eleven weeks. I have tried to master a kind of tactfulness when approaching certain topics, but it is incredibly hard to tell my own stories without dragging in the stories of other people who have not always done the best things by me, but who I don’t want to hurt all the same. So far I’m proud of the way I’ve managed to tell the truth without exposing or upsetting those people, and it’s a skill I only hope to improve upon throughout this journey.
I’ve received some great feedback so far, but as I approach the three-month mark and publish Memoir 12 of 52 next week, it would be great to get more of a sense of what’s working and what isn’t. It doesn’t mean I’m going to just flat out agree with you, but it’s crucial to understand what audiences like and don’t like, so please hit me with your comments! Emails are always welcome, it doesn’t matter if we’ve never spoken or if you just stumbled. I mean it, I’m open, so if you’re reading this please say hi.
I’ll see you next Wednesday, when I plan to tackle the topic of elitism in higher education to celebrate the day I graduate from my Masters degree! Get ready for me to crack this issue wide open, building on a lot of what was discussed in Memoir #2: Why I Decided Not To Do A PhD.