On being seen, reaffirming commitment, and cultivating connection — Day 26

Crochet art by Tessa Perlow, Asbury Park, Summer of 2017

Last night, a woman I used to care for when I worked in group homes texted me because she’d read my post about my frustrations with still being a babysitter. She told me that I had made a “profound difference” in her life and to not be ashamed of where I came from or the work I do. She reminded me that while this is not necessarily the work I want to be doing, that “everyday is a chance to make a change in someone else’s life and that’s all that matters.”

At the same time I was receiving those texts from her, another friend messaged me to say that he’s been feeling alone lately and my writing has been helping him feel connected because there’s other people that get what he’s going through.

All of this comes just moments after I was reading through some old posts and feeling a strong urge to delete them. People keep calling to tell me that they’re reading my writing and they ask if I’m ok, if I’m coming back to the east coast, that they didn’t know these things about me. That stresses me out. It’s made me wonder if I’m sharing too much or painting a picture that will harm my image in the eyes of friends or potential partners and employers.

So, I wanted to return to the original purpose I had for completing this project to regain perspective. First and foremost, I wanted to establish a daily writing AND shipping practice. Making excuses for why I can’t or shouldn’t write is much easier than actually doing it. Some days it’s been difficult to cut thru my own BS and many times I’ve felt like I had “nothing to say.” But each time I sat down to write, something came out, even if it took two hours and especially if it hurt to do so.

The other part of doing this was to stop getting gummed up with perfectionism and to just publish. Over the past couple years, I’ve amassed a Google Drive of dozens of essays in varying degrees of completion that I just won’t publish for a million different reasons: this one’s too weird, this one isn’t done yet, I don’t know what my network will think when they read this… I wanted to release myself of these excuses and just fucking ship. The longer I spend “revising” my writing, the less chance it will ever see the light of day. Nobody even knows I write! I wanted to change that and I think I have.

But most importantly, I was tired of privaely struggling with my process. I thought that if I could speak frankly on the weirdness in my life that it would have less power to control me. But sometimes before I hit that publish button, I’m like…why the hell am I putting how scared, upset, anxious, or dark I’m feeling on the internet for everyone to see?? How’s that Fight Club quote go, you met me at a very strange time in my life? I’m not in a sunshine-y place right now and somehow thought it was a good idea to put that on display for the world to consume. I’m in the process of creating massive shift and my god it friggin hurts. But writing is something I knew would help me deal with it. Making the commitment to share it with other people was the only way I knew I would stay faithful to the practice.

I didn’t even think anyone would read this shit and I was kind of hoping no one would. But they have. The morning after the first day I skipped writing, I woke up to a 7am text from someone I didn’t even know had the link asking “Did you write your journal entry yesterday?” One day I published late and got a message from my grandmother’s friend asking if I gave up on the project. In the past month, I’ve accrued over a hundred new followers and have been listed as a top writer in the Medium’s Travel section.

There was no altruistic intention in sharing myself so that other people could find value in it; as selfish as it sounds, doing this was about establishing my practice and dealing with this time of transition. By forcing myself to write and share in the same day, I’ve been able to write faster, revise with more acuity, and release myself of the excuse that I’m not ready to share.

But the messages I’ve received on how my writing has helped people deal with their own weirdness, or how motivated, inspired, or not alone they feel when they read what I say has made it clear that a bigger purpose has emerged. The responses have done much to cultivate my own motivation and inspiration, especially when I feel like I want to delete everything. Most of all, it’s reminded me that none of us exist, succeed, or struggle without the care of others.

It has felt scary to “be seen” like this. It has felt uncomfortable to let people into what’s going on in my head, but I see now that that’s what I needed, perhaps even more than the discipline to write or publish.

If you enjoyed this piece, click the ❤ at the bottom of the page :)

This is Day 26 of 7/17in750! I’m challenging myself to complete and publish a daily journal entry from my writing at 750words.com for the entire month of July. Read the introduction to the project here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join me for the rest my daily journaling series. Don’t miss an update — subscribe here.