Mortification, Gratitude, and the Fine Line In-Between
Recently, I took a leap. It wasn't publishing my website; that was just overdue. It also wasn't purchasing the website, although I did buy the domain for three years thanks to my inability to resist a sale. So that was a leap in terms of commitment, anyway.
But the real leap I took was in what I did next: I shared the website on Facebook, thereby letting about a thousand people in on my secret dream.
I wonder to myself why this was scary enough to merit the term "leap." I also wonder why I'm still so embarrassed that I did it. As a general rule, people are nice when you tell them about your dreams. And really, having a website should make this miserable quest easier on me, because instead of people saying "whatever happened to your becoming a writer?" and me having to answer "still working on it," they can subscribe to my website and get real-time updates on the whatever-happenings. So why, I wonder, if it technically gets people off my back and gets me one step closer to a dream realized, do I get that "no-no-no" feeling whenever I remember that I put it out there?
You know the answer as well as I do, probably. It's because I "put it out there." There is so much vulnerability attached to a pipe dream. That's what a pipe dream is - a fantasy. Dreams like that are private. And right now I feel like I wrote a love letter to someone I secretly admire, and instead of delivering it to him alone, I accidentally blasted it to everyone I know. Only, it wasn't an accident. I chose to be that vulnerable. In front of everyone.
I think that a person like me, the kind of person who wants to seem like they always have it together, can only be vulnerable on impulse. I'm not the kind of person who wades into the water from the shore. I have to jump off the dock without dipping my foot in first, so I can't feel the cold until it's too late to go back. When you're skilled at talking yourself out of taking a chance, you have to find ways to limit yourself that option.
I have a confession and it's a stupid one. When the original social media (as far as my classmates and I were concerned), Livejournal, came out, I wrote a bunch of little essays that I thought were pretty good. I was in high school. Livejournal allowed anonymous commenting, and somebody "trolled" me, even though we didn't have that term yet. They wrote mean comments about how cool I thought I was, amid other teenage nastiness. The online comments then coupled with an anonymous movement to stop me from getting nominated to Homecoming Court. Worse, I made Homecoming Court, and I had to stand in front of my class, terrified of being booed.
At the time, I probably did need to be knocked off my high horse, though not quite so cruelly low. I learned from it that I did not want to be the person with unbridled verbal confidence, who shared her thoughts and feelings as if people would care. I wanted to share just enough to be under-the-radar cool and not ruffle feathers.
It's crazy, but that was like fifteen years ago, and I still feel this wolf-den of anonymous mean girls lurking in my mind before I post anything. I wonder who is going to laugh at me or make fun of me for what I'm doing and saying.
Then, last week, I jumped off the dock and posted my website anyway. I don't know what I was thinking! I could have proofread it more. I could have shared it with just my family and close friends. I could have just kept it to myself until I was sure I was good and ready. But.. I'm thirty, and I think that's a really good age to stop being afraid of nonexistent teenage girls. Plus, I worked hard on my website, and the people I am close to have always supported me despite my insecurities. So, with my writing group surrounding me, I clicked to share it.
Within five minutes, I had forty likes. Living for likes is problematic, of course, but I discovered how concrete the gratification can be. All night long, they poured in. Better yet were the comments. From all walks of my life, messages and texts and Facebook comments pinged me, and people could not have been kinder about the leap I'd taken. A number of people didn't stop there; they actually subscribed to my website. Some of them anonymously, though I'm pretty sure it wasn't with future plans to taunt (fingers crossed!). It was the best possible reaction I could have hoped for. In fact, I hadn't thought to hope for anything so wonderful.
And now, suddenly and beautifully, I have accountability. People took time out of their day to support me. Even more than buying an ambitious three years of a domain, this propels me to write on.
There isn't a guarantee that a leap will go well simply because the act is brave. I don't know if anything professionally rewarding is going to come out of posting my website to Facebook. It will give prospective agents something to read, and it should up my credibility, but it might have done that even if I hadn't shared it. I feel like more than anything, posting it was an exercise in self-effacement, or the lack-there-of. It's very easy to hide behind humility; people DO scoff at over-sharers, and they respect people who keep their personal business off the internet. How convenient to be afraid to share about oneself, and to have that be a revered quality. And yet, there is something freeing about the floating I'm doing now, knowing I faced a fear and am stuck here in the aftermath, with no ability to turn back. Especially since - thanks to all the generous people who chose to like or comment - it turns out, the water's fine.
Disclaimer on this blog post:
I know this isn't a Livejournal. Blogs are meant to be read by others, so they should speak to others. I hope if you read this, you didn't just read that I'm an insecure person clinging to likes and bad memories of high school. I hope you are inspired to do something vulnerable, and that your load, like mine, is lightened.