Let this post serve as a public service announcement from your host here, Mandi Sadler.
I had a lovely, long conversation this afternoon with a friend of mine who wants to be a writer.
Specifically, she wants to write a memoir of her life thus far (she’s forty, in case that matters).
Before I knew it, our conversation complaining about a mutual professor turned into an exploration of some of the deepest parts of her life story, and her struggle to write about them.
For someone who so openly spoke to an almost-stranger about her past relationships, trauma, sexual exploits, and family tragedy… she seemed oddly stuck as she talked about writing.
She wanted her story to be perfect.
She wanted her story to reach people in a deeply meaningful way.
She was worried about what people in her personal life would think of her, were she to publicly reveal stories from her past that are more unconventional.
All I could think about was how worried I would be that the people featured in my stories would find out what I really thought about what happened between us.
No matter if you use pseudonyms for your characters or even for yourself, those individuals would be reading their private affairs on a public platform. I would be telling their stories… not just my own.
We talked for a long time about the necessity for creative freedom. About how important– and difficult– it is to write what truly, deeply needs to be written.
The moral of our conversation was this: just get it out there. Just write it down.
Even if you never show another living soul, even if you burn the pages, even if you delete the file immediately… just get that story out of your soul.
This brings me to the purpose of my post today: Why I am here.
I started my blog years ago because I wanted another platform to share my thoughts and experiences with the world.
It wasn’t enough to post a picture on Instagram, and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing such long reflections on Facebook. I knew that I didn’t want to bombard absolutely EVERYONE with my thoughts. I wanted to allow for a smaller audience of people who really cared.
I continued my blog while traveling abroad in an attempt to share in detail with those I loved what I experienced.
Now, however, the purpose of my blog has shifted again.
I write here because this is my safe space.
This is the place I have designated that I will be completely and utterly myself– no matter what– in the “real world.”
This has become that space that I use to release my control over my own life, to accept who I am, and to actively reduce my dependence on what I perceive other people think of me.
Here I talk about things that I struggle with daily, and things that bring me deep joy.
While it’s incredibly difficult for me to be truthful to my story in person, where I am far more likely to “perform” and pretend that I have absolutely everything together and am the most cheerful person alive… I see this space as an easier outlet for me to let go of my masks.
I am here for me.
I am here because letting go of control is the only way for me to grow closer to an authentic way of living.
For me to be “real” with the world outside, with those close to me, and most importantly with myself, I have to take the first step. I have to be completely, brutally, and unflinchingly honest.
The Mandi I once knew would journal for hours, editing along the way, never writing anything that might come across as “too negative”… just in case someone were to ever read my writing.
I wouldn’t even write about some situations at all because I was afraid of how others would think of me.
In all honesty, I was only afraid of my own self-judgment.
Nobody was reading my journals. Nobody ever had, and only one person tried (unsuccessfully and with lots of drama, I might add). If I wanted it to be that way, nobody ever would.
I could cover my pages with acrylic paints. I could collage over every last word. I could shred the whole stack of notebooks in my bedroom. I could rip out pages and burn them one by one.
This wasn’t about my fear of other people… this was about my fear of myself.
I judged myself for what I thought, because my thoughts and feelings scared me.
I beat myself up for experiencing strong emotions, because the performer in me said they weren’t appropriate.
I wouldn’t even let myself utter these thoughts, to myself, alone in my room, in the guaranteed privacy and safety of my own confidential journal.
I wasn’t letting myself live.
Some months ago I decided that journaling with a stern critic over my shoulder completely defeated the purpose of the exercise.
I had to allow myself to be who I was, even though the “worst” parts terrified me. I had to face them.
I started using a “stream of consciousness” mentality with my journals, which meant that I wrote down every last word or thought that passed through my mind. Everything came out of my pen. I didn’t try to make anything “sound better,” I didn’t agonize over choosing “better” words, and I tried desperately not to correct myself when I accidentally misspelled a word.
My journal became a safe place for me again, where I didn’t have to hide. I didn’t have to perform. I could just exist.
My blog became an extension of that desire– the longing I feel to be completely real, authentic, and bare.
It wasn’t enough to be honest with my truth in private if I would leave the house and cover it all up again with a smile and a perfectly-planned schedule.
It wasn’t enough to be truthful with myself, and then answer the phone and give full-faced lies to my loved ones when they asked how I was doing.
I began to demand authenticity from myself, in every little moment that I could.
Sometimes I wish that I could go through my day with a huge sign across my chest that says “I feel horrible today. Please hug me.”
Sometimes I wish I could open my mouth and sing to all the strangers about how lovely the forest made me feel that morning.
I long for connection. I long for conversation. I long to be seen, and to be known.
There is no way those things will ever happen if I am not first honest about myself.
So here I am, taking a small step toward bringing my truth out into that big, wide world out there.
Here I am, “broadcasting” my story.
It’s not for attention. It’s not for sensationalism. It’s not even hoping for pity or sympathy.
It’s not about you.
It’s about me.
I have to tell this story because it has festered inside me for so long that I can no longer keep it to myself. I can no longer bear this burden alone. I can no longer exclude myself from human connection.
And even if nobody were to ever read this… it’s enough to know that my truth is out there; I’m not hoarding and hiding it.
I am shining a light on the very core experiences of my life, and this is my current medium for doing so.
Today, I hope you can draw inspiration from my friend the writer.
She struggles daily with the scary truth of her experiences, and with the need to express them and set them free. She struggles with thoughts of how others will perceive her.
Take inspiration from her fight, and from mine.
In truth, we are all fighting this war together. We are fighting the rigidity of our culture and the harsh societal expectations that weigh heavily on us. We resist the temptation to simply conform, hide, and blend in.
We are all fighting for the courage to be ourselves in a world constantly demanding that we be anything but authentic.
Our fight is yours.
I have chosen to go to war on the online pages of this blog, for starters.
I thank you, deeply, for witnessing this journey.
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
― Flannery O’Connor