I know I haven’t posted much on this blog, and I’d like to tell you that it’s because I’ve been out running with the bulls or sailing across the world as a sixteen year old (maybe the sixteen year old part is true, give or take a decade), but really it’s more of a general laziness on my part.
Actually, that’s not really true, either. I write quite often. I’ve got the most random rough drafts, saved to my hard drive, sent to my email, notebooks half-full on my kitchen table and inside my nightstand with the door that doesn’t close properly because I was too impatient to read the instruction manual when I assembled it. Napkins and sticky notes with my scrawl all over them, stuffed in my purse. My fifth grade teacher will be annoyed to learn that despite her best efforts, I still don’t write like a girl but rather a hurried pre-adolescent boy with ADHD and an inability for his hands to keep up with the thoughts spilling out of his head.
I do remember that year quite well, actually. My dad had to be to work early so we’d sit in the parking lot of the school in the dark, our breath visible like empty comic conversation clouds as we waited for the heat in the car to kick in. Dad would tap his fingers nervously on the steering wheel, worried about being late, while we all stared intently at the door. Finally a light would come on in the hallway, flickering into life, and then the principal would unlock the heavy black door, and my brother and I would both give an equally heavy sigh as we picked up our backpacks and dragged ourselves into the building.
I’d walk up the seemingly endless staircase to the top floor, my footsteps echoing in the nearly empty building. The hallways were soaked with shadows, and silent save for the sounds of teachers arriving and unlocking the doors to their classrooms.
My teacher was always there early, sitting at her desk, preparing her lessons for the day. She’d barely look up when I entered the room, and I’d take my time unraveling the scarf around my neck and hanging up my coat, with my mittens sticking out of the pockets.
I’d settle into my chair, reaching inside my desk for a pencil and opening my notebook to a fresh sheet of paper. “As long as you’re here,” my teacher would say, always a hint of disapproval in her voice, “you might as well practice your handwriting. It’s terrible, Jennifer.”
“You write like a boy.”
Every morning I would slowly copy sentences out of my science textbook. I’d stick my tongue out in concentration, trying to make “photosynthesis” prettier and bubbly against the blue lines of the notebook paper. Once the clock ticked closer to start time, and the hallway started warming up with voices, and my classmates stomped into the room in their snow boots and jackets, I’d hand in my finished product, and my teacher would glance down at it with a sigh and shake of her head.
“You need to make your letters rounder and more feminine. This is messy and masculine. Don’t you want to be feminine, Jennifer?”
That question has stayed in my head for years, as I turned in papers in high school, took notes in college, and wrote up reviews for work. Every time I hand in something to a professor or a supervisor I cringe, wondering if my writing suggests something about me, if somehow the fact that my letters are sharp and angled rather than looped and curved reflects poorly on me as a woman, as a human being. That maybe I didn’t get a promotion or a higher grade because my i’s weren’t dotted with a round circle or my j’s lacked a feminine flourish.
But mostly now I type, so this is neither here nor there. The real reason I’ve been lacking in posts lately is my indecision.
I started my blog as a form of therapy, a way to get out all the toxins that built up from years of insecurity and a bad relationship. Nobody read what I wrote anyway, so I just wrote honestly about my life, letting people into rooms I’d kept shut and locked for a very long time and needed airing out.
The thing about writing openly is that most people don’t do it very often. Most people are guarded and keep their secrets to themselves. Which is not a criticism, by any means. There are a million reasons why you would want to keep your private life as just that—private. But I went another route, and to my great surprise people started reading what I had to say.
I love writing for an audience, and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my writing. On the flip side, as I find out more and more people are reading my blog, I find myself feeling more and more restricted in what I can say. I don’t want to offend people. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I find myself writing something up and thinking “well what if so-and-so reads this? Will they be upset that I’m sharing this story?”
And suddenly, I can’t write anymore. I put the story or essay away, and it ends up collecting dust or bytes or whatever it is that a Word document might collect saved to a hard drive, and it never gets finished.
My hands feel a bit tied at the moment.
But I remember someone asking me once, “how do you write?” and I said simply, “you just have to be brave. You just have to write what you need to say and not worry what other people will think about it.”
I need to take my own advice.
Hopefully, there will be more to come in the next few weeks.