A friend of mine recently wrote me a beautifully raw tale of her ongoing journey of self discovery. She writes:
“I am trying to find out who the authentic ‘me’ is and bring it to life. I see glimpses of it in different things I enjoy. But there is so much more to explore. I found out I enjoy acting, it’s a place where I feel good, myself. I am also very much myself when I play with my son. Actually his birth made me want even more desperately to be me. Being me means also being very honest and engaging at a deeper level with people around me. But people I know don’t seem to want that. Being me also means feeling and expressing with greater intensity both joy and sadness, but people don’t seem to relate to that very well, plus it makes you feel vulnerable. Being me also means not working in a corporate environment, where there is no room for emotions and vulnerability.”
I think most of us can relate to trying to find our ‘me’ in life’s contradicting pulls. What is “being me?” How do we stay true to our spirit in the folds of society? For myself I think being ‘me’ is going back to my youth. In innocence, anything is possible, including our dreams.
I wrote my first poem when I was seven. It started with “Roses are blood upon the finger/In the wind they will linger….and it went on to describe a flower with “wondering magic power.” Probably not going to win me the Nobel Prize but it was a start. Since then I kept writing. Words would bubble up inside of me and I had to release them through my hands lest I choke on the emotion they contained.
I drafted stories, poems and reflections. Armed with a pen and paper I thought I had found my life’s calling at age 15. When my family moved from upstate New York to eastern Washington my Honors English teacher mailed me all of my graded papers with the hand scrawled note, “Keep going. And shock the West.”
But I didn’t keep going. I was scared. I didn’t know how to make a career of writing. I was encouraged to study things that would gainfully employ me. I majored in business and economics and later got an MBA. Paychecks and travel seduced me and I led a whirlwind life of a management consultant. I still desired to write but I also wanted to eat. And buy shoes. Glorious Italian made four-inch high shoes. The other female writers I knew either were completely immune to the materialistic world or counted upon a marriage to an investment banker. That wasn’t me. Admittedly, I did date a few bankers and even tried on the idea of being arm candy. However, even if I was akin to a lollipop I knew I still needed my own bank account. As well as my own life.
Throughout my time married to Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint pitches, I had secret love affairs with the arts. I learned languages, went to operas, and wrote small snippets whenever I could find time. Sometimes the ‘small snippets’ took on the embarrassing form of long rhyming poems that I sent to men I had crushes on. “Ummm…..Heidi, you need to find another outlet for your writing,” I was told.
Like my friend that had written me, I too realized that many people are afraid of emotion. My writing had the ability to make them uncomfortable. Much of the world prefers walking in a grey society devoid of colors, absent of the rush of highs and lows. Emotional excess is frowned upon as a reckless indulgence. I taped my mouth shut, but my hands couldn’t stop working in secret. I felt I was performing masturbation with metaphors under the covers. I collected hundreds of poems in my password protected laptop.
I led a double life; business professional by day, crazed poet by night. However after my trip across the country I knew I couldn’t walk the tightrope any longer. The poverty of an artist is quite unfashionable, but perhaps it is better than forcing myself into someone else’s clothes.
I have a lighter in my right hand ready to ignite a fire to all the ‘practical’ things I have spent my adulthood creating. Hopefully, a phoenix will emerge from the ashes and I will find peace knowing I finally set out to do what was in my heart since I was a child. No more secret under the covers fondling of adjectives; my writing, thoughts, and connections are about to be exposed. Thank you world wide web for giving me a medium. The written word is about to get provocative.