Begin, Again

The last time I wrote anything substantial for my book was during my trip to Hawaii in April 2015.
The last time I wrote anything substantial for my book was during my trip to Hawaii in April 2015.

I haven’t written in a while. It’s a weird thing to say or think about—ever since I learned how to form letters, writing has been an activity I cherished. As a strange little girl, I was fascinated by pioneers, and, also my mother forced me to watch Roots and Queen from a young age, so, I wrote stories about a little freed slave girl named Savannah who, along with her family, loaded up a Conestoga wagon and moved west to start a new life. I’ve always found a way to write.

For weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out why I couldn’t write, why nothing was coming to me, and why I stared at many blank Word document, the curse taunting and blinking at me. And finally, finally, I figured it out. Last fall marked the start of a trying time in my life—which I managed to write about in November. It was cathartic to write about everything that happened, and acknowledge publicly something real and painful that I had been struggling with privately. While it felt good to be so open, and to talk about something that I believe happens all too frequently to many women, a new kind of fear crept up on me. I thought that if I spent too much time thinking or talking about it any further, I wouldn’t become paralyzed with grief and sadness. And so, I stopped allowing myself to feel the full strength of a variety of emotions—even the good ones. And that’s when I stopped writing. Sure, there were some Bachelor recaps and a couple of posts about Toronto, but in re-reading those posts, I can see there’s no real heart behind them. I even stopped writing Bachelor recaps halfway through the season because I did not enjoy anything about what I was doing. I knew that I should be writing, but my heart wasn’t in it.

As fate would have it, one of the darkest periods of my life also coincided with the start of a romantic relationship I’m so proud to be in. And for as honest as I can be with him, I know there’s more depth to what I feel for him, how I feel about us, and how I feel about my future, and to get there, I have to let myself really feel things again. I have to forgive myself for all the things that have happened over the past six months, hell, since November 2014, and I have to allow myself to really heal. And not just function.

When I set up this blog, I thought that the act of writing about anything would be satisfying. But I’m not really a lifestyle blogger, and part of the challenge I’ve faced in regularly maintaining this blog, even on good days, is that it does not feel authentic to me to try to emulate the other blogs I see when surfing Twitter or Instagram.  I like telling stories. And some of those stories might have to do with a cool bag I bought or a trip I went on and the things I packed. But sometimes, I might need to overshare my thoughts and feelings and experiences.  The posts I’ve been most proud of have centered around me reflecting on some situation in my life, and with my rediscovered emotional awareness, I’m hoping to get back to that kind of writing.

So. The blog title will stay the same. What I write about? Who knows. Whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t know how often I’ll post, but I am back. And ready to begin, again.

Bittersweetness: The Fear

Waaaay back in 2011, I received my master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern. The program itself was difficult and intense, and there were times when I hated it more than I’ve hated anything in my life. I’ve been a decent writer for as long as I can remember, and skated through high school and college with essays penned in the wee small hours of the morning before they were due. I can count on one hand the number of times I did not get an “A” on a paper in high school and college (because I collapsed into a puddle of tears each time).

So, studying something I felt skilled at in one of the best schools in America seemed like it would be a natural fit. Except no one tells you how daunting it can be to go from being the best writer in your class to a room full of people who were all the best writers in their respective classes. It’s humbling, in a good way. I got the famous Medill “F” on my very first day at Medill, and immediately after, made a tearful call to my mom, announcing I’d be home in a couple weeks because obviously I was going to flunk out. I didn’t. But I didn’t do much better. Most of my classmates readily accepted the challenge of becoming better writers and cub journalists, but I was paralyzed by fear of failure, or a fear that I wasn’t actually as good as I thought I was. No English teacher in my life had ever challenged me to become a better writer, and when faced with the chance to become better at it, I took any critique as a sign that I wasn’t any good at all. There were glimmers of hope, and occasionally, I would turn out articles that even surprised me for how good they were. But time and again, my instructors would take me aside and say the only thing keeping me back from not just being a good writer but a great writer was my self-confidence. Which, in and of itself, is something that doesn’t necessarily make you feel better and increase your confidence. For someone paralyzed by fear of failure, it only serves to highlight another something you’re failing at. But it’s something that has stayed with me.

When I set up this blog, I was filled with courage. Almost certainly it was liquid courage, but I felt like this was my chance to take up something that I loved to do and that made me extremely happy, even if I couldn’t make a living off of it. At points, I set up editorial calendars and came up with regular cadences for updates. I set up a Facebook page, I changed the name of my Twitter account, and one of my Medill classmates even approached me about writing posts on The Huffington Post’s blog. I recapped The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Occasionally, my work schedule or family commitments would get in the way, but the huge chunks of time between posts very often have little to do with my schedule, and everything to do with me being terrified. What should this blog be about? What’s my voice? What’s my brand? Is anyone reading? I came up with a million excuses for why I couldn’t do it, why it was pointless, and why I should abandon the blog entirely, or just pretend it didn’t exist. I don’t travel enough to make this a travel blog, and my life of 9-5 is nowhere near glamorous enough to warrant a lifestyle blog (Sample post: Secrets to my skin? Genetics). I read lots of blogs and feel twinges of jealousy—it’s not that I don’t have the skill to write, it’s that I haven’t decided that it’s something I need to do and committed myself to the hard work that needs to be done to become a better writer. None of the questions that have hobbled me and served as excuses for not writing actually matter—no one is going to read my blog if I haven’t written anything, and there’s no voice to worry about if there are no posts to read.

Time and white wine have made me understand that my relationship to writing is a metaphor for many facets of my life. Scared of not doing well makes me do nothing at all. One of my biggest regrets in life so far is that I didn’t take full advantage of my time at Medill because I was scared that I wouldn’t be great. I remember all the classes, the pro-tips from instructors, and the hours I spent in class studying the art of storytelling, and I’m hopeful that this blog will give me the opportunity to finally apply those lessons.

Long story short—I need to write and mom, please feel free to harass me if I haven’t written recently.