I know it’s hard to get a bead on someone when you only know their online persona, but for what it’s worth, I’m told I’m pretty close in real life to the person I am in my essays. There are minor differences, things that tend to surprise people: For one, people assume that since I’m a writer, I’ll be introverted. In real life, I read as quite extroverted and outgoing (although I’m probably ambiverted, since I do need recharge time after socializing heavily).
People also sometimes assume I’ll be socially awkward since I have been open about struggling with social anxiety. But I’m not. I am told consistently that I’m rather charming and good at navigating social situations. (My self-questioning inner monologue has nothing to do with my actual skill in relating to others and is more about childhood trauma and schema/scripts stemming from that.)
Or they’ll assume I’m vain or full of myself because I write in public and have a fairly large readership. Writing in public was kind of a fluke/accident. (More on that in the note at the end of this piece.)
My real life friends who have read my writing consistently say that I’m an extremely self-aware person. And that I present myself in my writing honestly and boldly (in that I don’t hold back too much).
I had one of them say a while back that he wished he could do this. That he admires my level of self-acceptance.
Setting aside my weird internal voice that sometimes scrambles in uninvited and worries that I’m bothering everyone by existing, I think I know what he means. In general, I’m not very defensive in my everyday life. Sometimes it sticks out in an odd way, because I tend to give friends (and occasionally strangers) the benefit of a few doubts, in a way that… well, in a way that just isn’t normal.
This is because I’ve found defensiveness to be a false friend at best. At worst, it’s been an enemy.
At a certain point, I got tired of running from myself. And I said, “You know, I’m just going to let my flaws catch me. And they’ll do what they do.”
Self-acceptance has been the only realistic option available to me. Lots of folks are on the lam from something or other in their own brain, but I could never run fast enough, as hard as I tried.
Anyway, it’s a terrifying notion when you’re scared of yourself (a feeling I understand very well), but magical things can happen when you stop running from who you are and just let it catch you.
Note: It’s kind of a fluke that I even write essays online. In the spring of 2009, I took a creative non-fiction writing course online hosted by the local community college because the hospital I worked for would reimburse the cost provided I got a C or better. It seemed interesting and potentially beneficial since, while I had had success as a poet and a playwright and had worked as a journalist in my professional past, I hadn’t written for a while, rarely in prose, and never autobiographically in memoir form. My teacher acknowledged that I was a very serviceable wordsmith (thanks, prof, that’s lovely), but even more than that, he told me that I was an incredibly self-aware person — which gave me an interesting voice as a character. It wasn’t until several years later, however, in 2016 — when friends urged me to give it a serious shot, and I began blogging daily.