Bearing souls, breaking locks
On why I write personal essays
When I was at the age when Betty Spaghetty dolls were high in demand, and every kid's pet was inside a Tamagotchi, I spent my afternoons writing in my Winnie the Pooh padded cover journal about the events of that day at school. My entries went from how I felt about the mean kid recording his dreadful bullying and then uploading it on the internet to what I wish I had said in certain circumstances.
Everything I wrote down in my many diaries (always Winnie the Pooh ones; I've had excellent taste since childhood) was about external situations and personal feelings. Uncontrollable scenarios and my reactions. Random occurrences and my heartfelt responses.
My most memorable experiences were whimsically recorded on cheap paper with shiny gel pens, showcasing funky kid scrawls and safeguarded by a heart-shaped lock.
Two decades and a few additional years later, I still write about my personal experiences and emotions, only that there's no heart-shaped lock this time—only a lot of heart.
I’ve written about how I've isolated myself to the point that sharing my time with others was uncomfortable and even distressing and how, while trying to combat my obsessive behavior, I made it worse. Both were complex topics to write about, not only because of the craft of writing but mainly because trying to explain through writing challenging emotions in a way others can comprehend its complexity is difficult.
I've often been asked why I write and share essays about personal experiences instead of what others might label as "useful" and "general" content. But my decision doesn't lie whether to write "personal" or not; I would craft introspective reflections regardless. The real choice lies in opening up and sharing them with others.
Most of us reflect on our lives, choices, experiences, etc. But few of us share those reflections with passionate detail for the internet's citizens to consume.
It takes courage.
I choose to share because I feel powerful by sharing moments of vulnerability. By clicking "send to everyone now,"1 I'm in control—unlocking strength.
The second sentence in my Substack "About" page states, "I don't want to live in auto-pilot mode, so here, I reflect". And that's what I'm doing every week through writing these essays: Reflecting on circumstances that lead me to reflect on my life, that lead me to reflect on my options, that lead me to reflect on my choices, and so on. It's pondering without overthinking.
Sharing personal stories sometimes feels like an epic cringe-fest. After a moment of "Oh my God, did I just spill my life online?" panic, the immediate instinct is to consider a stealthy ninja-level scape. You convince yourself that, surely, the entire universe is too absorbed in its own Netflix drama to scrutinize your soul's grand reveal. Yet, the residual weird vibes stick around like the awkward third wheel at a party that won't leave.
Yet, most of the time, in the end, your "soul's grand reveal" wasn't surprising, secret, or terrible at all. It was the part of you you thought you didn't show when, in reality, most of your acquaintances could already see those quirks from a mile away. It's what distinguishes you.
I invite you to share them like nobody's watching.
Exposing your feelings and thoughts is sometimes cringe-worthy, yet it's the magic potion for unlocking genuine connections with others. The heart-shaped lock was once an essential item for me, symbolizing the importance of privacy as I navigated through my feelings. Now, my heart-shaped lock is no longer closed; it has transformed.
As I pour my thoughts onto this virtual canvas, it no longer guards but invites connection, which is the most rewarding result I get from writing. So, if a sprinkle of my personal anecdotes stirs your courage to share your vulnerable stories, then let's raise a virtual toast – mission accomplished.
Big thanks tofor the conversation preceding this essay and to , , and for their thoughtful feedback.
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