Day 41: To see and be seen.

I'm stuck, right now. I'm not sure what to write about and in some ways, that's the beauty of this particular experiment. I have always been of the "keep the pen/fingers moving" school of free writing, but I confess: When I've done that for too long without sharing, the writing gets really weird and boring. I get bored with myself. I spend a lot of time talking about my problems and then self-soothing--finding a way out of the terror and the sadness and the fear. I spent a good four or five years journaling about how stuck I felt in my work, and nothing really came of it, except I began to believe I couldn't write about anything interesting. Now I know that perhaps I can't write about anything interesting, but I also don't give a shit. It's my life and I will write about it.

After day 35, I did my weekly check-in and this is what I wrote:

"Remember that part of what you are learning is to be visible. To stand up every day and say: I matter. The world is relentless in its apathy. You are the only one who can make it known: You matter. You cannot wait for others, you cannot brook the discussion your mind wants to have about worthiness. You are here because you matter. "

You may never convince another soul you matter, but it's not half as important as convincing yourself that you matter.

I went through a dark and bitter period in my 20s. It's that much-discussed phenomenon: We are told we can have and be and do everything; we get to work and that is profoundly not so. We run up credit cards buying things we think we should be able to have. We resist jobs we don't like because we think we should have better. But suddenly we're just a tiny whisper in a very large and terrifying chorus and we get lost. I applied for jobs and never heard back. I wished and hoped and dreamed and eventually I thought: Maybe I'm not that remarkable after all.

And then...I don't know. Something changed in me a few months ago. Something changed and I don't know how or why and I can't give you 15 steps to recreate it. As far as I can tell, a thought had been bouncing around in my mind for a good 15 years and then suddenly it settled into the right place. That's all it was but we know that moment: The light bulb, the click, the eureka. I'm not a eureka type so I did not leap up and run around naked (I know, you'd think I would have). I just noticed that the light was on, and I set my jaw if that's a thing you can actually do, and I said, Let's get this shit done.

What changed was simple. I just realized that it's true what everyone always says: Our heroes are only human. Beyonce only has 24 hours in the day. Nabokov also had to, like, eat and poop and stuff in between learning every language better than anyone else ever did. All that. I stopped being so angry and sad and left out that these other people were better than me. I stopped giving a shit that some people have staffs and all kinds of privilege. I stopped worrying that maybe I was a talentless hack. I started thinking that if all those people could be writers, I could too. I realized that I was being horrible to myself more than anyone else ever was. I was way worse than any prospect who fell off the map or grant reviewer who said no or person who laughed at me for blogging. Fuck those people, and fuck that mean version of myself.

And a few weeks later I started this project. Every day I tell myself lies to get it done: "People are paying attention. They will be disappointed if I don't write. It's important to commit to a thing and finish it." But that's not why I'm doing this. I'm doing this to practice making noise, to learn what it is to be looked at, to get comfortable with saying my piece, just because. To try things out, to forge forward against my perfectionist tendencies, to share when I'd rather not. Writing is a private practice with a public result. You don't get one without the other.

And the fact of the matter is: All those people who never noticed me before still don't notice me. But that's not how it works. You get noticed by your family, and your friends, and you make more friends until you have a community of people who would be sad if you died. But it doesn't happen for free. You have to carve out your own space. You have to look at and see the people around you, and let them see you in turn. It's about, sometimes, making a ruckus and seeing who comes over.

But it's hard. It is hard. I say that not to complain but to let you know. Writing and publishing every day is exhausting, but it's also the most productive and happy I've felt about writing. You can't spend ten years feeling lost and tiny and then just suddenly recover. I still get mad that I'm not Nabokov, but the baseline feels different. I can't tell who is reading 90% of the time, and I don't care. I don't care if I miss a day when I need to miss a day (never miss two, though). I'm getting what I came for.

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