The little woman just texted me from college. She’s going back to school for a new career and is taking a prerequisite course at the local community college. I am very proud of her, and I know that attending college as a “non-traditional” student can be, uhm, unsettling, scary. Case in point—the text said: Some girl just told me that she likes my hair and wants to wear hers like this when she gets old (italics mine).
I pretty much spit my tea out all over my keyboard upon reading this. I guffawed out loud—I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my earbuds in, pretending to write earnestly, so I felt a little awkward snorting and spewing. Probably not as awkward at TLW felt though.
One of the dangers of getting older is that we don’t always see ourselves as older. In fact, most of the time, in my brain anyway, I’m somewhere between 25 and 30, sometimes even younger, and then I’m brought up short by some child disguised as a barista or a clerk calling me “Ma’am.” And I remember that I have two adult children. Plus I’m in a committed relationship, I have a responsible job, a mortgage, blah blah blah. I just don’t often feel like that is the real me. I feel like an imposter a lot of the time.
Sometimes, there’s no escaping the obvious though, whether it be the telltale wrinkles, the choice to no longer color our hair, or, as is the case for me at this moment, the impending publication of a very personal story. At this moment, TLW and I are beginning our own new journeys, delving inward to find and reveal some inner truths.
The differences between my inner and outer selves has become something of a theme in my writing career. I’m a mere eight months from 50 and just finally feeling secure enough in myself that I can commit words to paper for others to read. For most of my life I have wanted to be a writer, in fact I’ve written so many books in my head over the years, I’ve lost track. I couldn’t ever bring myself to put the words down on paper (not even on the computer) for fear that my inner self would be revealed.
I do have a couple of concrete examples that contributed to this fear—and I know I am not alone in my fear. Writers struggle with telling their truths and sometimes the consequences are, in fact, dire (Pakistani blogger girl for example). The primary message I have internalized over the years is that if anyone were to really know what I think, they would turn away in disgust and alarm. I’ve spent a lifetime living in a giant Venn Diagram, my personal and public lives just barely overlapping circles.
Many years ago I attended a series of personal growth workshops and one of the many useful messages I took away was that having your “circles together” made for happier, more fulfilled life. In other words, we should strive to be our authentic selves. Hiding parts of us results in shame and a sense of alienation. Well, this would be all fine and good if we lived in a utopian world where differences were embraced. Alas, though we are making strides (i.e. the It Gets Better campaign), we are a long way from a world in which we live and let live.
Pulling my circles together has been something of an elusive quest for me. Until now. Now I have an intimate piece about 3100 words long being published in an anthology this spring. April 2. I’m terrified. I’m thrilled—this publication is a dream come true, but I am also quite literally terrified. What will people think? Will my parents be mortified? The rest of my family? What about complete strangers? My kids? Ack.
Maybe I’m just overthinking things. Maybe instead of standing on the edge of a very high cliff waiting to hurl myself to the rocks below, I’m on the precipice of a grand new adventure. Maybe that’s what happens when our circles align and our true selves emerge. We reach new heights, new successes. We stop feeling like imposters in our lives and tell our truths. Maybe we will fly, the little woman and I. Maybe we’ll fly.