Who am I if not the words I apply to this page? And who are you to read them?
When writers come out of what I call the authenticity closet by expressing our most unfiltered thoughts in writing, we delve into the depths of our vulnerability and take our readers on that plunging journey with us.
But are my words what or who I am? Or are they simply random sparks of insight gleaned from snippets of a life thus far?
And if so, how is that any different?
And who cares?
We care because when we write from our heart and gut, when we dig deep and scrape away at the intricate specifics, when we brave judgement and criticism, when we expose our selves in public, we connect with that hidden hot zone in others.
Studies have shown that connection is as important as food, clothing, and shelter. It is one of our most basic needs of survival.
“There is a part of us that is lonely, empty and scared, even when things look so nice on the outside. We are afraid to let that part of us be exposed.”
From Leace Hughes’ essay The Importance of Human Connection.
Since I began writing for elephant journal, many people—some of whom I’ve known casually and some who’ve known of me from my previous professional public persona—have reached out to tell me that they had no idea who I really was.
Side note: Most of them like this ‘new me’ better. Hmm… Yet, this me was always there, hidden away, or maybe developing the legs to stand on.
I have to admit, feedback of any kind gives me a high greater than any pay check.
When it’s positive I am grateful I’ve been able to touch someone’s life in a way that matters to them. When it’s seemingly negative, I’m thankful to be able to open a discussion, even if we agree to disagree.
I am appreciative of every interaction because it’s a chance to connect.
As writers, we have a voice that speaks from the page and it does tell a story about who we are. But, the stories we share with the world might not be the real us. The complete picture is unclear, a tapestry viewed from the wrong side, threads dangling and image obscured. Flawed.
Yet we are not fibbing. Even in our most exposed expressions of (our) truth we can’t reveal our wholeness in one art piece—a painting, a sculpture, a tapestry, a poem. This.
Humans are multifaceted, complex creatures. We run on intuition, intelligence, innate baseness.
What we, as writer artists, choose to make public is but a snapshot of who we are in that moment. This moment. There are many moments in a life.
All of life is just a moment woven together in continuum.
Our words speak for us. We choose them with care. We dare to divulge vulnerable bits. But not all. We reserve something. For others. For ourselves.
I have at least five fairly distinct “writer’s voices” in my head. I have penned three publicly. Which is the real me? All of them. And more, of course.
How can we really know a person, writer, artist or otherwise?
We can share of ourselves with paint and putty and song and creative style and particular opinion—or write write write all of our lives—and we won’t really be known. We learn, grow, and evolve. And we keep some things secret. So hushed, sometimes, we might not even know the secrets we keep.
That is part of the loveliness of life. This unknowing makes people intriguing and life interesting. It makes us thirst and it satiates us.
We are all unique and confused and blemished and so when we stumble upon prose that reaches that delicate chasm inside us, those sacred places we’re reluctant to share freely but that yearn for acceptance if not understanding, and this, this moment in time, this connection, then we seize these letters strung together that seem to express that sameness between us.
Who am I?
I am the me that connects with the same parts in you.
Tomorrow I will be someone new. Again.
With humble appreciation and love and warmth, thank you for reading.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Chamko Rani/Flickr
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