How To Tell YOUR Story
My writing shifted a bit over the past six months from a less personal space to a more business space. I went through a horrific emergency surgery last August which switched my attention and perspective a bit. I suddenly wanted to keep everything private, as I tried to put on weight I had lost and adjust to a completely new diet and lifestyle. It was achingly uncomfortable to have an audience for every awkward, but necessary, step in the healing process. On top of that, I was shifting my career back to NYC and into my dream of working in the non profit world. That ideal did not fit into the sleepy beach town I found myself living in during this time in South Florida. Everyone judged my ambitions, especially so soon after surgery, and everyone kept quoting pieces from previous blog posts I wrote and almost 'used' them against me in disagreements we had over the future of my life. "Oh, I read you lost a sister to suicide, and now you went through this surgery, life must really suck for you." "It seems like everything always happens to Marji. You went through all of these things you write about and now here you are recovering from surgery." Instead of using my stories to empower me, those in my personal life chose to use them to hurt me in a moment in which I was already vulnerable.
Here's the deal: Yes, I choose to write very openly about my life. This is not for attention and it is definitely not so someone can look up one of my previous posts and reference what I said two years ago in a disagreement we are having. I write about my life, because after I published my very first 'personal' post that I had the courage to write, hundreds of people reached out to me via direct messages, private message, email and the contact form on my website to let me to know: #1) You're not alone. We've been through this too. AND the most important one, #2) Your post saved me from doing something really stupid tonight. You have no idea how much I needed to hear exactly what you wrote AND forever the most important, #3) I had the courage to leave an abusive relationship this week because of something I read on your blog.
See, I don't write for the judges. I don't write for the people that are so unhappy with their lives they choose to dissect every word I write and use it against me as some weapon they created. I write to save myself, and to save others.
And it took a few private messages I have received lately to open my eyes back up this purpose in my life. More than one person has reached out to me just within the last two weeks and have asked, "Please tell me how you are brave enough to tell your story. I want to tell my mine, but I have no idea where to start. I care too much about what others are going to think when I tell them the truth about what is going in my life, and I just can't deal with that. How do you do it?" Through those messages, I realized that I had become the person that 'cared too much about what others think' since my surgery last August. In my vulnerability, I closed off, and it has not only hurt me, but it's stopped me from sharing stories that might help someone else along the way.
So, to answer all of those questions I have received over the past two weeks, here's why I am brave enough to tell my story:
I Own It
The day my sister died I realized that I was going to have a part of my story to live with for the rest of my life. I knew that by her committing suicide I would never escape that chapter and the questions, pity, and judgement that comes from others when someone in your family takes their own life. I knew, even at 23, that I could either spend my entire life wrestling with something that happened that I had absolutely no control over, or own the fact that it happened and use it to help others realize how important it is that they do not take their own lives-- that each life is EXTREMELY valuable in ways we might not even realize.
Now, my sister passing away was not the only traumatic part of my story I've had to own, but it's a good example of something that happened that I have to talk about more than I would prefer. Everyone wants to know how many siblings you have, everyone wants to know how one of your sisters passed away at such a tragically young age.
Own who you are. Own the things that have happened. Love yourself through them. As the famous Cheryl Strayed emphasizes, we do not have a choice in the cards we are dealt, but we have a choice in how we play them. Oh, and never, ever be ashamed of your story. People will love to make you feel like parts of it were your fault, or you should not talk about certain details, but don't listen to them. It's your story and you own all of the rights to it.
I 'Try' Not To Care What Others Think
This one is, obviously, getting tougher for me. Let me tell you something, it was much easier to write a vulnerable, honest blog post when I only had 73 followers. At that time, I had a small, cult following that was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Now that number has grown, and brought with it quite the hypocrites who feel like they have every reason to bring up one of my blog posts at a party for no other reason than to make me uncomfortable and scold me for writing so openly about things like suicide, cancer, abusive relationships.
My faith is something that tremendously helps me in this arena. As my devout mother always reminds me, God is the only one who can judge me, and He is the only one I should care about when it comes to opinions. Knowing that in my heart has kept me writing throughout the past few years, because I know that He wants me to be authentic, real and honest in a world full of plastic people that do not want to discuss 'taboo' issues.
I Accept The Consequences Of Being Honest
Now, I am going to be brutally honest with you here >> no matter your story is, people are going to find a way to put a negative spin on it as some point in your life. It's just human nature. You absolutely have to accept this fact and move on. Those are not the people you want in your life anyways.
I have also had some awkward moments in which someone on a date knows more about me than I know about them because they did their 'research' and read my blog. I know to expect that now, and that is part of publicly writing about my life.
I also have moments where I get a call from a family member that were surprised to find out they were in a post somewhere online from one of their friends. Fortunately, my family supports me and has come to be more comfortable with our stories being shared, and now I give them a bit of a heads up that something is going live that includes them (like what I am about to do right now!).
I Remind Myself That The Benefits Outweigh Everything Else
At the end of the day, I started my blog because I wanted to write and I needed to tell a story in order to save myself and cope. I didn't even care if anyone ever read it. Fortunately, people found my blog and surprisingly found what I had to say interesting. Then, came the first message that I had helped someone through an incredibly tough situation in their life. In that moment, I knew that now I did not only write for myself, but had a responsibility to write for others going through similar moments in life. And, let me emphatically tell you, that very first person that reached out to me when I had a sliver of the followers I have now, and told me that I helped them in their life, is worth ALL of my writing and ALL of the consequences and judgement I can sometimes receive from my posts. Making the strife of one life just a little less is worth everything to me, and I mean everything. So there you go.
I encourage all of you to share the stories you have as you see fit because you never know who needs to hear your point of view, like, right now. I can tell you that I am going to keep telling mine, and if the judges hate that fact, they can stop reading my blog. Life is about sharing experiences in order to help each other where we are able. Writing is the vehicle God gave me to do just that, and maybe he is encouraging you to use that same vehicle today.
- Marji J. Sherman