“You should be writing a blog!” I’ve been told countless times. I’m flattered, and in my heart I have always thought that I SHOULD be writing a blog. Whether or not I’m famous or published, I’m a writer in my heart. I can’t NOT write. To be honest, I’ve started about 10 of them. None of my entries has ever been published…well, publicly…where my family and friends could read them (with the exception of a brief travel blog in Europe) because of one reason: perfectionism. When I sit down to write, I worry that my words won’t come out in a beautiful and cohesive manner. When I get ready to push that “publish” button, I worry that whatever I’ve written about my family and friends will be either misinterpreted or will hurt someone’s feelings. When I open myself to pour out a stream of consciousness, I worry that next week I’ll look back at what I’ve written and be horrified, or embarrassed, or feel foolish.
I’ve lived most of my life believing the tenet that “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” The thing is…after 34 years of life, I’m pretty sure I’m not a fool. And in keeping my mouth shut, I’ve closed the doors to countless opportunities, left a lot of life’s moments un-lived, and have sold myself and my talent short. Enough is enough. Sometimes it’s better to be thought a fool than to keep your heart shut and prove it to yourself.
So now that I’m doffing the invisibility cloak, why not dive into this perfectionism topic a little further? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has let a fear of imperfection dominate her life. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has sat in the background of a party for fear that I’d alienate myself from one or more guests by saying the wrong thing. I’m sure some of you out there have toned down your strong opinions on a subject for fear of rocking the boat. I do these things all the time, because I’m the peacekeeper. I’m the balanced and open-minded one…or maybe I’m just scared. Because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back, can you?
Two moments in my life stand out as times I really took a stand. Both times, I lost a friend. Once was as an early teenager. My friends and I volunteered to do face painting at the local fire station for a fund raiser. My mom drove us, as she was doing some other work for the cause. We painted about a dozen faces that day, as it was cool out, and the fund raiser wasn’t very busy. Two of my friends–we’ll call them Linda and Anna, decided that they were bored and wanted to go for a walk. After about an hour, the firehouse fundraiser was coming to an end, and my friends hadn’t returned. My mom started to worry, as she was responsible for getting all of us home safely. After about an hour and a half, we got in our trusty minivan and started patrolling the neighborhood for them. After searching high and low for another half hour, my mom had the brilliant idea to check the local dollar movie theater, which was about a mile away from the fire station. She had an usher escort her into the dark theater, and when she saw my two friends munching on popcorn and watching French Kiss (Starring Kevin Klein and Meg Ryan, which I remember as being only “meh”), she exploded with the kind of rage that only a frightened mother feels at the fear of losing two of her babies…for my friends might as well have been her own kids. That’s the way my mom has always been.
My friends were horribly embarrassed. They didn’t think they’d done anything wrong, and felt that we never should have worried or bothered to look for them. Strangely, one of their parents agreed, and had strong words with my mom on the phone that night. I felt strongly that my mother was completely in the right. We had ALL worried about them, wondered where they had gone, and started playing scenarios in our heads where serial killer child molesters invited them into a windowless van, perhaps to watch French Kiss starring Kevin Klein and Meg Ryan, but probably for more nefarious purposes. I told my friends that they’d been selfish and thoughtless, that they made us worry, and they made my mom into a total wreck for an hour. They disagreed. We spent the next 5 or so years of school avoiding each other, which was really too bad because to this day, I miss that friendship I had with Linda.
In college, I met Hailey. She lived a floor down in our all-girls dorm at Linfield College. Hailey was loud, bossy, opinionated, a known exaggerator of truths, and my complete opposite. I was totally taken by surprise when she became my friend. together we gossiped, stormed around town, talked about our plans for the future, and once finished off an entire Boston cream pie between the two of us over the course of two days. The kind of friend who encourages impulsive decisions. Maybe that was the reason I impulsively disagreed with her when she started talking down about our friend Polly. Polly was missing an arm, and sometimes asked us to help her out with tasks that really required ambidexterity. Haliey felt that Polly took advantage of her disadvantage to boss us around, make unilateral decisions affecting our dorm, and just generally obligate us to her. Instead of merely disagreeing with her, I took this opportunity (over chat–I don’t think I could have been so bold in person) to tell her what me and some of our dorm mates thought of her own bossiness, manipulative nature, and general exaggeration of truths. Hailey never spoke to me again…which was odd, as we continued to sit at the same lunch table until the end of the year, at which time she transferred schools.
The paradox in both of these stories is that in standing up for myself and my beliefs, I felt simultaneously proud and embarrassed, strong, and weak. I couldn’t take back my words once they were out there. I couldn’t mend the friendships. I never regained what I lost. But when I look back on my fearlessness, I want to regain that strength…only maybe to a lesser, more moderate degree. I want to cast perfectionism to the wind, be opinionated without fear, live without embarrassment, talk without over analyzing every word that never even escapes my mouth. Perhaps this blog is a decent start. Maybe just stating my intent into the universe will bring me a little courage. Maybe paving the road means I’ll actually walk on it. Maybe I’ll write a few more inspiring metaphors that quickly fade into cliches. Who knows? Every journey begins with a single step.