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The Little Bird

I’m home now.
My home state, that provides a new backdrop for my writing. A reminder of how many stories were spun in the woods of New Hampshire, how many poets secluded themselves in the mountains, breathing only fresh air, speaking to no one.
Alas, I am far from secluded in the evergreens. As the summer begins, my childhood home is filled with family, and often, chaos reigns. And amidst the noise, and the hustle and bustle, and the lists of what needs to get done, there is a single bird, who lives in the tree right outside our home. He spends hours each day slamming himself into the window. It is mesmerizing to watch as time and time again the bird foolishly throws himself at the window – why? As he bounces back off of it, he looks again at the window, as if this time, the result will be different.
How is it possible that the bird does not learn from his mistakes?
How does the pain of the never bending window against his feathered wings not teach him to stop?
The science of it is simple. The bird sees his own reflection in the window, and regards the reflection as an enemy. As all he holds close and dear to his heart only lives a couple of feet away, this is his attempt to protect from an intruding bird. His dedication to his little nest is so fierce that no pain will stop him – as long as he believes there is danger, he will stop at nothing to be the protector.
If only he could understand the science as simply as we could.
If only he realized that what he perceives as the enemy is truly only himself.
I’m that bird sometimes. Sometimes I get confused about who the enemy is. I see the enemy in the reflection, and I charge, I try to fight it, to protect what is dearest to me, and I end up hurting even more, confused, sometimes even with a broken wing that requires tending to, to heal from.
It is an endless, life-long process to master the balancing act that is putting yourself out there, and protecting your most inner world.
Most of the world you interact with each day won’t have the time, or the patience, or the ability to understand and grasp who you truly are.
There is a reason humans seek companionship, and why we seek that one person that “gets” us. For some of us, there are plenty of people who get us. For some of us, that number is much more miniscule, and that much harder to find.
As a result, some of us turn into that bird, fighting anything that seems like the enemy, because so often, it feels like an enemy. So often, others don’t see who we are, or are dismissive of what we hold dear. So we protect it. We go on defense.
But maybe, like the bird, we have become so caught up in protecting ourselves, we don’t even realize that the enemy has turned into us.
Perhaps I spend so much time assuming that others do not “get me” that I forget to just be me, whether they are listening or not.
Little bird, one day, that window could seriously injure you. Perhaps rather than looking around you, ready to protect your nest from imaginary enemies, stay near your baby birds, and revel in the life that you have.
It’s a good one.

 

16/52.

5 Things I Learned From My Grandfather

Today is my grandfather’s 4th yartzeit (anniversary of death). It’s obviously unbelievable to truly recognize that, but when he passed, I had just been a year out of high school, unsure yet of where the future would take me. A lot has happened since then. I’ve changed. But, in passing, my grandfather has been a constant, and I still remember him exactly the way he was when he left us. I lived with my grandparents for my final two years of High School, in New York. I lived side by side with my unassuming Zeidy, getting to know him well between quietly shared breakfasts at 7 am, or through conversations in the living room, as he spoke Yiddish and Hebrew fluently, and I stumbled through attempting to use my tiny knowledge of those languages, always resulting in me just speaking in English, much to his chagrin.

The truth is, I don’t see a lot of myself in my Zeidy. Perhaps it’s simply the generation gap, or because I was born in America, and he in Israel, or perhaps because my life has been nearly bump free, whereas he persevered through challenges to get to where he was. Whatever it is, I know that I can learn from my grandfather in a lot of ways. As I was thinking about this day coming up, I thought about the things that so personified my Zeidy, and that I felt I could do well to learn from him. Here are 5:

1. Keep it simple.

From what I’ve heard from the old days, and what I saw for myself, was that my Zeidy didn’t have much he wanted for himself. He had a simple diet, made up of simple, tasty foods. As I rooted around in my grandparent’s kitchen Saturday night, looking for something new, and different, and exciting to eat, my grandfather sat down to the same exact meal, each Saturday night. Food is a big part of my life, and I am not ashamed to find it enjoyable to explore new flavors and cook up a storm. But – it would do me well to remember more often, as my grandfather clearly knew, that we don’t live to eat, we eat to live.

2. Joke around.

I’m a serious girl. I like big conversations and real life things. There are things in life that I believe should not be joked about. My grandfather was a serious man. He dealt with issues of great importance on a daily basis. He was constantly surrounded by people who were going through difficult times. He knew, better than most of us surely, that life was no fun and games. But if you ask any of his grandchildren what pops into their mind when they think of Zeidy, I will assure you that right up there on the list is the memory of his practical jokes and teasing. He had a light spirit and found joy in putting his grandchildren and many guests at ease. He would try on our sunglasses and jackets that he found laying around, he’d tease us about all kinds of things, and I will never forget the infectious grin on his face as he did so.


3. Talking less, but talking when you should.

I talk a lot. Not everyone believes this about me, but then there are times that I’ve met people, and when I told them I’m an introvert, they did not believe me, because when I’m excited about something, I could go on, and on, and on. I know I talk a lot. My grandfather did not. He could sit at his Shabbat dinner table, and not utter a word, just listen and observe. But, at the same time, if something came up, or someone did something that he did not find appropriate, he would speak up. His silence was not a result of fear, or being shy, or not having what to say. He simply recognized the value of words and did not waste them.

4. Doing good things, quietly.

I like doing good things. I get a lot of joy from doing things for people. But that doesn’t exactly make me special – it’s a human thing. What made my grandfather special, is that no one else in the world, other than those he helped, knew about it. After he passed away, our family heard countless stories from all over the planet about people that had been quietly assisted by my grandfather, whether it was financially or emotionally. He never bragged, he never even mentioned anything. He was the worlds greatest secret keeper, and his secrets only began to leak when those who had been touched could not hold it in any longer.

5. Overall, I think about myself way too much.

Clearly, I think about myself all the time, as this blog post shows. But, even if one is thinking about themselves in regards to making oneself better, I’ve learned that the less we think about ourselves, the better. When we keep our focus on others, we naturally become better versions of ourselves. By making our lives about others, we correct our flaws so that we can be a better friend, child, employee etc, in a way that obsessing about our flaws can never help. My grandfather lived a life for others, and today, he is deeply, and warmly, remembered by all those who had the privilege of knowing him.

Always, on this day, I remember the last moment I saw my grandfather, as I left his house after dinner on a Wednesday night, as I waved goodbye to him, as I called out “Good night, Zeidy!”. He smiled and waved, and two days later, I found out that those were the last words I’d ever say to him in person.
I’m just one of his many, many, grandchildren, yet, then and now, I still have a relationship with him that I cherish. I am forever grateful that my genes stem from this great man who lived a full and generous life, never chased honor or attention, but left a legacy that the wealthiest men on earth would be envious of.
15/52.

 


Photo by David Becker on Unsplash

Hold On

Time.

The tick, tick, tick of the clock, the passing pages of the calendar, the “what? it’s June again?”
As a small kid, time was endless. Days were long, weeks were even longer, and when I was waiting for something, it almost seemed as if the minute hand on the clock had frozen.
I guess as years go by, time picks up speed. All of a sudden, you’re constantly looking backward, trying to find the days that slipped through the cracks, that flew past you as you were tying your shoe, or taking a breath, or blinking.
As a (very) young adult, I’ve been caught by surprise by how time has picked up its pace, bringing new seasons faster and faster.
What?
It’s June again?
Just last year, I was packing my things, ready to leave the city for the summer, looking forward to the laid-back New Hampshire life, but knowing I’d be missing the anything-can-happen-at-any-moment lifestyle I’ve come to love in NYC.
Here I am, again, with the very same feelings and the very same thoughts. I already feel the sand slipping through the hour-glass, as June speeds ahead, knowing that the very first day of September will be here before I can possibly swim enough, laugh enough, travel enough, study enough. I’ll be starting another year of college, that much closer to a goal that I was so far from this time last year.
Time runs, and the best thing you can do is put things in your life because time will pass no matter what, whether you’re doing nothing or whether you’re doing everything.
Time. Speeds. By.
It feels bewildering and startling, frustrating and exhilarating.
Because when will I be suddenly finding myself living the life I’m striving for, looking back fondly at the days that I spent dreaming?
Will I realize that I’m living it, or will I always be seeking more?
How does one remind themselves on the bad days that time goes by, and as it does, it heals the tiny wounds and the large wounds and brings new gifts and surprises?
The story of life is always consistently being written, there’s no such thing as pausing, or putting your foot on the brakes, or holding up your hands to yell stop, even when it’s all you want to do.
Time often brings us to roadblocks that loom large, cracks in the road we aren’t sure we can leap over, it’s speed sometimes causes us to trip over our own feet.
But time also brings us to shores we never intended to see, unearths spectacular gifts we never knew we had, swoops us up in its arms when we most need to fly the coop and flies us towards a brighter future.
Time.
It is June again.

Next June will be here before I know it, and I’ll be marveling again, and all I pray is that come each June, I have the joy of marveling at how much beauty, how much good, how much growth traveled the days with me.

14/52.


Photo by Adrien King on Unsplash

Unpopular Opinion: Teenagers Will Save Us

I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. I’ve started this post probably fifteen times, with various different angles and approaches. They all sounded cliché, and exactly the way I didn’t want to start this post. But recently, I was sitting on a bus, just having this moment of recognition that this is as young as I’ll ever be.

There’s something sad about that. Because my life is pretty great, and knowing that this time of ease and ability to be living for myself is slipping away kind of makes me want to dig my heels into the ground and make it stop.

I like being young.

I guess everyone does.

I didn’t always love being young. I spent my first 18-19 years wishing to be older, wishing for someone to take me seriously, waiting for people to stop telling me that I’m too young for things.

People don’t really say that anymore.

Somehow, I’ve edged myself into the world of being old enough to have an opinion, to be heard, to be trusted.

It makes me think about the days I lived out as a teenager.

Sometimes I tell people that I was the most teenageriest teenager, with every hormone, every really, really bad day, every tear soaked diary entry.

I also was a teenager who had opinions, constantly, who spent late nights writing, and long days arguing my point, and primarily asking a big question: why do adults not listen to the young?

I constantly ran into scenarios in which I had to explain myself, defend my actions and opinions, apologize for my feelings…things, I’ve realized, I haven’t had to do in a while, and I’ve finally realized it’s because I’m growing up.

And that makes me sad.

Because my feelings today are no more valid than they were when I was 16.

Sure, I may have a few years more of life experience, and yes, I often look back at the way I thought about certain things back then and laugh at my misled ways.

I am grateful for the experiences, for the way I’ve grown, for the perspectives I now have that I didn’t have back then.

But none of that invalidates what I thought back then, because if that were the case, I’d never be able to catch up.

In five years, my beliefs now will be ridiculous and uneducated. In ten years, those thoughts will follow suit.

If we’re constantly striving to be the most educated and the most confident, we’ll never win.

So why are teenagers treated like the children they no longer are?

When I first began toying with the idea of going into the field of counseling, after a lifetime of foreseeing my career as a writer, I was immediately attracted to the idea of working with teenagers.

I wasn’t sure why, but I had to explore it. I began working as a creative writing teacher for teenage girls because I needed to know how I worked with teenagers. Did I hate the experience; did I love it? Did it give me energy, or drain me of it?

Pretty quickly, I discovered that it was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

Challenging, terrifying, incredible, enlightening and enriching.

You know why?

Because teenagers are the best of what we are.

I can have real, exciting, intriguing conversations with my students.

They are blunt and open, and willing to talk about difficult topics.

Once, during a conversation with someone, I fell upon this idea that I’ve carried with me ever since – growing up is simply about learning boundaries.

Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s precisely the difference between maturity and immaturity, and maturity is a wonderful thing. But there is this unique boundary-less way that teenagers live that gives them the exact power to change the world, and be the incredible voices our world needs.

Sure, teenage girls often live their lives amidst drama and chaos, tears and fights, but their emotions are so wide open, so honest and real, so vulnerable. Those are things that adults begin to put up gates around, and that is exactly why I find teenagers to be so refreshing.

Perhaps I’m too close to teenagerhood to be speaking like this – but perhaps it is specifically because of my proximity to the age group that I need to speak up.

People are afraid of teenagers, because teenagers detest ingenuity, tricks, and lies, and they won’t be afraid to tell you that.

It’s possible that I’ve been privileged to get to know a unique and incredible group of teenagers, which is not something I’ll deny. But I have a strong feeling that more teenagers fit into this description than don’t. Even the ones who feel like they are the only ones like themselves in the world, even the ones who are struggling with their mental health, even the one who feels like a loner, or the one who is the most popular amongst their friends.

The teenage years are by no means easy ones. Sure, lots of adults will hurry to interject – they don’t have to deal with full-time jobs, or pay taxes, or raise children. That is certainly true. But they are in the midst of laying down a lifelong foundation, and some people are telling them that these years are crucial, and some people are telling them that these years are meaningless, and the truth is, it’s a little bit of both.

Life is hard for everyone, at every stage, in different ways.

Children, mostly, are hopefully protected from the bigger struggles in life. Adults, throughout their life, develop a hard protective gear to deal with struggles, whether that is coping mechanisms, tools, reliable support, etc. Teenagers are between these two worlds, still exposed to the elements, not yet filled with a protective toolkit, but yet, they are facing real adult difficulties – betrayal, confusion, and the potential of making mistakes that can have a real impact on their future. The combination often leads to outbursts, pain, hurt, and the pull towards bad choices. The desire to belong right now is so strong that harmful decisions are easily made.

But, oh, the passion. The vigor, the excitement, the one-track-minded belief in something. That is what I call power.

Again and again, teenagers are belittled, distrusted and not given the validation and tools they deserve.

They are not listened to, they are not believed, and their unique perspective and depth are not valued.

How can we take an entire demographic that is so full of life and dreams and goals, and basically tell them that they cannot be children anymore, that play and imagination and exploration is something of the past, yet also tell them that they cannot be adults yet, and therefore everything they believe, and learn and are passionate about is not yet important?

I was a teenager who found herself filled with passion for so much, who was told time and time again, bluntly or subliminally, that my opinions don’t yet matter.

Today, I get to spend a little portion of every day with incredibly deep and strong teenage girls whom I have come to admire and expect greatness from. Not in ten years, but now. Every single one of them. Even though each one is so different from the other. I started teaching to find out if I was just as scared of teenagers as so many other people, but I’ve discovered that I kind of really never want to stop.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone believed in our teenagers, rather than expecting the worst from them.

I, for one, would love to find out.

 

11/52


Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

 

A Shoulder To Lean On

A few months ago, I wrote this article, inspired by a tree (see the linked article for an image of the tree) my father saw on a family friend’s extensive, gorgeous property. His house is edged up on a lake, surrounded by acres and acres and acres of trees, wooden cabins, wildlife, natural creeks, and old beaten paths. Nature at its best. But one tree stands out. A short hike from our friend’s house stands a tree, that our friend introduced my father to months ago. He photographed it to send to me, as inspiration for my writing. The trees long trunk is lying on the ground, as dead trees often do, but it’s trunk then takes a wild turn upwards, growing towards the sky. I took one lesson then, about anti-Semitism, and the ability to get back up when everyone else believes you’re at death’s door.
Today, home for the week of Passover, I went with my brothers and father to see the tree for myself. As I laid my eyes on it, as we stood around it and took in its grandeur, I learned another lesson from this tree.
You see, this tree is huge and old, and strong. It beat the odds, it is impressive and beautiful, and even still has buds on its highest branches. But as it soars to the sky, it leans against another tree right next to it, inching past it in height, but clearly reliant on the other trees strength for survival.
I’m studying psychology and counseling at the moment, with a goal to one-day practice as a therapist, g-d willing. Each day, I learn more about the intricacies of the human brain, the fragility of it, and the impossible tenacity of the human spirit. We, as humans, can endure incredible pain, and still come through. It’s true.
As we climb through a crisis, beaten and bruised, we come through stronger, somehow. We fold back into our lives with more wisdom, more depth, more beauty. It’s easy to credit ourselves, and it’s easy to believe we can do it, all on our own.
Because we can.
But do we have to?
When I study psychology, about the various disorders, about the ups and downs of the human experience, I ache with the desire to have all the knowledge already. I just want to know how to help, how to have the answers, how to be there for people and be able to guide them through their life.
Today, as I looked at the tree, I realized that I am training to be that tree. That supporting tree, the tree that is simply there to help another tree stand. I realized that I, myself, have quite a few trees just like that, supporting me.
And I realized that it doesn’t make the tree less impressive, needing to lean on its friend, it only makes the scene that much more moving, that much more impressive, to see one tree standing strong, helping another tree soar.
How often, as humans, do we just want to be able to take care of ourselves? How often do we resist leaning on others for support, at the risk that we will look weak, or tired, or incapable?
As a future therapist, I hope that I can be the strongest supporting tree possible. That every client that walks through my doors can lean on me, and soar.
And I can learn to look at my support around me, and recognize them for what they are. We all need each other, and we all can be the support that someone else needs to climb a little higher.
That tree would die without its friend. As impressive as it is, it needs support to thrive.
Humans aren’t all that different.
So if you have a working shoulder, stretch it out for someone to lean on.
And if you’re a little tired, and your shoulders are drooping, I’ve got a shoulder that I’m willing to share, and I think you’d be surprised to discover how many shoulders are surrounding you, waiting and ready to share the load.
So far, this tree, this incredible, beautiful, stoic tree has taught me a lot. In the words of our friend, who stood there with us: “You can learn a whole lot from trees.”
It’s true. Oh, is it true.

7/52

(P.S: Due to the busy week prior to Passover, and the start of Passover, I did miss a week of writing! The good news is, I got to spend the time with my family, who are all home for the holiday, and they’re some of the strongest shoulders I’ve got.)

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

This Week

This week,

a cashier complimented me, after months of my complaining that New York cashiers walk around as if the world slapped them – which in fact, in a way, it does, through entitled customers. A cashier complimented me, and the sun was shining, and I was surprised as I said thank you, taking my change, but receiving much more.

This week,

i sat on the subway with my sister, as we speculated about other passengers, their life stories, their destinations, and I realized they might be looking at us, and for a moment, I was burning with desire to know what they saw. Two girls, on the subway, heading towards an adventure that would last a day, with flowers; and coffee; and too much dinner.

This week,

i boarded a bus alone, traveling by myself for the first time in months, among strangers, my head bent as I avoided eye contact, hoping for my own seat, finally winning, and then wondering why someone who loves connection finds isolation so dangerously sweet.

This week,

as i waited for my second bus, sleep heavy on my eyes, I observed two homeless women, having set up camp in a bus station in a city, but as they prepared for bed, they laughed together like schoolgirls, perhaps denying the truth of their middle aged homelessness, perhaps not denying anything at all.

This week,

i drove for the first time in a while, preferring the quiet NH streets to the wild ones in NYC, and my windows were down, and my music was loud, and I was all alone, and I was happy.

This week,

I laughed with a cashier, back in my hometown, and as I paid her I realized that people in this part of the world didn’t look like they were slapped, and that was pretty cool, and that being alone is great, but connection is all that sweeter.

6/52.

22 Years of Sharing

Twenty-two years ago, a little girl was born in a hospital in a small state, the air frosty, the wind blowing, a blizzard heading their way.

I was whisked home from the hospital the next day, as the first flurries fell of what would become a three-foot springtime storm, coined the April Fools Blizzard, perhaps most fondly remembered by my mother, with a brand new baby and five additional children home from school to welcome her.

This was how I entered the world, and it’s a story I tell proudly, for absolutely no conceivable reason.

Twenty-two years.

That’s how long I’ve been hanging around on this planet, scraping my knees, putting Band-Aids on, exploring my world and hiding under my blanket.

Having been born just a couple of years before Y2K, my life has been pretty centralized around the internet and the emergence of technology. I didn’t get my first iPhone until I was 16, but computers were a big part of my life since my young childhood days, filled with watching my bigger siblings play games and then morphing into the big sibling that got to play the games, but with a much smaller, less attentive audience.

I made my first Gmail account in August of 2006, promptly shooting off an email to my entire family announcing my brand new form of contacting them, and over the next few years, contact them I did.

With tears of laughter streaming down our faces, my sisters and I dug deep into our Gmail archives the other day, reading my diary-like emails sent to everyone and anyone who would listen.

At one point, I chanced upon a recording, something I sent out weekly (I only followed through for approximately two weeks), coined “Etti’s Update.” An early form of today’s popular podcasts, I would record myself discussing current events in my daily life, and sent it out to classmates and family. I listened to it, just the other day, laughing at what an over-sharer I was as a kid, before I realized – oh my gosh, I haven’t changed.

From my earliest days, I have been a sharer, seeking connection, reaching out in whatever form I could find.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to change how I celebrated my birthday a little bit by doing tiny acts of kindness for others. Paying it forward at a Starbucks, leaving a post-it note with some cash at an MTA machine, or just simply leaving an encouraging note somewhere I knew people would need to see it. It’s so easy to become unhappy on your birthday, looking at the marking of time as a reminder at how little you’ve progressed, or how quickly the years are going by. Changing the perspective has reminded me that a birthday is simply a reminder that I am lucky to be alive in this world for another year, and I have further opportunity to bring joy to others.

As a spiritual person, I do use this day to look inwards, to give extra attention to the important things, to use it as a time to reflect on the year past, and make stronger resolutions and goals for the year ahead.

I’m obviously thrilled to accept the sweet gifts and lovely messages from my friends and family.

Yet, like I previously said on this blog, the key to my happiness is remembering that it doesn’t end with me.

Reaching outward, just like my emails from my childhood show that I have always naturally done, is what brings this day to its completion.

Remembering that we live in this great big world, filled with humans that are more similar to us than different, a world ripe with the opportunity for connection, for smiles, for kind words shared – this is how I like to celebrate being alive.

Remembering that no matter what language we speak, what country we were born in, what food we prefer, we all know what loneliness is, what love is, we all have dreams and aspirations, we all can recognize a smile and an open heart.

So, in honor of my twenty-two years, I’ll be working on giving back towards twenty-two people, in whichever way I can, if that just means listening to someone for another moment, or helping someone with their stroller, or smiling at a stranger, or sending a heartfelt message to a friend.

Twenty-two years ago, I joined the mass of humanity on this earth, and I’ve spent nearly every day since talking and letting my voice be heard.

I don’t intend on quieting down any time soon, but I hope to channel all that sharing and be able to continue using this blog as a way to connect with all those who read.

I think 8-year-old me would be pretty darn proud.

4/52


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

The Purim Story

Put yourself in the story.
Stop thinking about your costume, put the hamantasch down, stop for a moment and let it fall away.
Right now, focus. Listen to the words being read, fall into the ancient story, follow its path.
They say, if you hear the Megillah simply as a story, you do not fulfill the Mitzvah. Rather, you must listen to the story as a true reality.
Put yourself in the story.
 Listen to the wailing of the people, the wrenching sound of Mordechai ripping his clothes in mourning, the thump, thump, thump of Queen Esthers beating heart.
Peer into the windows of Hamans home as he plots his cruel revenge, into the classrooms of young children beseeching their G-d to save them, into the lonely halls of Esthers quarters, where she yearns to be with her people.
Feel the absolute terror of the people of Shushan as each day marched closer to their death. Feel the strengthening triumph in Hamans evil heart. Feel the complete faith Mordechai has in his G-d.
Fill your heart with the glorious gladness and joy exploding in the Jewish people of Shushan all those years ago, the sweet, sweet relief, the tight hugs between mothers and children, husbands and wives.
Notice Esther looking out from her palace perch as her people celebrate the threat to their lives falling away.
Feel the story in every part of you, remember that these are your people, and once upon a time, they lived this story out on earth, every fearful moment of it, every glorious detail. They filled the roads of Persia with joy and celebration, and today, we do the same in every corner of the world.
Let us give gifts with gladness, let us partake in parties with friends and family, let us remember.
Let us remember Mordechai, and Esther, and all the people of Shushan, who watched their lives crumble before their eyes, and had it returned to them,
and so they were joyous.
And so we will be joyous too.
3/52.

I’m Back (For Good.)

I am notorious for encouraging vulnerability.

My family will tell you that, hopefully, my friends will tell you that, and my students will most certainly tell you that. Even just reading this blog for approximately five minutes will tell you that.

Not too long ago though, I got myself into a situation in which allowing myself to be very vulnerable also caused me a lot of pain. Afterward, I found myself wondering if not being afraid of vulnerability was too risky a way to live. That perhaps everyone else had it right, keeping their inner selves protected for as long as possible. I spent some time in deep thought, trying to understand how vulnerability, which was something I intrinsically knew so well, could betray me so deeply and leave me hurting, rather than healed. I found myself fearful of the future. Was this a negative turning point in my life? Would I now join the masses of people struggling to open up, holding other people at arm’s length because it’s the only safe way to avoid pain?

I was terrified. I had spent my life hearing people talk about how difficult it was for them to open up and be themselves, and I was so grateful that I didn’t have that struggle (in some scenarios, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) But now I stood on the brink of falling into that trap, and I realized that people are not naturally born afraid of vulnerability, we are trained to become afraid as a result of negative experiences.

I decided I was not going to let that happen to me. Whatever it would take, I would force myself to continue being open and vulnerable. If that meant opening myself up once again to the risk of being in pain, so be it. This realization came to me after a friend looked at me and asked me, honestly: “If you could do over the entire scenario, but this time be careful not to be as open as you were, would you make that choice?”

When I realized that the answer to that was a very strong no, I realized that I’d always rather be open as a person, no matter the potential cost. Because the reward is still so much greater.

I find comfort and joy in putting everything on the table. I appreciate knowing that the person I am talking to is learning the full extent of who I am. I don’t like hiding. I do often hide, and I always hate how it feels. The truth is, in scenarios in which it is unnecessary or unacceptable to bring up certain topics, I feel uncomfortable. As soon as I’m holding myself back from saying certain things, I struggle to come up with what to say altogether. When people are just meeting me and don’t know me fully, I am aware of the way they inaccurately perceive me – quiet, maybe shy, not very dimensional. Someone who likes to stick to the status quo. Perhaps that is why sharing my writing gives me so much joy. It’s my way of showing the world who I am in an expedited manner. We don’t have to struggle through small talk here, I just get to tell it like it is.

I’ve missed sharing.

Over the last few weeks, some very kind people have been telling me how much they appreciate my blog posts, and I’ve felt incredibly touched, and slightly guilty. I didn’t feel like I deserved compliments on my blog when I’ve consciously allowed it to completely fall by the wayside. I was embarrassed to tell people to check my blog out, knowing that they’d clearly see it was not very active.

While yes, there will always be things that I will not share on this platform, as it is a public one, I am aware that writing consistent blog posts about my world keeps me in a state of vulnerability, and reminds me that there are always benefits to share something that is a little scary to share.

I miss being in that space.

I’ve resisted this for so long, hoping that my mere self-motivation or sheer will would push me to get blog posts out there in a consistent, timely fashion.

Clearly, it hasn’t.

I obviously need the pressure of commitment to a goal to push me in the right direction. 

At some point this year, I told my students: “Figure out what it takes to get yourself to write, and don’t let go of that.”

So why have I not given in sooner?

I am not going to let fear, procrastination or excuses get the best of me.

I once wrote on this blog that I never want to be someone who tells young, aspiring writers that I once had a blog, as I’ve been told many a time from many an adult. I want to be someone who can tell young, aspiring writers that I’ve had an active blog for years, and I still do. 

With that in mind:

I am officially reinstating the 52 weeks of blog posts.

Today is number 1.

I am busier than I was when I did this the first time, but they say if you want something done, ask a busy person, so I’m going to put myself up to the task.

So. Here goes.

Let’s see where this journey takes me.

 

 

1/52.


Featured Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash

52/52.

All year, I fantasized about writing this post.

The last post.
I thought about which direction I’d take it, the options being quite endless.
For a while, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reveal a brand new project, something exciting. Alas, no project has been underway that is ready for reveal this week.
It took until this week, the actual completion of the 52 posts, to realize exactly what I want to say.
In honor of the last 52 posts, I’d like to take a few steps back, back to the very beginning of this blog.
The truth is, it began as a Tumblr account back when I was in 10th grade.
I came upon the name ThisPublicDiary rather accidentally. I had been wracking my head for an idea, something creative, something that represented me and my words.
I chose HerPublicDiary. That was already taken as a Tumblr username.
I wrote at first anonymously, but then, always a sharer at heart, the identity behind the account was revealed slowly but surely.
In twelfth grade, my brother asked me why I don’t just start a real blog.
Thus – ThisPublicDiary.com was born.
When I chose the name, I didn’t quite know how accurate the title of my blog would be. But when I read back into my old writing, my newer writing, I’m amazed at how much of a public diary it is.
From those very first posts up until the post last week, I have bared my heart and my soul on this platform, leaving a trail of markable growth behind me.
The last 52 posts have been a journey all of their own.
When I embarked on my year of writing, I was about to step into a classroom as a teacher for the very first time, and I was 100% terrified.
I needed to prove to myself that I could work hard at something I committed to. I had to prove to myself that I could write even when I didn’t feel like it. I had to prove to myself that I could be absolutely and completely vulnerable and let the world take me as I am.
I did it, folks, I did it.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I stepped into a classroom again, for my second year as a teacher, and I felt the strength of my 50 posts behind me, my incredible year of proving myself wrong, and I did it. The nerves were there – change is always scary, but the nerves were completely different. I had proven I could do this. It was a whole different story from the year before.
This past year, so, so much has happened, so many milestones met, milestones that had weighed on me for so long.
I also traveled to Europe for the first time.
I’m also back in school now, having finally focused what exactly I want to do, and finally being ready to do what it takes to get there.
I’m a passionate person, you know this. I have ideas and plans and all kinds of opinions, and at times I’ve feared I’m all talk, and no do.
This year, I discovered I can also be a do-er. It doesn’t always come easily, but I can do it, and knowing that only propels me further into my future.
This past year, I did some really scary things.
I learned that in a million ways, I’d rather wear my heart on my sleeve than keep it locked up.
And that I sincerely hope I can help others trust this world enough to wear it on their sleeves too.
And I still dream of a world that is trustworthy enough for them to do so.
I’ve had some really, really good days.
And some really, really, really bad ones.
I’ve always known life could hurt, but man, have I learned that life hurts.
But on the flip side, man, have I learned about joy, about goodness, about true, raw kindness and connection.
So, what’s next?
What’s next for me, what’s next for ThisPublicDiary?
I don’t know what comes next for me, that’s hardly in my control.
And what comes next for this blog is largely in your hands, dear readers.
For the past year, I’ve selfishly handed you whatever I wanted. There were a couple times that my posts were so bad I found myself really, really close to just deleting it.
The entire year, the whole project was almost entirely selfish – I made a commitment, I wanted to keep it, I needed to keep it, and so I gave.
The weeks you read, my writing had so much purpose.
The weeks you didn’t, less so.
But the year is over.
This past year, I put myself first in a lot of ways.
I needed to. The things I got done, the things I accomplished, they required my full focus and selfishness.
And now…I want this blog to be less about me, and more about you.
Don’t worry – I’ll never stop being ridiculously vulnerable.
But I want to give you better quality content.
I don’t want to write for the sake of writing, not here. I’ll do that on my own personal time.
I want to know what you want to see from me.
It’ll mean probably no weekly posts. I hope to upkeep a certain sense of consistency, but my priority will be quality.
Like I tell my creative writing students – first you have to wring yourself out, get to know the real, raw parts of yourself. Then, you can think about your audience.
This past year, I turned myself inside out, I analyzed the depths of me.
This past year I’ve written short stories, poetry, vignettes and endless ramblings.
What do you like best?
I’m ready to focus on my audience.
At the risk of sounding completely ego-centric (although I hope you know confidently that I don’t mean it that way,) I have a request: If you have ever considered reaching out to me for any reason, please do.
If you liked what I wrote, if you didn’t, if you related, if you found it ludicrous, I want to hear from you. If you wished I wrote more about a certain topic or in a specific style, please tell me. If nothing else, I want this blog to foster human connection, and inspire honesty and vulnerability in all of us.
Here’s to a new year.
Here’s to a year of new connections, new friends and new experiences.
Here’s to a year of quality content, honest writing, and new stories being written.
Here’s to a year of ThisPublicDiary being not only mine, but yours too.
Here’s to a year of maintaining the balance of inward and outward.
 Here’s to a year of ThisPublicDiary: Scene 2.
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Blog Post: 52/52!


Featured Photo via Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash