Writers? We write about our lives. It’s what we do. We write about that which we know and that which we are trying to figure out.
Married writers often confess to partnerships alternating in flow from ebbing waves to tidal crashes. Parents frequently share lessons learned from blindly raising children with techniques crafted from glue and popsicle sticks. Singles regularly detail tips and tales from navigating an exciting and often challenging maze leading to their ‘one in a million’. They write about these things because it is ok to suffer hardships. Everyone knows that no matter how experienced or knowledgeable or ‘good’ you are, all relationships experience highs and lows.
But not in the religious world. In the religious world, I find that even the most forthcoming writers fear freely confessing to issues and struggles. Because to be fully and truly honest is to make yourself fully and truly vulnerable. And the response to that vulnerability can be damaging to both your self-esteem and your status within the community that you hold dear.
This is true across the spectrum of creative expression; writing or singing or just being you can be as terrifying as it is cathartic.
Although this fear inhibits the freedom of creativity of many, it seems to be particularly restrictive to singles in the shidduch (matchmaking) world. Some of us in that system (*note: not all*) abstain from being too ‘friendly’ with members of the opposite sex unless we are dating them. We choose this way of life for various reasons: upbringing, belief, emotional health.
Me? I choose it because I find the shidduch process to be beautiful. But… still… As much as I am a proponent of this way of life and dating, it comes with a clear disadvantage: prospective life-partners judge you before even meeting you. Honestly, they don’t have much choice. Your internet presence and public persona are their only measures of evaluation.
This has serious consequences. When you are single, many forms of self-expression are stunted due to the soundtrack of #ForeverAlone drowning out the rest of your thoughts. When you are single, you are often tempted to modulate your actions – not based on your own values of right and wrong – but due to the true reality that what you do may affect who will date you. Your level of caution is accentuated because there is often no opportunity for, “I grew to understand her.” Because there are no casual friendships.
As a result I, along with many other singles I know, often hold back from sharing. And this can be frustrating and confusing because we like ourselves. We have worked hard to become who we are and all we want is to be genuine. But we know the reality: although it is true that the “Right Guy will accept you as you are”, what we write can indeed hinder us from reaching the opportunity of expressing ourselves beyond this hyperlink.
Many times, fresh words sit upon my screen waiting to be published. But they are never shared. Not because they aren’t representative of a part of me and a part of my life, but because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that people will read one thing that I write and think that is all of me. And I don’t want to be judged, or pitied, or dismissed. The image of a future apartment filled with cats makes me pause and retreat.
Because cats scare me.
But, with all that being said…As much as it may be frustrating, this restraint is also healthy. It is easy to say, “Forget the world. Other people don’t matter. I just want to be me.” But that would be denying the beautiful truth that individuals do not live in a bubble. We live in a thriving, dynamic coexistence with many others. A reality that requires both communal and private spaces.
Regardless of the situation, people in our society like holding picket signs emblazoned ‘Follow Your Heart!’ and ‘Just Be Yourself!’ They share until the lines between public and private are blurred to near non-existence. And although sharing of one’s self can be positive to a certain extent, one aspect of maturity entails the ability to hold one’s tongue and create a space for others. A space for confidentiality. A space that leaves room for a sense of sanctity.
There is a magical quality to the word ‘mystique’ which lends a sweet, undefined smell to the air. That magic is destroyed the moment one presses the word ‘publish’ or decides to articulate the words within the heart. Even within intimate relationships, it is wiser to be judicious about the impact of our words before we speak them. Self-discipline is needed for healthy interactions.
But, as much as that may be true… As much as withholding is crucial… so is sharing. So is vulnerability and openness.
I have always had a thirst for writing. Ever since childhood, the words trickled from my mind, down the arteries in my arms, and emerged from the ink in my pen. My life perspective was always better understood via the formation of wordy collages. Collages stapled together from a beautiful confusion of life snapshots and superimposed quotes. I sent my pieces to my friends and family but for years, I didn’t publish. I was paralyzed with fear. I told myself, “It’s ok, I’ll share my writing after I get married.”
I’m still not yet married. And I’m still fearful.
But a year ago, I published the most personal article I’ve ever shared. And the response I got from others was overwhelming. People related. People told me that they felt less alone via my words. And I realized that G-d wanted me to write. He created me specifically for this purpose. True, I would need to share with consideration as to how people would perceive my words… but write, I must.
It is the same with you, and wherever your talent or passions may lie. G-d created you for something. G-d imbued you with your particular sense of humor or observant nature or rebellious spirit or affinity for travel or need to think in color.
You have these tendencies because through them, you are meant to benefit those around you. You are meant to change the world for the better.
I don’t care if you are a teenager or an adult or married or single – the world needs you to be you.