When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer.

I wanted to be a writer the way people want to be fire fighters, princesses, and the President – most of us trade our childhood dreams in for “reasonable, good” jobs. I work in higher education administration, a far cry from my initial dream of working as a writer/photographer/wildlife vet for National Geographic who travels the world for free.

But I have really good healthcare, so it’s hard to feel too bad about it.

I wrote poetry in high school. The angst-ridden kind that makes you cringe as an adult. I wrote for the newspaper in college, but wasn’t particularly good at it. I read (present tense) ferociously, and that’s probably what has driven the idea home; it would feel like returning the favor.

If I could consider myself a writer, then I am an untrained one. I’ve taken one creative writing class my entire life. I don’t read writing blogs, and I don’t do much research into techniques. I’m not sure that I have anything remotely resembling talent. I have ideas, sometimes I think they’re good, and sometimes I put them on paper. A lot of times they then sit forgetting in a desktop file. But one didn’t.

I wrote a flash fiction called “Bookends” over six months ago now. I was wrestling with grief, and the story was a result of trying to fit my emotions into a totally different situation. I liked the finished product and decided to submit it to an online literary magazine that I was subscribed to called 805lit. I expected for nothing to happen, but hoped that it did.

It did.

I was initially emailed and asked if they could print my submission. I said yes – and proceeded to shriek in excitement. They gave me a publication estimate for the spring. But then the spring issue came out without my story. So I waited what I felt like was an appropriate amount of time (two days, maybe) and inquired to the editors if they were planning on printing it. I assumed they had received better entries since mine, and had decided against publishing it.

Their response was that it had only been moved to fit in an issue with a more appropriate theme. A month or so later I received the edits to approve. I approved them. Then my bio had to be updated. Then I got the email with the summer issue. And then I saw my name under “Contents”.

When you are so afraid to put yourself out there, and then you finally do it, there’s this long feeling of tension – as if you’re waiting for someone to call you out on a lie you never told. Seeing my name as a contributing author, with my words printed on a page for thousands of people to read…it’s a hard feeling to describe. Almost like letting out a breath after holding it for twenty years.

I don’t care if I’m good, or if anyone else in the world likes it. I was published, and I am really proud of myself for that.

*but if you want to read it, you can do so here.

The Casualties of Authenticity

My journey to self-discovery has been 2.5 years and several thousand dollars in the making. Being both impatient and rather frugal, it hasn’t been the easiest road. And yet I wouldn’t trade that time or resources for anything: because here I am – nearly 27 and finally an authentic, albeit rough, version of myself.

Anyone who has struggled with self-esteem, mental health issues, an identity crisis, or has gone through a general personality change, is probably aware of the occasional loss of friends, partners, family members, etc. that sometimes happen. Not to negate their pain or struggles, but in the end these experiences are routine with growth and development.

It’s sometimes difficult to identify the exact point where you recognize that your individual paths start veering in opposite directions. In 2.5 years, I’ve parted ways with a handful of people; friends and partners. Sometimes it happens naturally – a gradual drifting apart without comment or recognition. Other times, it’s more dramatic – it’s a falling-out, an exclamation or accusation made in anger, or the burning of a bridge.

Both are sad to me. Both result in the ending of something, and I’ve never been particularly fond of endings. In the past, I had two coping mechanisms for this: avoidance and ignorance. Neither worked particularly well. I always felt it was my responsibility to fix things, or to make amends, often while sacrificing my own authenticity in the meantime.

I did no one a service in my actions. I put band aids on leaks in dams that burst anyways. I ignored my own needs to try and keep peace, only to end up being a terrible friend or partner because I wasn’t being myself – and therefore wasn’t happy. I avoided situations that turned worse without attention.

But the beauty of mistakes is that you can learn from them. I’m not always proud of the way I’ve reacted, but I am proud of learning to recognize my own needs and growth. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world isn’t to be honest with other people – but to be honest with yourself.

Sometimes, others’ perceptions of you will remain stagnant despite personal growth. Often what is apparent to us internally isn’t obvious to others. That’s okay. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the nature of relationships. If something is broken, it may just need time and space to heal. Or it may be something that shouldn’t be repaired. Honesty with ourselves is integral in finding the appropriate action for the situation.