In college I wrote a paper about identity. Specifically, how I found it scary to just be myself and much simpler to slip, chameleon-like, into the colors of the people around me. I was proud of the ability, if not the social anxiety that predicated it, but my teacher called me out. In jarring red Sharpie, he wrote across the top of my essay, “But at what cost??”
At what cost, indeed?
It’s just that I wanted to fit in so badly. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted, to be “normal,” to be “cool,” ever since I was a fat, freckled, fourth-grader with glasses and braces and an over-developed vocabulary and no southern accent which made me a total freak among my peers.
I won’t lie. I started blogging because I love to write, but writing for myself wasn’t enough. I love an audience, love the feedback and the applause. Why write on a public forum and not in a private diary under lock and key unless you hope someone else will see what you have say…and respond to it? How incredibly validating!
In my everyday existence I think I am expected to be the positive girl, the bubbly girl, sweet and kind but saucy when cornered. Easy with a laugh or a compliment, I am a little silly, a little sexy, child and woman rolled into one. Sometimes this is exhilerating. Sometimes this is exhausting.
Do my real life acquaintances also see that my sunny façade belies some mighty shadowy interior corridors? Perhaps, but they don’t generally delve. Other than my husband and perhaps my mother, I am terrified that if most people knew how dark I often feel they would all turn away like flowers that, understandably, prefer the sun’s rays to a dark corner.
There are several people on my LJ friend list who know me in real life and see me on a day to day basis, people from work and college and church. I imagine they have learned quite a bit more about me from this journal than they bargained for. I wonder if I am damaging my reputation or upsetting the people who know me when I veer away from the ideal I try so hard to present. Maybe it is refreshing to them to know that I can be negative sometimes. Funny how folks sometimes see that as being “real.”
Then there are the people on my friends list who know me only through LiveJournal. I simply don’t feel the same compulsion to censor myself with them that I do in real life. If anything, knowing I have an audience just inspires me to elevate my writing to something more entertaining while remaining true to my voice, whatever it may be on a given day.
I still want to fit in. I do worry occasionally about alienating people with an over-sexual, OCD or dark post. But, it’s only taken me two college degrees, two children and 30 years to finally realize that people who are my true friends, whether they only know me in “real life” or online, are still going to keep me on their flist even when I turn that dark corner. Trite but true, friends accept you for who you are, and love you more when you expose the raw parts of your soul.