There’s a saying, “write what scares you.” In March I did the Moth Story Slam. Writing the story wasn’t especially scary. It brought up some unpleasant memories, but it wasn’t scary. You want to know what’s scary? Sharing a very personal story publicly with people I actually know.
But, my experiences inform my writing, to a very large degree, and it gets old answering “where do you get your ideas?” with, “well, um, you know … uh, they just come to me.”
I have always thought my reticence has come from not wanting to make people feel uncomfortable – and it’s true that some people don’t really know what to say if you are too frank about a checkered history. And that’s OK!
But I also think it stems from my unwillingness to compromise my (self) image of hyper-competence, which has kind of been my stock in trade for much of my adult life.
I have started to realize, finally, that the two can go together. I can be competent and happy while also acknowledging the (many) times in my life where I have been less-than-competent, and have been, frankly, miserable.
And, maybe, just maybe, it’s valuable for other people to know this. Maybe it’s meaningful to show the world that competence doesn’t equal infallibility and that fallibility, followed by self-examination can lead to greater strength; that pain can sometimes force insights that lead to a greater sense of peace or calm or happiness.
The period that I talk about in this Moth performance was, possibly, the worst of my adult life. Even more so because it contrasted so sharply with what I thought adulthood was going to be like. I really did think I was going to leave my crazy abusive parents and instantly find happiness in college.
No one explained baggage to me, so I didn’t realize that I was going to bring a giant suitcase containing all the poor communication skills, neediness, tragic inability to recognize functional healthy people, even more tragic ability to elide and gloss over others’ insanity, resentment, and utter lack of boundaries with me from home.
My first year away from home gave me some very hard lessons. The good news is, I was a quick learner and while I made a lot of mistakes, I rarely made the same mistake twice. Eventually I figured out how normal people live, although it took me nearly as long to get straightened out as it took me to get bent in the first place. But hey, a difficult life is better than no life.
Here’s the link to the story. Thank you for watching, and, for the haters out there, enjoy the schadenfreude.