In college, when I first started traveling without my family, I discovered the sensual joy of being totally anonymous and unseen in a new city. The smell of that bakery on the corner. The color of those flowers. The hum of bikes riding by. No one knows me! I could be anything, unjudged, made new.
Travel was the closest thing I could find to an invisibility cloak and, as a nosy eavesdropper who loves to people watch, this thrilled me. So I road-tripped across Canada by myself, sobbing at the blue blue of Lake Louise and I wandered the streets of Paris, eating my way through boxes of Ladurée macarons. I edited my novel at a cafe in Amsterdam that served big, fresh slices of gluten-free toast with a perfectly poached egg on top. I visited all the book stores I could find one sunny day in Edinburgh. I practiced yoga with the monkeys in Bali and avoided using my bungalow's bathroom where a big spider slept.
When traveling wasn’t enough and my wanderlust shape-shifted in wanting to move, permanently, to start over, in new, undiscovered (by me) cities, I took off for California and sat on the beaches in San Diego, watching the sunset and thinking my life is starting.
And later I ordered expensive lattes at tiny cafe tables in San Francisco and thought I am becoming a writer.
And the anonymity--the being alone and starting fresh--terrified me as much as it excited me. With each move I’d have to start a new job and with each new job I would think to myself I’ll just keep to myself. I will do my job and won't make any friends and go about my own business. This of course, never lasted, because the truth is I love other people and I make friends easily, and I’d wind up in the middle of a wide social net within a month or two.
I thought this feeling would never leave me--I would always want to be seeing things I hadn’t before or meeting people I’d never met. Until I realized something recently. This whole “anonymity” thing was a total cop-out. My invisibility cloak was a safety net, deferring to my shy, I-dont-want-any-attention childhood self. And the funnier thing is, as soon as I realized this, my wanderlust drive seems to have faded. I want to stay closer to home and be seen and belong. I want to nest and find permanence.
As Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
To be seen requires a large amount of vulnerability, which is something writers often struggle with. I know I did. I hear from so many writers who write but “haven’t shown their work to anyone yet.” They carefully drape their invisibility cloaks over their words to hide themselves from being seen, from being vulnerable, from being judged. It’s a form of self-protection, but it’s not going to get you very far in a writing career.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to force myself to “show” my words more often instead of hiding them. Instead of cloaking them from the imaginary Judgy McJudgersons I imagine reading my work and cackling to themselves at my total lack of intelligence. But, their opinions are their problems. And these words are mine.