On Taking Up Space

I know what you’re thinking: Oh, Christ, they gave Kelsey a blog. Who let her on Al Gore’s internet? Has she discovered Twitter yet? (Oh, reader, I have.)

These imagined reactions of yours have been keeping me from blogging for…years? That’s right: I’m so afraid that people will be mean to me on the internet that I’ve held all my thoughts back, held them inside my brain like a water balloon. A wrinkly water balloon. Full of…thoughts.

But if there’s anything this pandemic has taught me, it’s this:

Life is short.

Life is short, and fast, and ain’t nobody can guarantee you’re going to be here tomorrow to enjoy it.

You’d think I would have learned this after my dad died in a motorcycle accident, and then my grandmother, one of my last living relatives, died of a heart attack and I didn’t get to say goodbye. Those were traumatic incidents, of course, and they did help me shake up my life a little.

But life goes on. It goes back to normal.

But this shit ain’t normal.

My dad was the one who always punished me for speaking up, speaking out, but that’s a topic for another blog. (See? I already have stuff to write about.)

I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say, and sometimes I say it well, and other times I screw up and I try to be better. I’m human. That’s something I was never allowed to be as a child: human.

And on the internet, I mean, it’s hard to be human sometimes. Things get misread, people get mad, people are jerks for no reason.

But I keep coming back to something that Steve Edwards wrote for Lithub this week:

“An awareness of all the terrible things that could happen to you…won’t save you from them.”

Live video of me upon reading this quote:

How many times have you held yourself back from doing something because you were afraid? How many chances have you missed because you feared being criticized, judged, shamed? Because the presence of any risk outweighed any reward?

The thing is: the fewer experiences you have, the less you’re able to tolerate negative responses. In other words, if you never let someone criticize you, you’ll never build the emotional muscle you need to be resilient to criticism. Which makes you less willing to open yourself to future criticism, “and so on and forth,” as my friend Asa would say.

I’m writing from this place right now. This place of vulnerability, of fear. Writing has been my salvation, my safe place, for most of my life. But it turns out writing, like any act of creation, is one of the most vulnerable acts humankind has come up with.

So imagine me standing bowlegged atop a word-shaped War Rig, shooting double middle fingers to my dad and his Protestant ancestors and to whoever has told you, reader, to quiet down, to suck it up, or you might get hurt.

It’s exhausting when simply existing is a battle where you feel like you have to excuse yourself. I’m probably going to get tired sometimes. But I hope I can keep going. For my sake, for your sake, and for the sake of everyone never given the chance to add their beautiful voice to the cacophony of screeching owls that make up this earth’s song.

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