Writing in Reflection

In the months that I’ve been a writer for HerCampus, I’ve had so many opportunities to write reflectively on my past. It isn’t as if I never written personal work before, but writing on this platform has made me feel so welcome and included in such a wonderful community of people. It’s given me the confidence to share some of my most personal stories. Learning to write about my life was something that helped me open up as an individual; and, in a lot of ways, HerCampus has been the culmination of everything that helped me find my voice as a writer.

I’ve always been someone who loved to share; telling people about myself has forever been a way for me to connect with others. However, throughout my life, it wasn’t the sharing that was difficult. It was figuring out how to say what I wanted to share, and who I wanted to, or even could, share it with. I could be a bit of an open book sometimes, but there were so many others when my pages were blank.

The fatigue of navigating who and who not to trust turned me into a bit of a broken record, constantly trying to find the right niche to fit on the turntable. I was anything if not a people person, definitely. But, perhaps sometimes, I liked people too much. Years of being bullied by peers and of regularly being called a disappointment by some of those whose approval mattered the most to me left me with a constant drive to please and appease everyone I interacted with. Essentially, I learned how to work in “customer service” from age eight, though it took a good ten years for me to actually be any good at it. So much for child labor laws.

Figuring out how to say what I feel has been an ongoing process that has taken up the vast majority of my life. It definitely coincided with my discoveries about my sexuality, and, later, my gender identity. I grew up afraid of disappointing people, and fitting under any category anywhere near the word “gay” left me absolutely terrified of possible repercussions. Yet, this piece isn’t about that; if you want to know more, read my post from last week, “The Golden Child.”

As a teenager, I learned how to navigate social settings by hiding so much of myself. However, over the past six years or so, I’ve learned a new way to interact with people. I’ve learned how to trust people; how to let myself feel connected to the friends I had never had before. I learned how to feel like I belonged somewhere. And, through all of that, I’ve discovered my voice as a writer.

Today, as an adult, I can truthfully and honestly say that I have friends who know me in and out. I can say that among the vast majority of my peers, I no longer have to act like I’m serving them dinner. I can tell them about my identity struggles. I can tell them about how much I’ve been damaged by my conservative upbringing. More importantly, I can tell them how Zac Efron became the love of my life the minute I first saw his beautiful face in High School Musical.

Most importantly, I can be honest with myself. I can tell myself, “It’s okay to write about your pain. It’s okay to love who you are. It’s okay to fall for a guy. It’s okay to get your ears pierced. Hell, it’d even be okay for you to wear makeup! Don’t let the shackles of your past dictate who you are anymore. Trust in yourself, trust in your gut, and trust in your ability to love. No one can stop you from becoming the person you’ve always been.”

When English modernist writer, Virginia Woolf, wrote that "Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works," she put into words the feeling of understanding one's own voice. Even though being one of the relatively few women writers active in the early 20th century limited what pronouns she could write with, Woolf's words still have so much resonance today. And, not just for men, but also for women, non-binary individuals, and for every person who has ever had a story to tell.

And that, my dear friends, is my point. Every moment of my life, the good, the bad, and all the rest of them, they've led me to find my voice. So many things, my friends, my classes, my professors, my experiences, they have all helped me loosen the chains around my stories. Writing them down here, for HerCampus, has become a way for me to lighten my burdens in a space where I know I will not be judged for being myself. It has been a way for me to finally feel confident in my own experience because it has validated the very existence of my voice.

So really, to all of you reading this, and especially to those of you who helped me start writing: thank you, from the bottom of my heart.