The Audacity of Writing Free

Two weeks ago, I went into hiding.

I erased Jennie Saia from my blog, from Twitter, from the public parts of Facebook. I asked my blogger friends not to use my last name if they referenced me in a post.

I paid my first money ever to WordPress and changed my domain name so the URL wouldn’t reveal that Superman was really Clark Kent. (As if we didn’t already know. As if a pair of glasses could utterly transform a face. Even with the changes, all my words could so easily be traced back to me.)

For two weeks, I’ve felt like I can’t breathe.

It’s hard to inhale when you’re holding your breath, scared that someone might see you.

Here’s how I found my breath again – and with it, the power to speak:

___________________________________________________________

My whole life, I’ve been afraid of breaking the rules. The rules are both imagined and real, imposed by teachers, peers, lovers… and myself. Some of them have served me well – I know how to keep a party alive through carefully inserted small talk, I only buy lipstick that won’t wash me out, and my grammar is downright impeccable. But there are other rules that were never more than smoke screens for the things we don’t like to talk about: insecurity, social norms, or just plain fear.

The rules in middle school: Never break the dress code, even when it’s 95 degrees and other girls cavort down the hallways in unsanctioned tank tops. Choose principal-approved t-shirts with the right logos on them – shirts you think are ugly and boring but begged your mother to overspend for anyway.

The rules in college: Avoid talking to anyone important for too long – they might just be humoring you, and you wouldn’t want to impose on their time. Miss out on a thousand stories and connections for the sake of this imagined impatience. Make sure to leave your university having never talked one-on-one with a professor.

The rules for entering the job market: Plan to accept the first offer you get, because you’re sleeping in your sister’s spare room. Come thisclose to taking an administrative  position at a law firm where you’re offered discounted parking instead of health insurance. When the owner says you won’t need your Spanish fluency because they don’t really serve “that kind of people,” break the rules and hold out for a job at an international nonprofit.

The rules for breaking the rules: Ride that wave of freedom. Travel! Dream far beyond a steady paycheck. Make lists of goals, and apply to graduate school to lock down that degree all the best jobs keep asking for. (You could try applying without it, but you’re still kind of committed to the rules. If it says it’s required, well…)

Start a blog. Write every day. Build an online community, be absolutely yourself with your new friends, and live like the open books you’ve always loved to page through. Publish truths about your past, your insecurities, your depression, and your joy. Realize that anyone with an internet connection could easily locate your office address – down to the room number! – and walk right in on you at work. Choose not to be afraid, because it feels so good to see pages of content you created when you Google your name.

The rules for when you want a career, not just a job: Yearn desperately for a chance to play with words for a living. Ache to edit, create, format, and share for your paycheck. Learn that your application will probably have to make it past an HR computer scan for keywords before any human being sees it. Agonize over literally every. Single. Word in your resume. (Should you include the accent marks on résumé, or is that trying too hard?)

Learn at nearly the same time that, “these days,” employers prize sleek, artistic CVs. (Find out it’s now a CV, not a resume. When the mid-90s call, give them their word back.) Attempt to fit all those vital keywords plus some engaging graphics on one side of one sheet of paper. You heard somewhere that a single 8.5 x 11 page is all you’re allowed. Taking more space to  express your entire scope of abilities, professional history, personality traits, and passions could mean you lose the opportunity because you wanted it too much.

Become paranoid. Live wondering what will make you most desirable to other people (meaning employers), even as you warn against that attitude when it comes to the male gaze. Worry that someone might choose not to hire you because you once posted a photo of yourself in a purple bikini. It was in the context of an empowering rant about body image, but it’s still your abs and thighs plastered on a monitor. And you also wrote about your experience with depression! Will they think you’re unstable? You cannot bring yourself to take down either post. Decide instead to stop blogging under your name, and turn the lights off at https://jenniesaia.wordpress.com. Try to cultivate a split personality. Online, you’re “Jennie Wild Words” now.

___________________________________________________________

For two weeks, I’ve felt like I can’t breathe.

It’s hard to inhale when you’re holding your breath, scared that someone might see you.

And then I punched myself in the gut, forcing out that stale old air, and I wrote a new set of instructions.

The rules for coming into your own as a writer: Remember that after reading your personal statement, the director of your graduate program called and thanked you for writing. Remember the day your blog got almost 6,000 page views on your body positivity project – the one that began with that unruly bikini photo. Decide you don’t actually want a job where admitting to being in therapy or loving your body would make you undesirable. Go back to the first time you broke the rules; the day you walked out of a law office sealed inside a skyscraper and shook your hair down under the streaming sun. Choose to value your whole self. Step out of hiding. Commit to owning every single one of your words.

This morning, my name is back on all my accounts and I’m breathing steady as a yoga master. I am Jennie Saia, and I’m audacious enough to write free.

Let me know if your communications team is seeking a complete and vibrant person instead of just a flawless candidate.

Photo credit: “breath at night” by S-t-r-a-n-g-e

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124 responses to “The Audacity of Writing Free

    • Now you’ve made me Google something for a change! I’ve heard the koan before but I needed to learn more about it… and I still don’t really understand. But if I don’t know what it sounds like, I can at least picture what it looks like, which is a lot like waving. Hello, world.

  1. Well, this is surely a post that will resonate with many readers. Too often we are driven by insecurities and anxieties that we are not capable of recognizing within ourselves. Recognizing them and admitting to them is a major milestone on the journey of discovering who we are as individuals, and continuing to see that person grow.

    If I may, Jennie, I would offer one thought for your consideration. Don’t define yourself by what you do. While you write and thus can state that correctly state (in terms of use of English) “I’m a writer,” don’t lose sight of the fact that this is what you do, not who you are as a person.

    You are Jennie Saia, and Jennie seems like a rather wonderful woman, to me. You must be, to inspire such a comment from Darth Navigator. ❤

    • My family plays a game every Christmas. We sit around the dining room table over coffee and dessert and collectively come up with just one word to sum up each person present. It is so incredibly hard to do, and even the most spot-on words still only capture dominant personality traits – not what goes on underneath. Last year, they labeled me “engaging,” but I’ll also take “writer” and “wonderful woman” and start to build a collection like Ariel in her underwater cave of treasures. How does that sound to you, Darth?

  2. Jennie, this is a truly empowering post. I think it’s natural to feel worried about those traces of ourselves we leave out there, when we are bold enough to be who we are online as well as off. I’ve been feeling the same thing lately. To the point I’ve really had to struggle to come up with blog topics, because of who I may or may not offend (including potential employers), made worse by recent re-connections via Facebook. But I think I’m getting to the point, like you, where I need to decide that being authentic is more important. Either that, or I need to channel my more controversial stuff into the writing I’m supposed to do offline! (Now there’s a thought… 🙂 ). Anyway, glad you decided to come back as audacious you – cheers to being wild and free! xo

    • I’m so glad to hear you say this! I knew there had to be other folks pondering this divide, but I hadn’t actually spoken with anyone about it. There are so many other balancing points too – how much to show of darkness vs. light, intellect vs. humor, deep writing vs. chatty updates… and really, I think that’s exactly why a well-written blog mirrors the human condition. We are creatures constantly in motion between extremes.

  3. I love it. This seems like a perpetual battle raging inside a lot of us… It’s like serving two masters. You’ve chosen the right side. So glad to see I can commence with my plan of tracking you down to your office number 😉

    • You’re making me feel like I’m in Star Wars, which I love. (But I want better hair than Princess Leia.) Please bring cookies along with the chloroform when you come to visit!

  4. I can’t do it. You’re much braver than I am. I would love to blog authentically. To be able to put pictures of my children on my blog for the world to adore. To be able to stamp my name on my posts about depression and abuse. But in a world where prospective employers disqualify you for not surrendering your Facebook credentials to them I just can’t bring myself to do it.

    • I understand completely. I have another friend who just can’t post their real name – they would lose business over it, no doubt. I also wonder whether I’ll reconsider this when I have children… at the very least, I’ll want to know my physical address isn’t easy to find!

  5. I love this piece, Jennie Saia. 🙂
    I love this piece because you made a decision to break free of anonymity. It’s not for everyone, though. I don’t recommend this for everyone. There’s a lot at stake and the folks who choose not to use a pseudonym are taking huge risks. It’s a tough decision.

    • It is a risk. Professionally and also personally. There was one time when I thought what I’d written was completely innocuous, but I actually hurt someone’s feelings. Once I realized how mt words came across to them, I decided to edit the post.

  6. I am a rule follower. Always have been. My struggles with being completely “me” in my blog is more about the people I love who may be affected. My family reads my blog and I don’t want to cause anyone hurt so I do a lot of self-editing. I have toyed with an anonymous blog but I worried that I would feel exactly what you just described… Glad you found your way, your writing is too good to be hindered by inhibitions!

    • Yes, I completely agree you on this. A few things are off-limits: my work environment/colleagues, the details of my family’s health, and any tough stories about friends who could be recognized even if I changed their names.

      And that line in the sand isn’t because of any fear – it’s because of respect. Also, thank you so much for that last line in your comment… my little writer’s heart lights up like a lightning bug when someone I admire tells me things like that.

  7. I would read your writing if you used your real name or fake name. It’s still yours. I don’t like using my last name on my blog (although, I’d imagine it would be easy to find out). I also don’t write about everything in my life, when I REALLY want to. I don’t want to hurt others’ feelings, I guess. It’s a hard decision.

    • I think making that decision consciously means you’re a considerate person. Some stories aren’t really ours to tell, even when they’re really juicy and you just want to rocket-launch them out into the world!

      And thank you for making such a good point – it would still be me writing, the same person either way. But I’ve always been a terrible liar and a horrible secret-keeper, and this is just so much easier on my heart and soul.

  8. I always find out what the rules are so that when I’m called out for breaking them, I can tell the person exactly why the rules are bullshit. I also wonder if someone will find me…but if I lived in fear everyday, I’d never get anything done and that fear would have power over me. So to hell with all of it, I want to write, so I shall.

    Don’t live in fear, Miss Jennie 🙂

    • I won’t live in fear, not with people like you at my back.

      Also, your rock solid strategy for stupid rules reminds me of one of my favorite J stories: He once pulled off the highway in a strange town to get some gas. He paused coming off the exit ramp, but didn’t stop, and right away there was a cop behind him with the lights flashing. When he asked J if he knew what he’d done wrong, he said, “No – I felt like I was being safe, plus it’s almost midnight on a week day. There’s no one out here… but anyway, sorry. I just didn’t see the sign.” The cop asked, “But have you ever seen an exit ramp that didn’t have a stop sign?” To which my husband responded, straight-faced, “Sometimes they say yield.”

      The cop laughed so hard he was still grinning when J drove away, no ticket. That’s what knowing the rules so you can break them looks like!

  9. I view blogging as finally being able to say all of the things that I never felt comfortable saying before except my to closest friends. I’ve found that because of my breaking my OWN rules about maintaining my silence, I’ve found even more friends out there (including you) that I didn’t even know existed. So write away!

    • This. Yes. I’m with you – it’s when I’ve written about the most personal things that folks have come out of the woodwork to support me. In fact, I’m absolutely sure that blogging about depression and having my online friends be so supportive was instrumental to my getting past it. I’m very thankful for you. 🙂

    • If I were just a little bit more audacious, I really would add “epistolary badass” to my CV. But… sigh… there are still some limits.

      Nonetheless… WRITE FREE!

  10. Wow. Just…wow. So many of us just blindly follow rules, do what is expected of us and just go along in life feeling miserable and afraid to be who we really are. I’m one of them.

    I sometimes think to myself, “Be careful what you post on your blog. Don’t share your drinking habits or your depression. It could haunt you when you’re going for that internship you need to graduate.” I have to stop myself because I know damn well that if I show only the perfect side of me I’ll be miserable and never learn anything.

    I say take me as I am, flaws and quirks and all. Being a robot is boring, miserable and bound for failure. No thanks.

    Thanks for sharing such an honest, insightful post.

    • You’ve touched on exactly what frustrates me – the fact that we’re supposed to appear so clean-scrubbed when applying for jobs or higher education. The people who run those programs are just people themselves, with their own drinking habits and mental illnesses. I’m mature enough to understand why I shouldn’t have public Facebook photos of me doing keg stands (actually, I’ve never done one – bucket list!), but anyway… publishing some thoughtful, powerful words about your life’s struggles or showing that – gasp – you actually wear a bathing suit while on vacation at the beach shouldn’t take you out of the running.

  11. A) Chills. Real Chills.
    B) You fucking rock my socks off.
    C) Is it weird I want to re-blog everything you write? I swear I’m not going to steal you and wear your skin. Probably.
    D) You validated every doubt I’ve had about my name being on my blog/twitter/facebook/instagram. Who knew I was so damn brave? Not even me, apparently.
    DDD) My bra size. Not even kidding. #CantBreathe
    E) I don’t always alphabetize my comments
    F) #WriteFree
    G) LOVE
    H) YOU
    I) Sister Wife
    J) GET DOWN WITH YOUR BAD SELF!
    K) Insert Soul Train music

    • I can’t even respond to this comment properly, because I am so mind-blown by your hilarious/profound/Train-loving fabulosity. This level of perfection is beyond me. I love you; I wish we were blood relatives. (Wait – but that would shut the door on our baby-making scheme!) Anyway here is my skin, just take it already. #BowDownToBeth

          • Are you asking if the Jennie skin-suit I’m dancing in is “itchy”?
            A) No. It’s lovely and smells nice, too
            B) this wins as creepiest comment convo I’ve ever had
            C) what is it about your comment section that makes me want to letter my answer?

  12. Standing. Commencing slow-clap.
    This post is beautiful, just like you. Every word resonates with me.

    When I first started writing my blog, it was just a place to document my journey towards better health – nothing too incriminating. …But then I realized I love writing. I realized I have lots to say. Most of it wildly inappropriate.

    But by then the cat was out of the bag. My friends, family and co-workers knew about the blog.

    I remember a couple of months ago when Aussa and a few others were linking me into #DickPunchThursday on Twitter and I nearly had a heart attack, worried about my professional colleagues seeing those exchanges.

    it’s a fine line.

    I won’t edit myself on my blog. So there are topics I won’t write about; stories I won’t share, but I won’t write anything with a muzzle on. Still, for me, staying away from #dickpunches on Twitter might be the smarter move. 😉

    Bravo, Jennie. You are amazing.

    • You’re there with us on twitter #dickpunch Thursday always, Nancy! xoxo
      If you ever want to write something more anonymously, my blog is open for you, sistah!!

      • I created that new Twitter handle “GoddessofSweat” to be able to #dickpunch at will, but then I realized it was just too exhausting to manage two social media personas.

        I’ll minimize my #dickpunch ing (a small price to pay) to avoid having to be two people in the social media universe. 🙂

        • Well, I meant you are there with us “in spirit” even if you’re not actually tweeting. 🙂

          I do remember your Goddessofsweat twitter handle. That would be so crazy to have two! I can’t even imagine. Good for you for trying. It’s not worth the stress just for #dickpunch tho. Just remember that every time #dickpunch goes out on twitter, we collectively whisper “and Nancy toooooooo” in a really creepy-yet-sweet way.

    • Not writing with a muzzle on is exactly what I mean to do! But of course there are things that are off-limits, and there are people I love far too much to cross their boundary lines, even if mine are a little looser.

      I think the intersection of those two things – freedom and respect – is the sweet spot for anyone who writes non-fiction essays.

      And, honestly? I love my #dickpunching friends more than I can say, but I shy away from that particular day of the week, myself. Same reason – and I don’t think we should have to explain why we abstain from some things any more than we should have to justify why we revel in others!

  13. Good for you, Jennie! Sometimes, we need to be cautious, but for the right reasons. I use my grandmother’s surname here, but that’s because my ex-narcissist would cause a lot of trouble if he knew about my blog. Just following the rules for the sake of following them is something else entirely. The stuff we internalize in childhood can be so strong! Congratulations! 🙂

    • Lynette, that is a beyond-valid reason. Also, if I had a surname half that cool anywhere in my lineage, please believe I would be sharing it somehow!

    • Si, corazon! Y como nunca tengo oportunidad para practicar, me daria muchisimo gusto placticar asi contigo de vez en cuando! Besos, a ti y a la dulce libertad. 🙂

      • Que bueno! Me encanta cuando encuentro a alguien que habla español. Es mas divertido así. Especialmente poder decir todas las malas palabras (swears). 🙂 Hasta la próxima, chica! 🙂

  14. I used to follow all the rules too. But when it comes to blogging, all bets are off. Love me or hate me – that’s okay. But I don’t want to be a boring, middle of the road, forgettable blogger.

    • Rhonda! Please to meet you! And I agree – life is too precious to waste it being meek. What’s that great quote? – “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

  15. “Avoid talking to anyone important for too long – they might just be humoring you, and you wouldn’t want to impose on their time” – do it all, all, all the time. Not usually in real life, where I’m pretty confident and blase about these things…but here, where I get intimidated by the wonder and awesomeness of the writers around me, and feel I have nothing which could possibly be worth their time to listen to. So I don’t. I sit and watch the green lights flicker on and later, off, and say nothing, because I don’t know how to start.

    Sucks.

    SO glad you’re back to writing under your own voice. That’s awesome. GOOD FOR YOU.

    I don’t think I could ever manage to be anyone but me, even though I hide parts of my story all around the Blogosphere – I find my anonymity that way, for the pieces which would cause worry or eyebrow raise, but whatever. I have a small-small job – I don’t want a career. I want to WRITE because it’s what makes me happy.

    • “I don’t want a career. I want to WRITE because it’s what makes me happy.”

      Amen to that my friend. We’re pushed into figuring out our careers at my university and, more specifically, my major. It drives me nuts. I’m not looking for a career at this juncture. Writing is what makes me happy, not the pursuit of some career I have zero interest in in the first place.

      • I am perfectly happy in my little, not-high-powered job BECAUSE it means I can earn a reasonable wage and come home and WRITE to my heart’s content. I don’t have a degree or any accolades or any professional clout, but if I did, would I be happier? I doubt it.

    • Ah, the infinite things we’d never guess about each other if we didn’t crack our chests open and share. I’d never have thought you were shy online! And this, right here, is exactly why truth matters so much – so we can realize that other living people we know and admire are exactly as insecure as we are, but they’re doing amazing things anyway.

  16. Jennie, I love every single word of this. I am so afraid. Afraid that someone will find out it’s me behind my blog, afraid that my family will judge me because I say fuck and write about sex and life. Afraid, so very afraid, and it’s ridiculous. I even wrote a book and am battling whether or not to use a nom de plume because I’m so afraid. But you just empowered me. I’m putting my name on it because it’s good, and I should be proud. I am proud, and one day, my children will see that I followed my dream…enough about me. I am so glad I know you and get to be part of your world. I’m so glad you write and share your world through your words, through Jennie Saia’s words. I’m so glad you’re breathing, and I’m so proud of you. If I had a communications team, you’d be the fuggin leader.

    • Holy hell, Mandi – really? If reading this really tipped you towards putting your own name on your own BOOK, then my year is made! Because of course you should! I have been very taken lately with this idea of my children someday reading what I’ve written and left behind… I deeply believe that, by the time they’re old enough to understand it, they’ll also understand that their mother was a complete and vibrant person. They won’t mind knowing that I had sex or wasn’t perfect, or whatever. They’ll just be thankful to have a window into me as a person, instead of only as a mother.

      …but to finish, what I really want to say is how proud I already am of you for completing such a big project, and now for owning it! You’re amazing, and it gives me such deep pleasure to know you. Oh honey… out of all the stellar comments today, yours is the one that made my eyes leak.

  17. Here because… I forget who shared this by Tweet, but one of the awesome commenters above. I’m still grappling with being a dad on disability, but… lots of time to garden, DIY, fix-it ’round the house, etc. I like being domestic and SAHD, but, the challenge is selling it to my fellow men. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but I got awkward pauses all the time when I answered “So, what do you do?” honestly. (Sorry, gents, it’s not employment.)

    • Do you feel like blogging about it has strengthened your answer when people ask in day-to-day life? I know I sometimes share my opinions more confidently one I’ve sorted them out through writing.

      • Yes. But close friends have also helped me gain perspective on it– one in particular suggested I was homesteading. Now, I’m not doing anything to the scale that most people who call themselves homesteaders do, but, I’ll go with it.

        • “Homesteading.” That’s marvelous, and has the ring of truth. Life’s all in how we frame it. If I’m ever a stay-at-home mom, I think I’ll steal that gem.

  18. Oh my goodness! This has touched me in such an awesome way!! I have always used a shortened version of my name in all my online writing!! I don’t care who reads it, comments on it or even ignores it. It is mine, I claim it, I take credit for it and I will love and nuture it because it is a part of me!!

    • People write for so many reasons. Some crave the instant feedback from readers, others just have to get the words off their chests, still others think and process best by spelling things out.

      I’m so glad that you know why you write and don’t let anything else get in the way!

  19. As a fellow rule follower, *thank you so much for this*… And I’ve been nervous (and procrastinating) to really branch out with my writing because of the rules (and I’m not sure exactly in which direction my first step should be).
    You’re an inspiration, truly. And I bet you looked damn good in that bikini. 🙂

    • This is a lesson I keep on learning. I’m actually in a writing workshop today and what keeps coming up is how little I trust my own voice. I trust it for myself, and within the online community I’ve built, but when it comes to submitting my writing to any larger forum I get paralyzed with worry over whether I’ll come off as inexperienced or less than knowledgeable, or… or… or.

      I’m working on it, though! By the end of the day today I’ll have submitted a cherished pet project to HuffPo, whether I think it’s absolutely perfect or not.. So here’s to you and I kicking procrastination’s butt, together! Keep me posted about what you find when you break your own rules. 🙂

  20. Jennie, you speak the truth with such eloquence and gentleness, you really are a writers writer. Where I live has a largely transient population, mainly due to the nature of the mining industry, but also because it’s one of those places that attracts people who are on the run from something or someone. The fear of being “tracked down” can be debilitating or it can be motivating. I’m glad you’re breathing again, darlin’. Respect REDdog

    • Oh buddy… I’ll never be half myself again. Even in that small dose, it dimmed my light so much.

      I’m just saying, the sun shines as bright as it wants to and is the Earth’s source of life. And the sun doesn’t waste time worrying if it gets in someone’s eyes or makes someone sweat from time to time – it’s too busy illuminating the entire world!

      Funny thing to say when you’re referencing miners going underground, but…

  21. Good for you, Jennie! I’m proud of you. I’m glad you’re breathing easy again. The truth is I think you really only want to be where you’re entirely accepted for who you are. I know that’s a lot to ask these days. Keep the faith.

    • I will keep the faith, I promise. And you’re so right, but the funny thing is how most of us aren’t even entirely accepted within our own heads. But then there are those wonderful people who are the perfect matches for us, who accept us even more than we do… and like you advise, I’m going to hold out for that.

  22. I think it’s a thing we all go through so it’s nice to see you come to terms with it.

    I think I haven’t yet. But maybe one day I will 🙂

  23. I always have a problem with the public aspect of blogging. Funny thing for a practice that is entirely public, but I never thought I was all that smart. I’m good with numbers, but life eludes me on a level that spins me around on a desk chair, up and up and up until I graze the ceiling. I’m glad I’m a fiction writer. I’m glad I write things that have nothing to do with me, or expose who I am. I don’t feel any need to write about who I am, because what I imagine feels more profound and more limitless than what I’ve myself experienced. Not that I’m boring. I don’t think I am. I could be, I guess. But I wrote a story about a bearded lesbian God once, and I really don’t have any personal experience with a bearded lesbian God. That I know of, anyway. For what it’s worth, Jennie, I think you’re very brave. Much braver than me. I believe I might properly be called a coward, actually, and that’s fine. I flip around in a made-up format and deliver stories that go no where, trying hardest to outline wordplays designed not to expose myself, but probably exposing myself even more for the effort. I imagine I lurk between the lines, or drunkenly fall off the paragraphs. Around and around we spin – but aren’t we glad for the true connections that are out there, for the brave souls and the great writers, for the people who take our breath away with the audacity of being themselves.

    • Don’t be too harsh on yourself Trent, cowardice isn’t a luxury a fiction writer can afford. You put your brilliant word-smithing and expansive imagination into creating mind-bending word art and then put it out there for anyone to read knowing full well that someone somewhere along the line is likely gonna take a giant dump on it…and then you do it again anyway. Sounds the opposite of cowardly behaviour to me. I write about me but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should do that. I just write what’s in me…we have that in common, mate. Respect REDdog

      • I invite the giant dumps on my writing, but they’re few and far between. WordPress is a sucky home for fiction writers, fact. Thanks for your comments, Red. I don’t have any fear of my words, at all, and I haven’t even begun to spin them the way they are going to be spun.

        • I can’t disagree with this – I wish I could. When I write poems, my page views fall through the floor. And I think fiction is so much harder to write than reality – you have to invent a whole world, not just recall one… anyway, I’m along for the spinny ride. (Just don’t make me sick like the Disney World teacups!)

          • Spin away, Saia. I figure we’re nothing without stories anyway, and as much fodder as my life to date has provided for stories still, it ain’t the equal of what I can imagine. That’s what makes people great, and makes me love them.

        • …and everywhere you go leaves the scent of Jennie, there should be a flower named Jennie, something radiant in colour and delightfully aromatic…

          • I just “awwww”ed so loud J paused his TV show to ask what was up! You’ve raised the compliment stakes in my marriage. 🙂 Man, I’m adding this to my journal to re-read someday when I’m feeling haggard and brainless and my teenagers are telling me how uncool I am. xoxo

    • I’m really honored that you think I’m brave. That’s balls to the wall awesome. I also think that fiction reveals just as much or more than true essays, because in the world of the imagination, nothing is off limits. Things your characters say and do reveal parts of the author they might not have intended to give away!

      Also, I love your fiction and think WordPress is richer for it. And finally… when are we gonna collaborate on that Ohio story? Has that had enough time to percolate in your writer-brain? (You know, the one that’s totally separate from the brain that has to process mundane things like breathing and taxes and talking to people in stores.)

      • Ohio story! Sorry Jennie, I’ve been hog-tied to work of late, but I gotta pick up the pieces of that. I have your ten things, and I believe I have a way of tying them together – shall we do this together or should I take a crack at something and then send it your way?

        • I think it’d be fun if we linked up and you published the fictional version and I published the true autobiographical version on the same day. We could send people back and forth between them to view two alternate realities. What do you think?

          • Okay, let’s do it. I’m travelling like a mad man of late and trying to squeeze in writing here and there, but this sounds like total fun. Let me work it over the next week or so.

  24. Jennie,

    I think this is a wonderful post and so glad you chose to stay public. I hire a lot of people in my job, and those who have flaws and interests are far more compelling candidates to me than those who show no personality whatsoever. Of course, having things online that demonstrate a serious lack of judgement is something different. And I don’t mean things like funneling beer on stage in university (yes, that was me) or sleeping with most of the football team (thank god there weren’t smartphones when I was in university). But what you have? Shows a level of self-awareness and interest and ability that would have me hire you in a heartbeat. Who gives a crap about your bikini?

    I’m an executive at a huge company and we have a saying – we want people to bring their whole selves to work. I was worried when I started online dating that there might be someone who saw me who knows me at work. Other than being slightly embarrassed about some of those darn OkCupid questions, I just decided to put myself out there and not live in fear that some dude might give me a wink one day because he knows I’ve had a threesome. Big fucking deal. I am who I am.

    My blog is anonymous only because it started as a way for me to write about the journey I’ve had in my marriage and my split. I wanted to be able to write about things that very few, if any, people knew about. I didn’t want to have to censor what I write and I know that if some of the people in my life, notably my ex-husband, knew about this, it would cause him pain and he’d probably sue my ass. But it’s hard to not share the writing I’m really proud of with my friends and family. Nobody knows I blog. It’s not an easy decision to make and I commend you for being willing to put it all out there.

    • Ann, this is all kinds of reassuring. I know there are companies with this mindset, but sometimes it feels like they’re few and far between. And good on you for not letting some professional veneer keep you from a fulfilling social life! The French know what’s going on when it comes to this. From what I’ve heard, I think if a female executive were known to have been in a threesome, it would almost enhance her power. And while I take your point, *we* know you blog, and this community can be awesome in ways even my friends and family can’t offer. Thank you again for this comment.

      • Thanks Jennie (and for the follow as well – I’m honoured). I knew nothing about blogging nor had I really read any before I started writing here, and I have been humbled and touched by the fantastic community of writers and readers that is out here. It’s amazing stuff indeed…and the comments on this blog entry just reinforce this for me.

  25. Oh my god Jennie.
    I have the biggest crush on you right now. You’re so fucking brave.
    I just got back from my therapist and we basically talked about this very thing. This is hammering another nail into the coffin in my heart marked “ways I confine myself.” THANK YOU. So, so grateful to have such a wonderfully audacious friend.

    • Oh my god, Laurie.

      You are one of the writers I most want to have a crush on me. The feeling is mutual – you make the brave most of us achieve look timid. But I am so, so happy this moved you forward in something you’re working through! Therapy definitely showed me that you never know where you’ll find exactly the little nugget of gold you needed to learn about next. 🙂

      • Girl… I have such a crush on you. The vulnerability you put up here was amazing. It totally did move me forward. I’m currently considering taking off the privacy settings for my blog on Facebook. Right now, I’m only sharing it with a certain list. But because of my therapy appointment, and then subsequently this post, I’m really considering just blowing the doors off the whole thing. What am I so afraid of, anyway? People realizing who I am, who my parents are, etc? Then that’s just living inauthentically, in my opinion.
        It’s so true… nuggets of gold just appear in the most amazing of places. Thank YOU for giving me one of them. Love ya, SW.

  26. Oh my goodness…how have I not found you before this? Beautiful.
    What a fabulous piece of writing built on a rock star platform that should have us all singing our own anthems. I’ll be back for more 🙂

    • I just found your blog and said something remarkably similar. What the what?! Thank you for reading, hope to see you soon, and also now you have me thinking of what the lyrics to my anthem would be…

  27. I absolutely love this post. I virtually applaud you for breaking the rules. It wasn’t too long ago I adhered to the rules as well…and then eventually said, “screw ’em!”…I haven’t looked back. Those types of rules are so suffocating, as you clearly allude to, and keep one from truly being free in so many ways.

    Well done and keep up the authenticity!

    • I think they’re so suffocating precisely because they’re invented. They’re totally made up! Why should we take them so seriosuly?

      But then, you’re a man who turns gardens into mazes, so you’re already an expert at thinking outside the rule box. 🙂

      • I agree with you wholeheartedly! Now that you mention it, my garden really does resemble a maze…awesome. Thanks for following my blog!

  28. Mad love and respect for you, Jennie.
    So many rules and caveats and Plan B’s and fine prints, but at the end of the day, you have to do what’s both right and important for you. When you can merge those two, you truly are fearless.
    -christy

    • I’m working on it. The closer I come to having children, the more I want to be truly brave so I can live that example for them. Odd how I’m willing to be better for little people who don’t even exist yet. 🙂

  29. I post under my own name on a site that also bears my name, which has a banner that is me shirtless in a seaside cave. I’d have to throw up medical records and candid video surveillance of my workday for the disclosure to be any fuller. With that in mind I post things of questionable taste, explore very dark humor, and use language that would get you thrown out of a truck stop washroom. I feel that doing this in the open holds me accountable to my words and ensures I bear the end consequence of any hurt feelings or thoughtless statements.

    Mind this literary freedom is buoyed by a career where I demand people lift things in a particular fashion. The good taste of my prose and the caliber of literary output has virtually no bearing on my career prospects, so it’s more exhibitionism that bravery on my part.

    • OK, you have to elaborate… demanding people lift things in a particular fashion? I’m guessing personal training, construction work, or… manager at a restaurant? (OK, that last one is a stretch, but there are trays involved!)

      • The first and least interesting, I am afraid. Though I may look into employment as the exacting manager/choreographer at a modern dance themed tapas restaurant.

        • OK, I’ve worked in restaurants, and we’re gonna have to agree to disagree over what’s less interesting. But that whole dancing/tapas thing reminds me of “Be Our Guest” in Beauty and the Beast.

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