The Pitfalls of Self-Censorship
When I first started journaling, I thought I was Harriet the Spy incarnate. My observations on the world were poetic and life changing. Looking back at the spiral bounds I keep in a hatbox on my closet shelf, I was really just recording a play by play of each day. More like a planner page than a novella. Beauty is in the eyes of the perceiver, I supposed. They were for no one but me. The cover told you as much with its sharpied WARNING PRIVATE sign or KEEP OUT colored with neon highlighter. My middle-school self would have been mortified if anyone had flipped through those pages and read that I basically had a crush on every boy in the 7th grade class–even though I told them that I was totally cool with just being best friends or helping them cheat on their history multiple choice to curry favor. I was a pro at repressing my true feelings. A pathological lier who could believe for that split second that what I was saying was actually true in order to fool the other person, and eventually myself. Maybe journaling helped fuel that too. Maybe because I at least got the truth out somewhere it was easier to conceal it under the light of day.
We grow out of that eventually, right?
I perfected my split-shown personality in college. You learn to anticipate what people want to hear and chose your words wisely. I’m no good at chess really (at least not compared to my brother), but when it comes to people they can’t seem to help telegraphing their moves. We are slaves to our tendencies. I don’t know how many of them called my bluff. I may never know. All the numbers have been deleted and emails sent to trash. Yet somehow I still feel a sense of obligation to edit out their stories. To let them remain nameless, always protecting the not-so-innocent.
Old habits die hard. I think most of this self-defeating bullshit is done out of fear. Fear is oil-based and social turpentine is flammable. The point now is that I find myself, over a decade removed from my middle-school self, stuck in the same patterns. Now my journals have the potential to be seen so I hide behind metaphor and vague niceties in order to not offend. Maybe that’s what this year will prove to be about. Tearing down the walls to reveal the authentic self. I want to share what I care most for in vernacular, not this cypher I most often bring to the table. Illustration should not muddy the water but illuminate a concept. I have failed so often to do this.
My prayer for 2015 is to explore humbly and boldly those things which move me and scare me and incite me to scream at the sun. I hope to one day encourage others to join the conversation. For now I’m going to write like no one’s watching.