Tuesday, January 5, 2016
My 2016 Goal: Authenticity
Another New Year. Time to stop and reflect on the passing year. I'm a few days late, but that's never stopped me before. Just for reference, I want to put last year's goals out there, so here's that post. I'll just tell you right now, in terms of New Year's goals, 2015 was a dismal failure. Running 500 miles? Try 145. Learning to can? Nope. We had a woebegone summer in the garden, so there really wasn't anything to can anyway. Rebuilding my stockpile? Just didn't happen.
Am I going to sit here and think of the entire year of 2015 as a failure? Absolutely not. Good things happened in 2015 too. Oregon won the Rose Bowl and went to the National Championship. The hubby and I added a puppy to our family. We went to Oregon. We got a new computer and updated the master bedroom. Our niece and our nephew began having their first sleepovers at our house. I learned how to make pie crust. 2015 was filled with as many victories as losses.
But as I sit down to write about what I want to focus on this year, I realize I don't want to rattle off some list of goals. My focus this year is more specific and yet at the same time, boundless. My focus this year is on becoming a better writer.
Sure, I have my regular goals. One of them is to get really aggressive with my back injury and treatment, and get back to where I am running 20+ miles a week. Another is to actually have enough summer tomatoes to can. But this writing thing... getting into my thirties has shown me, without a doubt, that if I do decide to go back to traditional employment, it'll be in a creative field such as writing, cooking, or photography. So my thoughts are that I need to continue to improve my craft.
Here's the tricky thing about writing, or finding your voice I should say. Or maybe it's youth. Or maybe it's just me. At any rate, my problem is I think too much about what other people are going to think. Did I word that opinion correctly? What will people say if I write that? What will they think of me? Will I lose followers? Will people hate me? Did I present myself in the best light possible? I have a deep fear of passionately writing out my feelings (on any subject), only to have it go viral and have people point and laugh at my liberal opinions or call me pond scum to my face. We see it happen everyday. Do other bloggers have this fear? I think we do. I think that's why most food blogs are so upbeat and sanitized. We are trying to reach such a broad base of people that content can get watered down.
This recipe is totes magotes delicious!!!! ---> Note the sing-songness of "totes magotes", the word "delicious", and all the exclamation points. It must be good, right?
Lip-smackin' good y'all!!!---> This phrase contains the quaint misspelling of "lip-smacking" plus the pleasant Southern "y'all". Don't forget the exclamation points!
And how about this gem? Nothing says comfort like coming home to a hot, cheesy casserole after a chilly fall day :-) ---> Note the usage of superfluous adjectives such as comfort, hot, cheesy, chilly, fall. I skipped the exclamation point in favor of a smiley face this time.
I'm not saying I'm not going to share delicious recipes, or say "lip-smackin'" anymore. Or that there won't be posts full of words like "delicious", "da bomb", or "molten cheese". Because I will. But this year I want to work on my voice and my authenticity.
In August of this year, a blogger I follow posted a rant on authenticity that really struck a chord with me. I don't really remember the specifics, but she was talking about being herself and not scrubbing her posts down so that people don't get offended. She stated she wasn't going to do that because that wasn't who she was. Authentic writing isn't always pretty. People aren't always going to agree. And sometimes the best, most engaging writing is more controversial. Gritty. Gritty is probably the wrong word, since gritty is not usually a word associated with me. Imperfect is a better word. It's time to stop presenting my best side, and shine a light on the imperfectness of life. Flaws and all.
I've been writing and re-writing this post since August. Yep, I made my 2016 goal in August. And for months I've been trying to figure out how to be more authentic. And I think that only comes with sharing a bit more of myself with my itsy-bitsy corner of the Internet. Here's something you may not know about me-
I, like millions of other Americans who remain silent, suffer from depression.
I'm not talking about "take a Prozac and feel better in 6 weeks" type of depression. I'm talking about something that has been widespread and chronic throughout my life. The type of depression that is only managed by a complete lifestyle overhaul, including diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, medication, having a stable routine, and going to therapy. While I've suffered from depression for a long time, it's only been since I've turned 30 that I've committed myself to making positive strides against it. Without going into tons of personal details (because that's not what I mean when I talk about being authentic), I really just want to share that depression doesn't look the same for everyone. I'm able to hide behind my computer screen every day, choosing what I get to share with the world. Most days it's exclamation points, appealing descriptions, and pretty pictures. Some days are harder than others to fill with adjectives and punctuation marks, but I still try to do it 3-4 times a week. Some days, I'm not able to at all.
You see, my blog is part of my outlet. A place for me to share my creativity, and part of my routine designed around stability. Cooking, baking, and photography all help relieve anxiety for me. Bringing an entire recipe post together really gets happy neurons firing in my brain. But this year's goal is to bring more of me to the blog, and less superlatives. I'm not sure what this entails quite yet, but I think I will improve my writing by striving to be more... me.
More than anything, I just want others out there who suffer silently as well to know they are not alone. Believe me. Sometimes I think there are more of "us" than there are of "them". Millions of people, just like myself, choose not to talk about it because we feel judged. Stigmatized. The last thing I want is for someone to look at me with sorrow, or for them to associate any symptoms of depression with me. I hate the look of pity in people's eyes. I hate that we as a society cluck our tongues and say "Oh, that poor person" as if that person weren't a real life human being simply looking to feel normal. I know people mean well when they do that, but it doesn't make the person standing in front of you feel any better. I'd rather blend completely into the woodwork than be looked at as "sad" or "mentally ill". And holding all this information and the emotion inside makes us feel alone. At least, it makes me feel alone.
Even as I sit here, getting ready to close out this post by re-reading what I've wrote, I'm wondering, "Did I say too much? Did I share too much?". Old habits die hard, huh? Here's to overcoming!
The first recipe of 2016 up tomorrow! Or Thursday. We'll see :-)