Some days it is almost all I can do to just be myself. I feel like I don’t fit in my skin, my brain and my heart are not on the same page, and sometimes panic attacks that come out of nowhere send me spiraling down to the fetal position where I hug my knees and try and remember how to breathe.
Real talk, ya’ll. Sometimes being Harriet is just hard.
I am thirty-three, and it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve realized something: it’s actually much easier to be myself than to try and be anyone else. The general discomfort and lack of self-confidence most often come when I am trying to pretend I’m someone I’m not. Did you catch that? Pretending to be someone else ultimately increases my anxiety: pretending builds a beautiful but completely unstable house of cards, impressive, but ready to crash at any moment.
I don’t get far trying to pretend that I’m cool; I’m not. I can talk to someone for hours, but I very much prefer conversations about things that matter over Small Talk. Small Talk is boring. I am a nerd. I get excited about volcanoes and elephant psychology and North Korean history/politics. I will always love reading dense-ish non-fiction over watching some fluffy Netflix crap or devouring the latest YA series. I don’t like most popular TV shows because I get irritated at the messages that are being sent about how we should probably live our lives, I don’t like the social commentary that most often uses minorities or those who are somehow “other” as a jokey subplot linked with the laugh track. I think, more often than not, it sustains or increases prejudice against already marginalized groups instead of generating critical thought or inciting social change.
I don’t get (or even really care (anymore)) about what makes someone popular in the real world or online. I was sooo not popular in school, or in my 20’s, and doubt I ever will be. I do try to be kind, but sometimes when people are assholes basic kindness is impossible, and I don’t feel that badly about treating assholes with a hefty dose of their own snarky medicine.
Clearly, I am a barrel of laughs. I often have to force myself to not be so serious, to lighten up, to not pick apart every little thing. But, the truth is, I am serious-minded, and all the fluffy unicorn memes in the world can’t undo that part of my personality.
A few months ago I read, and mostly disagreed with, Marie Kondo’s Tidying-Up Magic. However, thinking about her ideas in the context of my online presence and blog (and not the physical objects in my home), perhaps she was on to something. What are the pieces of Harriet that truly bring me joy? It’s not a bright and shiny, well-lit and well-curated “lifestyle” social media feed. It’s not a styled online presence at all, actually. Every time I think I should post about X, Y, or Z to attract more traffic or get a few likes or a few shares, I feel like I stumble and fall flat on my face. I’m not a lifestyle blogger, and probably never will be. And…that’s okay. At this point (and I do give myself permission to change my mind), I don’t want to employ SEO tactics to increase traffic, I don’t feel any need to link up with sponsors to get my foot in the door (the door to what?) or to gain better visibility to brands or campaigns. Am I jealous of the fancy big blogs that bring in a livable wage? Sure. But I’m not a lifestyle blogger, I’m a writer. Or at least trying to be. I’m trying to figure out how to write down the stuff in my head.
I am feisty, I am a feminist, I will talk your ear off about social injustice for minority groups or whatever geeky book I’ve read lately. I cannot pretend that world events don’t affect me; they do. I critique advertising much more than I follow it’s not-at-all subtle nudges towards consumption-based buying behavior, and will quickly make mental notes of the pieces that feel disingenuous. I don’t care about being popular, but I do care about fostering individual relationships–meaningful relationships–with people both IRL and online. I do not have time for disingenuous, give me your real self, your authentic self, even just a small part of it. I don’t know what to do with the shiny and the pretend, but give me something ragged around the edges, I’ll take extra care with it. Give me something a little broken and I’ll bust out my Scotch Tape and a cup of tea and something to snuggle with and if I can’t fix it I’ll just employ gentle hair pats and the occassional one-liner to break the tension or make you smile.
And maybe, ultimately, that is more what I am than who I am. Perhaps I am the rough edges, the broken one, the lonely one, held together with non-decorative Scotch Tape and a hope for compassion. Maybe I’m just trying to fit in, knowing for damn sure that I’ll never make it as a Styled, Curated, Shiny Harriet because Harriet The Feisty Nerd will always get in the way, say something candid and honest and decidedly not “on brand” or “campaign approved.”
Remember how I said that it’s much easier to be yourself than to pretend to be someone or something you are not? Yeah. This is me. Messy and feisty, opinionated and sometimes jealous, unfiltered and sometimes a little sweary or ranty and almost always ready to fight for the underdog. Sometimes I’m selfish and sometimes I’m kind. Sometimes I’m forgiving and sometimes I guard that grudge to somehow protect my own hurt feelings, and sometimes I keep it just out of spite. Sometime I have my shit together and sometimes I eat raw cookie dough right out of it’s store-bought plastic-wrapped tube–not vegan, not gluten free, not free-range, not responsibly sourced. Just a tube of sugary trans fats.
I am a work in progress, and it’s easier to admit that than it is to pretend that things are great and everything is fine. Is it scary? Yes. Is doing something scary easier than sustaining something fake? For me? A million times easier, there is no house of cards that I must build and/or maintain, no illusions to feed, no shareholders to please.