“If you are tempted to look outside yourself for approval, you have compromised your integrity.” Epictetus
Once upon a time, a little girl lived in her head. Her feelings and experiences were held inside, much like a Venus fly trap that draws inward its prey – after enough time has passed, whatever it was became no more.
This little girl was never content with what was presented as life and pushed her way through many obstacles and endured many failings. She didn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself but rather always looked for the next goal to reach.
Time was kind to this little girl, and she grew into a fierce woman who happily jumped from job to job and from relationship to relationship, feeling empowered because it was always her choice. She firmly believed in second and third chances, as double as many had been afforded to her.
However, this now fierce woman who lived in her head started to become consumed by her thoughts, so she searched for a way to let the smoke out. Over the years, she regarded this affliction as smoke that clouded her perception of what was important in life. Drinking alcohol worked until it became friends with the smoke and doubled its effect. Relationships granted reprieves, but these seldom lasted long.
Then, one day, bored in her corporate job, she sat on the edge of an existential crisis, and then, all at once, the smoke cleared, and an unmistakable thought rushed through her like heavy rain. She smiled, picked up a pen, and wrote her first story. Writing was the answer. Writing was a way to turn inside out and live outwards instead of inwards.
A decade later, that woman became a mother, and slowly the smoke returned. Diapers replaced poems, and midnight feedings replaced midnight sparks of creativity. The writer inside her fought back, and for a few years, it looked like the writer would extinguish the smoke forever. But then, a creeping thought swept through her, drying out her inspiration. Would her writings negatively impact her children someday?
Like a spark hitting dried pine, the landscape of this fierce mother quickly caught ablaze, and the smoke returned thicker than ever before. The mere thought that her children would suffer consequences due to her work was too much for the mother to bear, and she closed her eyes and went inward once again.
Today, I write because writers write. After I had written the first sentence of this blog, the smoke began to clear. Now, as I write my final thoughts, the smoke is gone. Today, I am talking to my future self and telling her not to borrow trouble. Write what needs to be written, and don’t worry about what “they” will say. There need not be any defense for authenticity.