I don’t really think about my online life or how much I tell people about myself until something goes wrong. And then, I tend to isolate myself. I like to take the time to process my feelings without outside judgement, and I talk to only close friends. Part of this is that so many things have happened in my life over the years, I tend to see it in two ways: either all good when things are good, or all bad when a problem comes up that feels all too familiar. Generally, I’m a happy person who has had an incredible life, but there are times when I have to deal with things, and some of the things that have happened in my life have left me with some big feelings to process. But when I’m thinking about those things, sometimes I’m not sure how much to share and how much to keep to myself.
Most of the events of my life are not really a secret, I talk about a lot of things openly to friends, but some things carry a level of shame and labels. And people often can’t understand and say the wrong things. I was reading a book recently about some of the things that people said to a woman after her husband died, and honestly, you’d be shocked! “Now you can go out and have sex with whoever you want,” was one of them. Can you imagine? I’ve never lost a partner to death, but I have had some things happen in my life that have inspired people to come out with some odd and unsupportive comments that I really didn’t need at the time. I can only imagine that would double if I’d shared them online, where people might not know me that well, like a blog or some kind of social media.
I guess the other thing with sharing personal things online for me is that I don’t want to be labelled a victim, and wouldn’t want a potential employer to google me and read all about deeply personal life. And you don’t want to come across as someone who posts all their private business online in a bid for sympathy either.
I remember at the lowest point in my life, some awful things were going on in the house I was renting a room in and I wasn’t safe there. There were also other personal problems I was dealing with at the same time, including a bad breakup. I felt like everyone was leaning on me, but I couldn’t even handle my own life, let alone theirs. I was also in a foreign country so I was still building a support network. I was with a friend one day who turned to me and said something along the lines of: “you’re not allowed to be sad, you’re the positive person that makes everyone else happy.” Like it was my job to give always, and never need. This left me feeling like a complete stranger to everyone, kind of alienated. I looked across at my friend, and I thought, I am completely alone.
And you know what? Feeling completely alone, dealing with problems that were too big for me, it felt familiar. There was a lot there to unpack and process. The thing is, I think we’ve all been through times like this, when things are dark and we feel alone or like we don’t have a road map for our lives. And I love when I read about how someone has dealt with this in their life, whether that’s in a book or on someone’s blog, and yet, I’m never sure how to open up about mine, or just how much to open up. I would like my life experience to help others, but I’m not always sure how.
Partly that’s because just talking about that time in my life in that paragraph above feels really scary. I’ve just said out loud that that happened, and now I’m publicly that person that that happened to, even though I only put down the bare bones of what was going on. Sometimes I feel kind of ashamed of some things in my life, because I see myself as someone who has always had her life together, an independent woman and someone who makes mature decisions, and that kind of thing. It was a bit of a learning curve for me to accept that sometimes bad things can happen to good people, that is to say, I didn’t blame other people when some things happened in their lives, but I did blame myself. What about some other things that have happened to me or in my life? How would people knowing things about my life experiences change how they saw me? Would they blame me or see me as less? How would that change how I see myself?
The reason that this kind of thing is on my mind is that something happened just before Christmas and it has me thinking about this kind of thing. This thing that happened was a financial and emotional blow, and changes a lot of things for me. I’ve had to take a long hard look at things and I will have to make some decisions about how I want my future to look, and doing that is kind of scary to me. I was talking to someone about all of this, the context of this situation, my life, getting things off my chest and figuring them out, when she said to me, people think you’re really open, you come across as very open, but actually, there’s a lot people don’t know. It’s true. I feel like an authentic person, but I generally go quiet when there’s a problem in my life that I’m figuring out, which means a lot of people say they think I have no problems.
Sometimes, things are no one’s business. Sometimes, we don’t want the repercussions of talking publicly about someone who may have wronged us. Sometimes we might feel like things that happen are our own fault or we don’t want to be labelled. But on the flip side, sometimes it’s refreshing when someone talks about the imperfect parts of their life. The hard times, the things they struggle with or the things they’ve been through. Everyone goes through something, and it’s OK to not always be OK.
I guess where and how much we share is going to be different for every person. And what’s right for one person is going to be not right for someone else. Personally, I’m learning to be more open and I’ve wanted to talk about some things in my life more freely for a while, mostly because I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Talking about some of the less fun, harder parts of life doesn’t have to be a downer conversation. But opening up like that, that’s a bit of a learning curve for me. I guess life is always asking us to stretch and grow in new ways. Even if we’re not sure we’re quite ready.