I’ve been making a mess these past few years. I started a lot of things I couldn’t finish. I experimented with things that didn’t stick and didn’t really go anywhere. I left a paper trail of mediocre endeavour because I hadn’t found a thread compelling enough to follow. Or, rather, compelling enough to overcome all the bullshit I needed to overcome to follow it. The thread wasn’t the problem, really – I was. It all created more trouble than it was worth, and I became disillusioned with the idea of continuing.
I found a completely new thread, and started a psychology master’s degree. Instead of tying up the loose ends, I just cut them all off. I deleted my website, my main blog, and hundreds of private documents. I wiped out maybe a couple hundred YouTube videos. I shut down all the related accounts, or otherwise neutralised them. I even ripped up all my journals, I was so done; not just with the mess I’d been making these past few years, but the mess I’d been making my entire life.
I wanted to be clean.
This is a cycle for me – making a mess with my effort to create something meaningful, and then becoming too aware of the messiness and feeling compelled to clear it up in a radical way. This is the first time I’ve gone so far as to take the knife to huge swathes of my own writing, though. I’ve always held onto the idea that those words held something important; something worth protecting. But in the cold light of day a couple of months ago, it seemed that all they held was old, broken patterns that I desperately wanted to break free from.
When I’m in the mess, I understand it as a necessary part of the process of becoming. But once I step away from it, and look back, I’m kind of disgusted with myself. It’s like looking back at my exposed entrails, that I needlessly put on show for everyone. And no one was even looking. No one wanted to see. Certainly, no one asked me to do it.
I enjoy the thrill of exposing myself, honestly. I’m kind of an exhibitionist at heart. But I’m a shameful exhibitionist, and the only way I can justify my exhibitionism is if it has a purpose, if it’s useful, if it’s somehow of service. And it is very, very easy to convince myself that the stuff I put out there is, in fact, completely worthless. I made a mess, and no one wants to see it. So I should clean it up.
Deleting myself is of greater service than embodying myself. Ouch.
Brené Brown used the term ‘vulnerability hangover’ when talking about her first TED talk, and I resonate with that, even though I don’t like the connotation. A hangover is not a sign that you have done something good. In fact, a hangover is more often associated with regrettable incidents. A hangover makes it much more likely that you’ve done something wrong.
But, regardless of all that, this blog survived. Perhaps through virtue of absent-mindedness. So when my domain and hosting came up for renewal, I moved it here. Because, it turns out, I’m not ready to give up on the mess entirely.
I’m mostly at peace with the words I’ve deleted. In many senses, no, they were not serving me. And because of where I was at, they probably weren’t serving anyone else either. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve felt a twinge of regret over what has now been lost forever.
I didn’t delete all those words because they weren’t beautiful. I didn’t delete them because they weren’t true. I worry that it was, instead, because I couldn’t face them. Couldn’t face what they really meant for me. I fear I deleted them because they were beautiful, and they were true. And what that means is I can’t settle for the life I’d told myself I should settle for.
That is terrifying. Because that means I have to stop being a fucking coward.