creativity, mfa, writing

Updates on everything; what’s next; letting go of fear; process over product; bottom-up over top-down

Hi loves,

I hope you’re all doing well. I’ve wanted to blog so many times recently, but I always have so much to say and don’t know where to start and want to make sure that first I organize it well and present a very nice, pretty, clear blog post–FUCK THAT. Have you heard of “analysis paralysis?” As an anxiety-prone person, I find myself getting stuck in it often. It’s a state where I think and think about something, but never take action because conditions aren’t exactly right, or I haven’t figured out the perfect thing to do. No more!

I just tweeted this, mostly as a reminder to myself:

Yep, that’s my motto these days, or at least it needs to be. I finally sent out my novel–the book I first started nearly six years ago–to an agent. Was it ready? I don’t know. I definitely could’ve made it even better with more time, but I felt like I’d sat on it for so long and run through it so many times, I had to just push it out there.

In a couple of weeks, I will send a very early, very messy draft of my new novel to my thesis director. It feels painful to share work that I know isn’t anywhere near my absolute best, but I’m learning to move my focus from product to process. Also, there’s no such thing as “absolute best.” I learn and grow every day, which means I could go back and revise my old work and find something to improve every day. Every single day! Nothing is ever finished.

The idea of nothing ever being finished is freeing when I embrace it. It’s frustrating first, however. Humans–me especially–want organization, want labels, want boxes, want nice clean lines and edges. We want to know where one thing ends and another begins. We want to know what something is, and how to analyze it, what to name it. Finished or unfinished? Good or bad? To let go of these concepts requires an embracing of imperfection, aka reality. There is no such thing as “perfection,” I’ve been trying to remind myself. Perfect is a concept people are drawn to because imperfection means uncertainty, and uncertainty is scary.

At the bottom of all my anxiety and analysis paralysis, I recognize I majorly need to embrace uncertainty and relinquish attempts to control outcomes.

I am trying to practice embracing uncertainty in all areas of my life. (A major area of uncertainty for me [and many rn] has to do with American society at large, but I’m going to save that topic for another post. In the meantime, check out who I’ve been retweeting and donate to the ACLU.)

This is my final year of the USF MFA program. Eek! I don’t plan on staying in Tampa after I graduate. Double eek!

That means: I don’t know where I’m going to live a year from now. I don’t know where I’m going to work. I don’t know how I will support myself financially. I don’t know how I will spend my time, or who I’ll hang out with. Everything feels uncertain.

As of now, I see myself moving to one of three places next year: Chicago, Southern California, or elsewhere in Florida (while I’d rather leave Tampa, I would stay in St. Pete or Miami, or if I magically got a free or cheap place to live, in a small beach town).

What I will do for work feels very up in the air. I know what I do not want to do: work a 9-5 office job or teach as an adjunct. I would love to work for a university in a full-time benefited position teaching creative writing, but I know those positions are very difficult to get when you haven’t yet published a book and aren’t willing to move just anywhere.

I’d also be interested in working in magazine, web, or book publishing, but a lot of those jobs are in NYC and I don’t want to move there. Also, I do not want to take a position that would require me to work over 40 hours/week as I need time for my own creative projects.

In the spring, as my graduation date looms closer and I (hopefully) have a clearer idea of what I want to do/where I want to go next, I will write a clearer, more concise, better organized post outlining what I’m looking for and seeing if there are any readers out there who can help me.

I think part of the reason I get into analysis paralysis with blogging (and, tbh, the reason my blog isn’t as “good” these days) is because I’m too focused on professionalism. Whenever I sit down to write a post, I ask myself things like, “Would this potentially keep me from getting hired by a university?” and “Could this turn an agent off from wanting to represent me?”

Ironic as it sounds considering I am currently on the job market, I am realizing it is short-sighted and misguided for me to allow professionalism concerns to influence the content I post on my blog. Focusing on professionalism is a fear-based approach. It is a trying-to-control-the-outcome-based approach. I must remember, if an employer doesn’t want me after reading blog posts in which I am being myself and speaking my mind, then that probably wouldn’t be a good place of employment for me.

I am more concerned about being a writer and artist (paid or unpaid) than with being an employee in any certain industry.

I first began blogging in 2004, and my relationship with blogging has been bittersweet and back-and-forth ever since. I’ve gone though the cycle of posting and then regretting what I post over and over. I’ve deleted many blogs over the years out of fear. Fear that potential boyfriends wouldn’t want to date me after reading my blog, fear that my family would disown me, fear that potential employers wouldn’t hire me, fear that I wouldn’t get elected to public office (yes, I once ran for a local position), etc.

That’s got to end. I’m 35. No more running around scared, looking to others for advice and then taking it even when it doesn’t jive with what I’m doing. No more allowing “rules” or traditions or others’ expectations to trump my own instinct. No more deleting blog posts (or podcasts) out of embarrassment or fear or shame. Yes, some people will look at what I write, create, say, and do, and think it’s stupid or bad or wrong or embarrassing. And I’ll probably care and feel hurt because I’m sensitive, but that isn’t reason to change course or do anything differently. Clearly I’m meant to be one of those rare ones who paves her own way. I need to just accept that and buckle down with it rather than continue taking one step forward and two steps back every year or two.

I recently read (and highly recommend) The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by musician Amanda Palmer. She is so cool and amazing I don’t even know where to begin. Basically, she built her audience from the bottom-up. She embraced a diy approach from day one and didn’t turn back, and it’s paid off wildly. She grew her “tribe” (to quote Seth Godin) authentically and organically. She doesn’t just have fans, she has a community. She maintains real relationships with many of her fans and has allowed them to help her greatly over the years. She is redefining what it means to be an artist in a capitalist society.

Reading The Art of Asking gave me hope, but also forced me to face some regret. I’ve begun to build a community many times, and each time I’ve destroyed it out of fear. I remember when my first blog, titled “elgin roots,” began consistently receiving over 100 visitors per day way back in 2005. I was overjoyed and then scared shitless. I used swear words (gasp!) and wrote about things that I feared could get me fired from my academic job as a research assistant, or could make my conservative Christian family gossip about me and act cold to me at Christmas. I eventually deleted the blog.

I followed this same pattern of creating and then deleting blogs in the years to follow, usually feeling the old anxiety rise up in me any time I shared anything that led to me feeling particularly vulnerable, or after reaching the 100+ visitors/day mark. I did the same thing with my podcast when it began to gain in popularity and receive ~100 downloads per episode. (I don’t know why, but apparently 100 is a scary number for me.)

Each time I deleted something I had created I, illogically, told myself it was because I wanted to pursue a creative career legitimately. I didn’t want to be a silly confessional blogger who wrote about her feelings online, I wanted to be an author who published books. I didn’t want to be a crazy podcaster who recorded herself talking to herself in the car, I wanted to be a real radio personality on a show that was funded and professionally edited.

Sadly, it’s as if once I began gaining in popularity and receiving some criticism,  I chose to agree with my critics instead of staying strong and listening to myself and my few fans. I said you’re right, what I’m doing is stupid, and small, and not “real,” and shouldn’t count because I just made it myself. I said yep, this is a dumb thing that I should get rid of because it embarrasses me, and I should pursue creativity through more legitimate means.

Even though deep down I have always believed in and admired the diy ethic, I felt too insecure to fully embrace it myself. I wanted that external stamp of approval coming from some sanctioned organization. It’s not that I was ashamed of swearing or posing nude or speaking my mind, but that I wanted to do those things through established channels so I could prove what I did was art. So I could prove what I created had value. So I could prove I was not just some pathetic girl trying to get attention on the internet, as my critics seemed to think.

(What I’m about to type could be controversial and further reflection on it will be reserved for a different post, buuut I sometimes wonder if this line of thinking, this desire for external validation, is what motivated me to pursue an MFA… While I’m grateful for all the MFA has afforded me and do not regret it, I do wonder if my decision to pursue an MFA was a fear-based, outcome-focused, top-down sort of decision.)

I’m not going to dwell on it, but I do regret this on-again-off-again courage/fear habit I engaged in for about eight years. I partially regret it for practical reasons–how many fans and followers would I have now if I hadn’t intentionally disappeared every time I began to develop a following online? How would my life and creative career be different if I had instead been like Amanda Palmer and embraced my small community of fans, if I’d been grateful for their support, if I had allowed people to help me instead of thinking I’d be better off ignoring them and trying to get “real” fans by going through more traditional channels?

My other source of regret is knowing that I not only hurt myself professionally by acting from fear and deleting shit, but I also let other people down. I remember deleting a shared poetry blog that I started and friends contributed to–they’d had fun with it and were upset. For many of them, I’d deleted the only copies of the poems they’d written. I remember when artist Derek Erdman contacted me to ask where my interview of him went, and I had to admit I’d deleted the whole blog in a fit of shame. I remember when I had to tell bloggers Tony Pierce and Raymi the Minx, multiple comedian friends of mine, and my cohost Erin that I’d deleted my podcast. I remember when I had to tell a professional photographer I’d deleted one of my blog posts that he’d been using for two years to acquaint new models with his approach to artistic nudes.

I’ve had a community–of artists, bloggers, writers, photographers, comedians–all the people I think are awesome, and I stupidly shut that shit down because I didn’t view it as valid. Because it wasn’t my “real job.” Because I didn’t have a big company paying me to do it. I shut it down because people did criticize me and gossip about me and I stupidly let their opinions count. Family did act weird–some deleted me on Facebook–and I cared. Too much. I caught wind of little things said here and there and allowed the resulting fear to drive my decisions.

I gave my fear more power than I gave my creative spark.

Today I am writing this post to promise myself and whatever audience I have left that I’m not going to do that any more.

I think a major part of this process has really just been getting to know myself better and being honest about who I am and what I want. No, writing blog posts where you use swear words and spill out all your emotions isn’t a good idea if you want to work a 9-5 office job in corporate America, but if you want to be a writer who gets paid for using swear words and spilling out all of her emotions, it is a pretty good fucking idea.

Posting artistic nudes online isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to attract a man who would feel threatened or jealous by your nudity, who would view you as a “slut” because of it and write you off as someone who is not wife material. Posting artistic nudes online is a good idea if you’re seeking a man who isn’t threatened by female nudity, who doesn’t believe in the concept of “sluts,” who enjoys art, and who would be more impressed by your risk taking involved in the photos than turned off by his potential jealousy.

I recognize now that I had it right all along. Those creative impulses that led to me writing blog posts and recording podcasts and modeling for all sorts of photos where right, and good, and real. Those fearful impulses that led me to feel ashamed and try to erase whatever I’d made public were wrong, and bad, and came from the voices of others, not from my own voice.

As I finish up my final year of school and face the uncertainty of “what’s next?,” I am keeping the ideas of love over fear, process over outcome, bottom up over top down at the forefront of my mind.

I will watch myself, observe how I feel. I will choose to follow those creative impulses, even when I’m afraid. I will stand by them. I won’t apologize for them, or delete them later, or talk bad about them, even if I outgrow them with time. I will honor them and delight in them and follow them and see where they lead me. I will have faith that the people who judge me or think what I do is stupid are the people I don’t want anything to do with anyway. I will trust that following my creative impulses without hesitation will lead to the best possible future for me.

It’s not easy, especially for an anxious person. It requires allowing uncertainty. It requires allowing things to remain ill-defined. It requires tolerating a little messiness here and there. The creative process is not clean or well-organized. Life is not clean or well-organized. Not everything needs to be perfectly branded or curated or designed. Not everything needs to be done with a clear goal or target identified in advance. Process over product/outcome. Bottom up over top down. Love over fear.

 

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death, fear, Florida, health, personal growth, places, writing

When Tony Pierce tells you to blog, you do it.

florida foliageIf you don’t know who Tony Pierce is, click this link, look around, and come back. I’ll wait.

The other day Tony, or as I like to call him, “The Blogfather,” pointed out that entering an MFA program has slowed down my blogging. Where do I start?

Tony, you remember my old blog posts from 10 years ago? Five years ago? You were there, you read them. You know I used to (figuratively) cut myself open, reveal everything. It was cathartic. It was terrifying. It probably helped some readers, and it definitely helped me. Writing as therapy.

It was also the reason I deleted my old blogs–I didn’t want to be indefinitely raw and exposed like that. I didn’t like finding out friends, family, and acquaintances read about the most personal parts of my life and gossipped. I didn’t like suspecting that guys who were super into me then suddenly not might’ve changed their minds after realizing how much I put online.

To me, personal blogging has always been similar to when a close friend pulls you aside and says, “C’mon, it’s me. Tell me what’s really going on.” When I open up a draft post on my personal blog, I want to let it all out. So yeah Tony, school has kept me busy, but it hasn’t slowed down my blogging. The reason I haven’t blogged is because I know what I’d want to tell you if I started writing.

mushrooms

I’d want to tell you that, while I don’t regret moving from Illinois to Florida or entering an MFA program, it has been very difficult. First, one of my parents needed treatment for a brain tumor and I felt awful being away during that. So awful. Then my grandfather got sick. I missed my opportunity to see him before he died because I was here, in Florida, writing and studying. I don’t know that it was worth it. Right now, my other parent is dealing with a rare and dangerous blood and spine infection. It is improving, but again it’s hard for me to be across the country, unable to help.

Sometimes being in Florida to study and practice writing feels really dumb and selfish of me, and if I were going to give it to you straight, I’d end up telling you that.

I’d also want to tell you that eight people I know in Illinois (not including my grandfather) have died of various causes since I left and that it weighs on me. The deaths are unconnected, but it feels so strange–why so many, in such a short amount of time? Is that just part of getting older–each month someone else you knew dies? These are eight people I wasn’t terribly close with–old friends I lost touch with after moving, acquaintances I used to see around at shows, former classmates, close friends’ family members I’d met a few times.

bougainvilleaI’d want to tell you I feel sad about these deaths and think of them often. I’d want to tell you I also feel guilty about feeling sad, as if I didn’t know the deceased well enough to deserve to grieve. I’d want to tell you I feel shitty for blogging about them right now, that I don’t want to make other people’s tragedies about me.

I’d want to tell you that I’m dealing with health issues. That the symptoms feel like a moving target. That I’m doing my best to stay calm and optimistic while I try to yet again figure out what the fuck my body is doing. I’d want to tell you that I’m suffering and afraid. I’d want to tell you that I feel very alone in my pain and fear.

I’d want to tell you that I found out I can’t take out any more student loans because I already have a masters degree–it turns out the federal government will only help pay for the first one. I’d want to tell you that this means I have no clue how I’m going to get through the next two years. Despite being thirty-four years old, I do not have significant savings. I’d want to explain that a “funded” graduate program isn’t really, not unless you can live off of about $1,000/month. My expenses exceed that and I do not yet know what is going to make up the difference.

palm trees

I’d want to tell you that I’m becoming disillusioned with academia. That while I’m grateful for all I’m learning, I’m realizing the system is deeply unfair. I’d want to tell you about the day I saw a flyer at Aldi and realized that grocery store assistant managers make more money than many full-time college instructors.

I’d want to tell you that promoting beer pays me twice as much as teaching undergraduate writing courses pays me. I’d want to point out that college sports coaches are the highest paid public officials in many states. I’d want to write potentially melodramatic things such as, “What is wrong with America?”

I’d want to assure you that, despite all of my woes and worries, life isn’t all bad. I’d want to show you photos of Florida foliage and tell you even a short walk resets my mood, leaves me marvelling at nature.

I’d want to tell you that I love instagram, and even though that sounds cheesy or basic or whatever, it has become a bright part of my day. I’d want to tell you that I’ve decided to, for real this time, buy a nice DSLR camera whenever I can afford it. That even though I can’t afford it now, my iphone is a substitute and I enjoy taking photos and thinking about photos I will take in the future.

I’d want to tell you that I go to the gym every day now and it’s become a surprising source of strength and calm for me. I’d want to admit that for the first thirty minutes or so after walking in the door I feel anxious, want to leave, and think some variation of “I don’t belong here and everyone can tell.”

pink puff ball flower

I’d want to tell you that I notice those thoughts and feelings, keep exercising anyway, and feel amazing by the time I’m done. I’d want to try and make that into some sort of metaphor for life. I’d want to express hope that if I just keep on moving through difficult times and do not waver in my commitments that I will ultimately be rewarded with feelings of security and peace.

I’d want to tell you that I’ve made two really great friends down here, and that we’ve started a lit mag and a live lit event. I’d want to tell you that I have crazy, incredible daydreams in which I can eschew an academic career by growing one or both of these two things into a business.

I’d want to tell you that I’m still working on my novel, and that it’s horrible, but that’s okay. I’m plugging away and still telling myself I’ll finish it this summer. I’d want to tell you that I’m equal parts proud and embarrassed of it. I’d want to tell you that writing it might be the most challenging and exciting thing I’ve done in my life.

I’d want to tell you that I have over fifteen finished pieces of shorter writing and that I am submitting like crazy. I’d want to tell you that even though I’ve only received rejections so far, I don’t plan on stopping. After years of not believing in my writing ability, I finally have faith in myself.

brussels griffon

I’d want to tell you that my dog is awesome and that I’m not embarrassed to say he’s my best friend.

I’d want to tell you that music is a beautiful panacea. I might try to get you to listen to Surf, if you haven’t already. I’d want to remind you that the right Apocalypse Hoboken song can help when dealing with unpleasant emotions.

I’d want to talk about TV and say I get it now, I’m sorry I was an “I-don’t-watch-TV” type of snob a few years ago. That Bojack Horseman and Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer and Orange Is The New Black make my life feel richer.

I’d want to tell you that while things don’t always feel okay, I know that they will be, or that they already are, even when they aren’t. I’d want you to know that I’d know I was mostly writing that for myself.

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fear, personal growth, writing exercises

100 Fears, a writing exercise

After linking Carmen Maria Machado’s guide to MFA applying in my post on deciding which MFA programs to apply to, I binge-read her blog for the next hour or so and came across an interesting post in which she outlines a writing exercise on fear.

Machado had students in her horror/mystery class write a list of at least 100 fears–it could also include revulsions, discomforts, worries, and anxieties. She made her own list, and had this to say about it:

The length of the list is critical because it pushes them beyond the most obvious entries, forcing them to really dig deep. When I was doing this exercise myself, I became stressfully aware of everything that scares me on a day-to-day basis. Terrors that normally just flashed across my brain were caught, noted, and catalogued. It was simultaneously empowering and unnerving, and also helped me sort out a story I was working on.

Last night, I created my own “100 Fears” list. It was an interesting experience. About half-way through I stopped as I became self-conscious about my fears being too weird–most of them fall under the worries and anxiety category. Some are clearly beliefs that depressed or paranoid people hold. I had to remind myself that they are my fears, not my actual beliefs.

I pushed through and kept writing, and by the time I got to 100, I was having fun again instead of feeling bad. Searching for more fears that I carry felt like a treasure hunt, of sorts, and I ended up coming up with 16 extra because I was on a roll.

After completing the list, I reflected on how the exercise could help my writing. I instantly came up with two short story ideas based on fears I’d written. I also realized that writing a similar, but much smaller, fears list for the major characters in my novel could help me better develop them. I’ve written so much about what my characters want and what motivates them, but never the top 5 or 10 things they fear, which I plan on doing tonight.

Without further ado, here are the raw, uncensored, sometimes self-obsessed, neurotic, and paranoid thoughts that came to mind when I brainstormed 100 fears that I hold.

Fear #1: I’ll never finish the novel I’ve been working on for 3.5 years.

Fear #2: I’ll finish the novel and it’ll be good, but no one will publish it.

Fear #3: I’ll finish the novel and someone will publish it, but it’ll be bad and get universally horrible reviews. No one will ever want to publish me again.

Fear #4: Everything I’ve written so far in my life is terrible and everyone but me has realized it.

Fear #5: I’ll never write anything compelling because I don’t have it in me.

Fear #6: I have it in me to write something compelling, but I’ll die before I do it.

Fear #7: I’ll die young.

Fear #8: I’ll die before publishing a book.

Fear #9: I’ll die before falling in love again.

Fear #10: I’ll never truly fall in love again and it’ll be because I’ll continue to only fall for guys who can’t possibly love me back.

Fear #11: I am too judgmental and critical to fall in love again–I will always find something wrong with the guy and that’ll cut me off from the possibility of love.

Fear #12: I’m not too judgmental and critical, I just don’t have access to the high-quality men I could love because those guys think I’m not in their league.

Fear #13: If I never get married, I’ll miss out on the joys of a love and bond deeper than I’ve ever known.

Fear #14: If I do get married, I’ll feel claustrophobic and as if I’ve attached myself to someone who brings me down.

Fear #15: I will never meet a guy I find attractive who is interested in exploring Tantra with me.

Fear #16: None of the guys I find interesting or could love would want or be capable of monogamy with me.

Fear #17: If I fell in love with a loyal guy who wanted monogamy, I’d feel bored and trapped sexually.

Fear #18: The best sex of my life is already behind me.

Fear #19: I’m too old to learn to do the splits or become significantly more flexible.

Fear #20: My face is only going to get uglier and more wrinkled and I’ll like looking in the mirror less and less as time goes on.

Fear #21: My friends are only going to become more boring with time.

Fear #22: I’m going to die in a really dumb way, like by tripping and hitting my head the wrong way on the corner of a coffee table.

Fear #23: My genitals are getting grosser with each passing year, but I don’t notice any difference between I see them every day.

Fear #24: My breath is bad and brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash doesn’t help because the smell comes from the grossness deep inside of me escaping.

Fear #25: Guys who have kissed me and not contacted me again did so because my breath was bad.

Fear #26: Guys who messed around with me and did not contact me again did so because they thought my genitals looked gross, smelled gross, or both.

Fear #27: The best physical shape I’ve ever been in is behind me.

Fear #28: I will never meet a man who tells me the truth instead of what he thinks he has to say in order to get what he wants from me.

Fear #29: I’ll never meet a man who views me as an equal partner and not someone who needs to be managed, lied to, manipulated, or evaded.

Fear #30: Men don’t fully understand that women are humans just as much as men are.

Fear #31: A man who asks for monogamy just wants to control my sexuality–he won’t stay loyal if a tempting opportunity comes along, and if he’s disloyal he won’t tell me.

Fear #32: My brother will die young and I’ll miss him and regret not being nicer to him.

Fear #33: My brother will never find true love either, and it’s somehow my fault. Maybe my personality rubbed off on him.

Fear #34: My mom will die first and my dad won’t know how to live without her. I won’t help take care of him much because I’m selfish and a bad daughter.

Fear #35: If I have a baby, I will kill it accidentally by leaving the wrong toy in its crib or something equally careless and dumb.

Fear #36: If I have a baby, it’ll be born with severe health issues or a developmental disorder. I will want to give it up for adoption instead of caring for it and everyone will think I’m an evil monster.

Fear #37: If I have a baby, it’ll grow up to have psychological problems because I won’t parent in a normal way.

Fear #38: I’m too cowardly to pursue my dreams 100% so I’ll never achieve true success.

Fear #39: I’ll be in debt for the rest of my life.

Fear #40: I’ll die before my parents do and they’ll inherit my debt, which will be a major burden.

Fear #41: Even though I think I’m intelligent, I’m not.

Fear #42: I am intelligent, but in a way that has little practical application and only makes my life more difficult.

Fear #43: My happiest moments are behind me.

Fear #44: No one understands me.

Fear #45: My family and friends pretend I’m normal, but they don’t really believe it.

Fear #46: There is someone out there right now who would like to murder me.

Fear #47: Some day I’ll dive, fall, or get pushed into a pool and either get paralyzed or die from hitting the bottom.

Fear #48: I once saw a TV program about people who purposely make themselves disabled because then they feel like everything they do is heroic. All of the pain and health problems I’ve dealt with have been fake and a mild version of this.

Fear #49: I am becoming dumber.

Fear #50: I’m lying to myself when I think I’m becoming fitter–I’ll only gain fat and lose muscle from here on out.

Fear #51: My waist is the smallest it’ll ever be and it’s not even very small.

Fear #52: I’ll accidentally kill my dog by letting him eat something poisonous.

Fear #53: Dogs don’t love humans. They’re just constantly hoping for food.

Fear #54: There is something that exists after life and it is much worse.

Fear #55: Old married couples don’t love each other any more, they just aren’t independent enough to leave.

Fear #56: A man can’t look at his wife the same way after seeing her give birth–his attraction will transfer to some other woman.

Fear #57: A mentally ill person will attack me some day.

Fear #58: When I tweet at people who have more followers than I do, I look like a wannabe or an ass-kissing idiot.

Fear #59: When I am being most open, honest, and vulnerable, people think I’m being a fraud.

Fear #60: No one can ever really know another person.

Fear #61: People can truly know each other, except for me, because there is something wrong with me that puts insurmountable distance between me and the people I want to be close with.

Fear #62: My butt is too flat and no matter what exercises I do it will not get round.

Fear #63: I’m pathetic for internalizing cultural beauty standards and I should become confident enough not to care, but I won’t.

Fear #64: My friends and I will never have as much fun together as we did in our teens and twenties.

Fear #65: My parents don’t love me as a person, they just act like they do because they believe parents are supposed to love their children.

Fear #66: My parents like my brother more than they like me.

Fear #67: My parents would’ve preferred to have a daughter with a personality opposite of mine.

Fear #68: Every time I think I’m being funny, other people think I’m being either mean or weird.

Fear #69: I’ll get into a car accident and have way more injuries than necessary as a result of tensing up all of my muscles on impact.

Fear #70: I’ll never again find new music I enjoy the way I used to when I was younger.

Fear #71: My love of hip-hop indicates some sort of hidden racism.

Fear #72: My attraction to black men indicates hidden racism.

Fear #73: It doesn’t matter how not-racist or not-sexist a person aims to be, some of the racism and sexism in society will stick no matter what.

Fear #74: I will experiment with mushrooms or LSD again someday and do irreparable damage to my mental health.

Fear #75: I won’t experiment with mushrooms or LSD ever again and will miss out on a major mind-expanding personal growth opportunity, which will make me a more uptight, close-minded person.

Fear #76: No one in my family tree has done anything remarkable.

Fear #77: I’ll never do anything remarkable.

Fear #78: I will get in a bar fight some day on purpose, just for the experience of it, and end up getting killed or paralyzed.

Fear #79: Any time a guy says he likes my writing all it means is that he’d like to have sex with me.

Fear #80: I share too much on the internet and it disgusts and embarrasses people in my life.

Fear #81: My writing makes it clear that I’m a try-hard.

Fear #82: I will live to an old age, but waste all of those years by not doing anything meaningful or substantial.

Fear #83: A better life would involve less time online, but I don’t have the willpower.

Fear #84: My neck is fat.

Fear #85: I have bad skin and will have acne until the day I die.

Fear #86: I’m addicted to the internet and letting real life pass me by as a result.

Fear #87: People I’ve sent letters or emails to will make those communications public and when viewed out of context I will look like an idiot and be humiliated.

Fear #88: My value system reflects that I’ve become less mature over time.

Fear #89: There’s no hope for humanity and the best case scenario is that we die out.

Fear #90: My extended family would be ashamed if they knew the true me.

Fear #91: If I ever publish a successful book, my extended family will be horrified by the contents and gossip about me instead of being proud and happy.

Fear #92: I’m going to waste my sexual prime being celibate because I’m too judgmental of and picky about men.

Fear #93: I’m going to waste my sexual prime being celibate because I’m afraid of intimacy.

Fear #94: Having a boyfriend would ruin my chance at becoming a successful writer.

Fear #95: Most of my fears list items are just anxieties, which shows that my life is easy and my problems aren’t real. If I ever complain about anything I’m being self-centered and insufferable.

Fear #96: My inability to remember book titles and author names means I’ll never be able to have discussions with intelligent people about books, even books I’ve read.

Fear #97: I’m operating at maybe 50% of my potential and living a mediocre life as a result.

Fear #98: I’m a follower trying to be a leader and failing.

Fear #99: I’ll never own a car made in the past five years.

Fear #100: If I post these fears on my blog, people will think they are my actual beliefs and think bad things about me, like I’m really messed up and self-obsessed and should be embarrassed of myself.

Fear #101: I’m so weird that even my fears are abnormal.

Fear #102: That I’ve never been raped is a fluke. My time will come, and the experience will break me.

Fear #103: I’m deathly allergic to bees, but don’t know it yet because I’ve never been stung.

Fear #104: I’ll never be able to shake the resentment I hold toward Christianity and the church, even though I think it’s pointless and a waste of emotional energy.

Fear #105: I make a huge deal out of things most people just take in stride.

Fear #106: My clothes are unflattering and ill-fitting and everyone knows it except for me.

Fear #107: I look like I’m poor.

Fear #108: I’ll have lower back pain for the rest of my life.

Fear #109: Most times I get upset, I’m overreacting.

Fear #110: Most times I get upset I’m not overreacting, I just doubt myself because ex-boyfriends gaslighted me. I’ll never stop doubting whether or not my reactions are valid.

Fear #111: Carmen Machado will read this and think, “Oh God, this was not what I intended with my exercise. Why did she do this? How sad and embarrassing.”

Fear #112: I’ll get pregnant and have a miscarriage or still birth.

Fear #113: I’ll get pregnant and have a miscarriage or still birth and be more upset that my stomach was stretched out for nothing than about losing the baby, proving that I’m vain, selfish, and heartless.

Fear #114: When I move to Florida I’ll have sweaty armpit stains constantly because of the humidity and people will think of me as “that girl who always has armpit stains.”

Fear #115: When I move to Florida every building will have the air conditioning on so high that I’ll constantly feel freezing cold and be unable to concentrate or enjoy myself.

Fear #116: Present moment awareness isn’t the key to transcendence after all–it just makes people more aware of negative and unpleasant things they would’ve been better off ignoring.

And…that is it! My list of fears. Wow, what an experience. I teared up a few times while writing this, I’ll admit. Some of the fears were expected, as they are things that pass through my mind regularly, but most surprised me. It’s yet another reminder that writing is an excellent form of self-discovery.

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