the power of “real”

Or, why Shift has necessarily evolved into a “personal blog.”

To write or not to write, that is the question.

Actually, no. That’s not the question. The answer is always, “Write.” There’s no point in asking questions you already know the answer to. (Unless, of course, you’re asking to reaffirm what you already know. In that case, by all means, ask the question . . . )

No, the question is: what to write about?

Soooo many things.

There are the controversial, disheartening topics, of course — the Cosby verdict, the Trump administration, the Waffle House shooting, the Kate Middleton vs. Meghan Markle comparisons . . . Or there is the avoidance of these subjects: the travel posts, the love poems, the movie reviews, the short fiction. There is a place for all of these, certainly, but lately it seems I’ve been trending towards my own life experience.

Why? Maybe because my life experience is the only thing I can claim to be an expert on. And, also, maybe because I’m tired of bullsh*t.

Interestingly, I didn’t start Shift with the term “personal blog” in mind. I started it to share stories from my time abroad. As time has gone on, however, I’ve realized: how can good writing be anything but personal? Everything we do is personal, and to deny the power of our experience is to negate our humanity and potency as people. There is power in vulnerability: vulnerability is the bridge to connection.

That said, vulnerability is also scary as sh*t.

brene-brown-quotesTake, for example, my last post. Do you think it was easy for me to admit that I didn’t receive an offer of funding the first time I applied to school? Hell no! It was embarrassing and made me feel “less than.” But I thought it was worth sharing because, well, what’s the value of a goal if it’s not worth fighting for?

In fact, the more terrified I am after I post something, the better my writing usually is, and the better my post is received. I find this telling. Readers can sense pretense and appreciate authenticity. At least I know I do . . . I also get tired of reading articles about things I should and shouldn’t be doing or concepts that are plain common sense. Give me something real, people. Don’t give me guilt trips.

Of course, this world is a scary place, and I would never “bare all” on my blog. Oversharing does not equal vulnerability, and there are obvious lines that should not be crossed. But the walls we build and the facades we live behind are toxic to ourselves and our fellow humanity. I have never felt better than, when admitting something I’ve struggled with on my blog, I’ve managed to touch someone else.

It makes me feel less alone.


Note: In trying to uncover images to accompany this post, I’ve found quite a few quotes from researcher Brené Brown and others that resonate with me. I’m sharing them here for your perusal.



All images courtesy of the world wide web. Featured image by Olivier Tallec from Louis I, King of the Sheep.


hollywood vs. real life

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”      Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo (2011)

A blogger friend recently reminded me of this quote. It sounds nice, right? But I’m here to tell you that Benjamin Mee is WRONG. Benjamin Mee is wrong because Hollywood is wrong. Hollywood is wrong all the time.

See for yourself. Take any Hollywood movie, and see how it stacks up in “real life.” Boy meets girl, lives happily ever after. Injured animal rescued, set free. Rookie works hard, makes it to the big leagues. The workplace is glamor and, “Caviar, anyone?” Sex leads to love. And, sometimes, all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, and something great will come of it.

The keyword here (which Hollywood downplays) is “sometimes.”

Let me back up. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, Benjamin Mee is referring to how he met his wife. He saw her in a restaurant window as he was passing by. She was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that he did something crazy. He went inside and introduced himself. She smiled, and they talked. The rest is history.

Yeah, right.

Perhaps I am growing cynical with age (the big 3-0 is no longer that far off), but when was the last time you met a couple that met in such a way? That lasted? Hollywood is full of fabrications, and while we may laugh it off (“It’s nice to dream!”), I feel it can actually do us harm. Because what happens when the girl doesn’t smile? What happens when the animal doesn’t survive? What happens when you don’t make the big leagues and work is sloppy ties and, “French fries?”

We end up feeling disappointed with our lives and foolish about our bravery because Hollywood has set us up with unrealistic expectations about their outcomes.

Not that it isn’t a good quote or there aren’t times when we should be brave. I’ve always agreed with Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump (1994): “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” All of life is a gamble. In order to play, you have to be willing to take risks. It’s just . . . To me, it seems wise to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. And when things don’t go the Hollywood way, keep your chin up. Don’t let “real life” get you down.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. ;)