In the last few months there have been a couple times when I have considered submitting my resignation from the weekly diaries here on Rookie. I’ve had an irrational urge to quit something that is important to me just because I’ve recently been told that there are a significant number of people I know (but I am not close to) who read my diary regularly.
I don’t have a problem with acquaintances’ reading what I’ve written here per se—but I worry about their motives. I wonder whether they read it out of genuine interest or, since they because they may gain a tidbit of information or meagre gossip about me or about anyone I might mention here. I can’t stand the idea of having to face people without knowing what they may have read, what they know. I don’t really want my private thoughts to preempt my interactions with people. When you meet someone new, it naturally takes a while for you to choose to tell them certain things. But here, they can learn so much that I haven’t willingly and specifically offered up to them. What they know is out of my control. It’s not the most convenient way to socialize.
The words I write here mean something to me, of course, but they are also separate from me. I don’t wish to be judged on just this diary, for it is quite hard to express all aspects of my personality in a few hundred words a week. But it can’t not be a significant part of me: When I look back over past diaries, the memories they evoke amaze me. I’ve had the sweetest messages from strangers telling me what a relief it is to have someone to relate to, especially regarding feelings of anxiety. But there are certain people in my living zone that I don’t want privy to the emotions that I try to be so honest about in this space. There are people who don’t deserve that kind of access. But what can I do? Having no control over who can access bits of my past is the very nature of the internet and of having one’s work published—so I tell myself over and over again.
The reason I started writing was to avoid feeling like this, worrying about people’s interpretation of me. Writing is for me, a way to make sense of my feelings. I never feel so coherent or confident as when I write my thoughts down on a page. It’s always been the most comfortable mode of expression for me, something I don’t have to think too hard about. Now it has become uncomfortable because I am struck with paranoia every week as I sit down to write. I can’t help thinking now about who might be reading this. My social spheres are starting to merge, and that has caused me some anxiety. I worry about revealing too much, about being laughed at—every insecurity batters me in the face. I don’t believe that anyone is reading this with malicious intent, but all those eyes have turned what used to be the safest place for me into yet another place where I worry.
Perhaps none of this would bother me if I had higher self-esteem. I can’t bear the thought of rereading some of my recent diaries, so the thought of someone else seeing them, and judging me for them, makes me cringe. I am not sure whether this is a warranted reaction or whether I should accept that once your work is published, who reads it and what they come away with is completely beyond your control.
Caitlin and I met last week. That was a much more successful merging of my Rookie world and the “real life” that tends to be much harder for me (though I pretend it isn’t). Caitlin is the first Rookie person I have seen in the flesh, and spending time with her helped this virtual world feel much more tangible. I felt like I’d known her for years. There was never any of that difficult beginning stuff with new friendships, because our mutual understanding had already been established. She is a gem. I felt I was with my kin—someone who truly understands and can share so many of my experiences.
That is what the whole of Rookie often feels like to me. I was 16 when Rookie was born, and it was a really shit time in my life. Writing for the site was the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think outsiders realise how close the Rookie staff are—they have collectively helped me enormously in developing and growing up. I hate to imagine the person I’d be without them and without Rookie and without being part of Rookie. And that still outweighs everything else. ♦