The other night, I shared a very great secret, in French, to an audience of expats from Colombia and Cuba. It was my 31st birthday, and they were asking what my hopes and dreams were for the coming year.
If we’d been speaking English, I would have said “Just to keep doing what I’m doing, and do it better.” But under cover of a second language for all of us, I found myself clumsily telling them the real hope that I have for the coming year.
And I’m not going to tell you what it was. Not because I don’t love you, or think you don’t deserve to know, but because it’s too hard to say.
Funny, right? After publishing frank accounts of my eating disorders and sexual abstinence, after writing open letters to men I have crushes on, after throwing down every financial entanglement and anxiety attack and interpersonal conflict for the gawking pleasure of any Internet passers-by, there are still things I somehow cannot say.
The next day was a big day. I sent out invoices–my least favorite part of the job, the part that always gives me a sore neck and a dry mouth. I mailed a very important (closed) letter that I’ve been sitting on for days. And I gave my project…this one, the one you’re reading now…its official launch.
“Launch” is a funny word. There wasn’t any fanfare or promotional giveaway or whatevs…just a few hashtagged notices on the social media. “Unveiled” would probably be a better word for it. Like pulling the tarp off a project car that’s been sitting there for a while.
I did this, and nothing happened. A few minutes later, I noticed that I was breathing shallowly. My stomach felt like it had dried up into one of those hard little raisins you find when you clean out your cupboards. I felt like someone was squeezing my liver as if they were trying to get milk out of it.
“YES,” was his answer.
I’ve been nervous before, about work. About my creative reputation, and trajectory, in light of each new piece I put out there.
But this is the first thing I have foisted upon the world. The buck stops with me…indeed, it never left me. Nobody else has touched this thing, but me. So if it’s sucky or worthless or…worst of all…not as good as it could be, that’s all on me. Not only for making it, but for asking people to look at it.
That makes it very different from any work I’ve put out there, heretofore.
That’s why I’ve kept it behind the curtain, for so long. Or apologized every time I hand someone a card with TheConnoisseurs.us on it. “It’s homely, but worth getting to know,” is what I’ve been telling people. Like having an idiot child–I love it, but quick to apologize when other people don’t.
Like I said, nothing happened, beyond my own physical reaction. Not that I expected it to…except maybe I did. My body was bracing itself for fight or flight, but no attack came.
I wondered if this is how men feel–and maybe women, too–when you walk out of the church with a new ring on, and see traffic lights and weather and people walking by, none of which have changed as a result of this new change in your life. It had to be done, you did it, and now it’s life as usual in this life you just stepped into.
I looked at my home page and suddenly thought, “This is going to be a lot easier, from now on.”
Things are easier to say if you can make it not you saying them.
This is my project, my series of interviews. But I belong to it, as well. It’s its own thing, and I have to respond to its demands…some of which I probably don’t even know yet. I’ve committed to doing it, and finally announced that commitment to the world. The world hasn’t changed…at least, not on purpose…but something in the world has changed, and it’s my job to keep up with it, not least because I started it.