I’ve written a lot about vulnerability.
But to be honest—I’m vulnerable with you all every day. I’m vulnerable because I share my emotions. I share special moments, but I also share moments that aren’t so special. I don’t just talk about when I’m right, but I talk about when I’m wrong. I talk about things that mean a lot to me, and things that have hurt me, and people that have hurt me.
Basically, it’s all out there.
And not just with a few people. But pretty much, I dunno, like—the entire internet.
Today I learned that it’s a completely different thing to be vulnerable on paper (or on a screen, or in a dance, or on a canvas) than it is to be vulnerable in the flesh.
Each has its’ own monsters.
On paper or in any other art form, you’re usually speaking to a large audience. It’s not as close and intimate. Your expression stretches across time and space; you can’t be everywhere when someone reads it or views it or consumes it. In fact, you don’t have to be there at all. You don’t have to see a response. You don’t have to face the possibility of getting shunned, or laughed at, or judged.
But in the flesh?
Where do I start?
How will I sound? How will I look? Will they hate it? Does it make sense? Is it stupid? Do they actually like it? Are they just saying that to make me feel better?
You’re up close and personal. Your expression is coming from you, now. You are present. You can’t escape the risky possibilities.
So today in poetry class—after letting three of the four members in my workshop group go ahead of me, and then stalling for at least another four or five minutes—I finally read my poem aloud to them.
I’ve read a lot of poems to the class.
They’ve all been about things. About fire, or the sahara, or police brutality, or a girl in a painting.
But never about me.
See, there are really only two ways I write poetry.
I either sit down to write from a prompt, or I’m up at 2am and I can’t stop thinking about it, so I write.
I had only read aloud from poems that have originated from the former, mostly because it’s safe. I’m not saying they were good poems—they really weren’t—but there’s something so easy and secure and not vulnerable about writing on something that hasn’t actually happened to you. It wasn’t your direct experience, so it’s almost easier to talk about and have critiqued and looked at and examined.
Not only was this poem about me, but it was about one of the most personal things that has happened to me. And by personal—I mean an old, completely angsty, sappy, horribly heart-felt and emotional love poem.
Really, who wants to hear those?
And oh—it was a group of me and all guys.
So after muttering for a few minutes, and them begging to hear this self-proclaimed terrible poem, I just went for it.
I might as well have spilled my guts everywhere.
So I read them my poem about this boy. I told them how we were normal together, but how nothing was really normal anymore and how nothing would ever be, but it has to be, because he said so. I told them that it’s like a fire that has just gone out, but is still too hot to touch. I told them that I am suspended, just like stars being hung by invisible nooses in the sky, sparkling like the flashy thing he gave me. I told them I am suspended, stuck in time, waiting.
And now I guess I’ve told you too.
Now that I’ve been vulnerable in almost every way possible—
Be vulnerable in the flesh, especially.
Obviously, it’s terrifying.
I’m not saying you have to do it every day, or with everyone, or at every chance you see fit.
But open up every once in a while.
Share what you’re feeling or experiencing.
It doesn’t have to be a poem. It can be another form of writing, or speaking, or showing, or drawing, or anything else for that matter.
It’s your experience, and it’s unique.
The boys told me they loved how honest it was. They liked that it was straight forward; no bullshit. I said what I had to say. It had some cool images and great metaphors.
They said that it sounded like me on paper.
And that’s what being vulnerable is about.
Expressing what you know, what you’ve done, what you’ve experienced.
Today’s lesson is not “Be vulnerable! I promise you’ll feel great!” or “Everyone will love it!”
But it’s this.
In being vulnerable, you can never be wrong.
You can never be silly, or stupid, or weird.
Because it’s your experience.
And there’s nothing wrong about that.