When I opened my inbox to a thank-you email from a reader two years ago, I paused. It was significant for two reasons. First, it told me the thoughts I had expressed were valid. Second, it convinced me I needed to write.
I felt something similar when I was applauded by museum staff about a piece I had written about working in the galleries, and couldn’t find the words to respond. All I had done was put a name on the feelings my fellow employees were all experiencing.
I feel something similar every time I receive anonymous criticism or praise for an article. Or every time I receive feedback from other writers, editors and friends. There is something satisfying in leaving a piece of yourself on paper and knowing that the minute your words hit the page, they become part of something shared.
Yet I’m still writing this column hoping no one reads it.
Sometimes I’d rather not have my words reach a news site on the internet that will remain here through a lifetime of my changing thoughts and perspectives. I’d rather not have a public journal of my undergrad years to cringe at if I ever decide to Google myself in 10 years.
That’s the problem with being a self-critical, introspective perfectionist: you are in a constant battle with yourself. You obsess over the process and you constantly doubt the product. You can never really find the right words. And sometimes you’d rather have no words than the wrong ones.
But I’m leaving this here because writing is the best kind of platform. I’m writing for myself and I don’t have to experience the discomfort of being in anyone’s presence or seeing their judgment and I have all the time in the world to form sentences exactly how I want them to be formed.
Before college, I was always in my head. My thoughts were the louder version of myself — I was constantly shouting the inner monologue of opinions and curiosities that I was too self-conscious to communicate. I was still learning how to narrate my own story while I dreamed about the day I became the protagonist.
My asylum came through written words. Writing became my meditation. And every time I sat down and wrote words on paper, I was reminded that I had a place and a purpose in the universe.
So when I started joining campus publications and admitted to myself that I had a strong passion for writing, I found a voice I never knew I had. I was writing satire and commentary and personal narratives that I was never completely comfortable with publishing. And while the page clicks on my pieces may have come from some combination of boredom, catchy headlines and chance, people still read them.
Admittedly, a lot of my confidence came through the external validation of thoughts that I never gave myself credit for. And I owe so much of that to The Daily Californian for allowing those thoughts to reach an audience.
There is nothing more humbling than being the most powerless person in the room and having no agency over your narrative. But there’s nothing more rewarding than learning to tell it yourself until it echoes through the Daily Cal office, across campus and back home.
But the pieces that talented writers write are not particularly novel. Everyone has interesting thoughts and opinions they’ll never express. Everyone has anecdotes about their daily lives that aren’t particularly significant. Writing well is just a skill we learned to make all of those thoughts and opinions and events sound profound.
So I’ve come to see that everything and everyone has a narrative, and that I’m just lucky enough to have learned to take control of my own.
And now I’m obsessed with people’s stories. The more I look, the more stories I’m curious about. I’m so eager to investigate them and to be moved by them and to narrate them. There’s no longer anything interesting at the surface level and there’s nothing satisfying about knowing less than the whole truth. I’m inspired by the art in the authentic, the depth in the everyday.
I feel so fortunate to have been given a voice in this world. But I’m also happy to be able to relate to those who still feel like they haven’t found theirs.
Everyone needs to have the opportunity to be heard — at the same volume, in unison. There are infinite voices in a collective experience. There are infinite angles to a story and infinite truths that need to be told.
To this platform — thank you for handing me a microphone. Thank you for the strength you gave me, the tenacity you allowed me to express and the opportunity to share my narrative until I was sick of hearing it myself. To the girl who sent me that message about my article two years ago addressing the feelings she was also experiencing — thank you. I owe my motivation to continue writing to you.
I’m now brave enough to stand up on a podium and tell the world exactly what I think, even if I hate hearing the sound of my own voice.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.