Exploiting my life for content

Impulsive Coward

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Tucked away in my average-looking room in an average-looking cabinet is a stack of seven notebooks. They are my journals, filled margin to margin with a decade of my life. 

Feb. 20, 2010, was my first entry — riveting content, if I do say so myself. 

Hi! My name is Jessie. I live in Shrewsbury (for now, since I’m moving). I have a cat named Oscar. He’s really cute! I am 8 years old (right now) I also have a brother. It’s name is Daniel (he is VERY annoying). My mom’s name is Jenny and my dad’s name is Dennis. They both like to go on the computer. 

Love, Jessie.

Not much has changed since then. I still love using parentheses, my adorable cat Oscar is still alive and well, my brother is still annoying (although I’ve come to appreciate him a lot more) and my parents still like to use the computer. 

Only now, I’m 19 and living in Shanghai. I also no longer write about my life within the privacy of my notebooks. In fact, I’ve willingly exposed some of my deepest fears and experiences right here in The Daily Californian, immortalized forever on the internet. 

Strangely, though, I’ve been perfectly content with writing for strangers. 

In fact, opening up to people I don’t know and may never meet is easy, especially in writing. It’s been somewhat similar to a censored journal, where I can make sense of my experiences and find some form of closure. 

When I write, it feels as though I’m observing myself from a third-person perspective. It’s the same way I feel when I revisit my old journals — the way it feels to go back and forth between who I am now and the time capsule of who I was in the past.

Meta, I know. 

Mostly, it’s been comforting being able to talk through my life and derive some meaning, direction or identity from it all — even if, in reality, things aren’t so easy to piece together. 

March 11, 2020. Sometimes I feel so disconnected with my own identity. I’ll look at pictures or videos of myself and not even really recognize or identify with what I’m seeing. It’s weird. It’s also weird how many versions of myself are out there, because everyone I’ve met and know has a different perception of who I am in the context of their lives, and multiple versions of me exist in my head alone.

I’ve always liked the process of writing my thoughts down, but I must admit how performative it becomes when you’re doing it in front of an audience. 

At the end of each column, I’ve felt obligated to appear as though I’ve learned something: wanting to be more present in my relationships, not being afraid of sex anymore or finding certainty in my sexuality. But along with those revelations came uncertainty.

When I take risks, I have come to expect a definitive outcome. I expect a transformative experience, and that’s been reflected in the stories I’ve shared. But so many of the risks I’ve taken in my life have fallen flat. Change is mind-numbingly slow. There’s not always a moral to my story, and there’s often no perfect conclusion. 

Writing about certain moments in my life has also always been accompanied by the fear that my family will find out about my column. Opening up to a stranger is easy, but it’s a different story when my family doesn’t know about the majority of the experiences I’ve written about. As I’ve learned, being listened to is a privilege, and being accepted, well, that’s something even rarer. I certainly haven’t come close to coming out to them as bisexual — growing up in a religious Asian household, that wasn’t and isn’t a topic I’d be welcome to bring up. 

August 23, 2016. I AM NOT AFRAID. Just kidding I’m scared as f—.

This column has been my little corner of the internet where I can write about my life, but as intimate as it feels, it’s scary how easy it is for anyone to find it. Just a few weeks ago, someone I knew from high school texted me about my column, casually commenting on my writing style. Knowing he had read about my life in so much detail felt as though he’d torn apart my room and found my stack of journals. Knowing that it only took a simple Google search made it worse. 

If my parents were to find my column, my writing style wouldn’t be their concern. They would never look at me the same. They might reject me or cut off communication with me without hearing me out. Because of that possibility, writing can feel like an unnecessary risk.

But here, for just 850 words a week, I gave myself the benefit of the doubt. I used my columns as a way to finally listen to myself, to work toward self-acceptance and to maybe make others feel less alone. Here, I can conjure great epiphanies. I can force myself to learn from my experiences. I’ve realized that hearing myself out and showing vulnerability don’t always have to be done in secret, either. And maybe that gives it all some meaning.

I wish I had more time to offer you greater revelations. I wish I had more time to use this platform to find more closure and to find more acceptance, the kind I’ve lacked in reality. 

As attached as I am to this little corner of the internet, though, it’s also nice to move on. 

November 13, 2018. It’s comforting to know that everything in my life right now, even who I am, is temporary. It’s so exciting and scary that I’m going to keep changing and experiencing so many more things. I’m just looking forward to finally seeing some change around here. Some excitement! Some spicy drama! Some character development!

Thank you for giving me the privilege of being listened to. But I can’t stay an Impulsive Coward forever. 

March 3, 2013. 

I have to go now! 

P.S: I’m glad there’s someone who understands that I can talk to. 

P.P.S: Bye! 

Love, Jessie

Jessie Wu writes the Thursday column on exploring the intersection between risk and self-discovery. Contact her at opinio[email protected]