Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The "What if's?"

I'm in writing class today, counting the goosebumps on my arms because the window wayyyy up near the ceiling is open and I'm cold. The teacher announces that the next free writing topic is called "The Life Not Lived." It sounds ominous. And personal. I immediately feel myself withdrawing.

We're supposed to write about something we never did, but wished we had. The road not taken. Sigh. Even though I've gotten to know my fellow writing compatriots, I'm not one to bare my mistakes easily; not to strangers, not necessarily to friends, sometimes it's even hard with Drew and family. I feel like as soon as I say, "Looking back on it now, I should have..." What if I expose a very vulnerable part of myself to someone who (you never know!) stomps all over it? Ouch. Who in their right mind would want to do that?

As we read our accounts - the real versions and the fictionalized "What if's?" - I'm shamed. These people are honest, so incredibly honest. The woman across from me began by warning us that she might break down and cry. Then she shared about how deep in her gut, she knew at the time that she should not marry her boyfriend. But through misguided loyalty and a failure to truly explore her feelings, she found herself in a loveless, childless marriage for fifteen years. The older man to her left told us how he could have marched with Martin Luther King, but didn't. Another lady expressed a longing to have traveled to exotic locations when she was young and unattached.

Their stories were so poignant and honest. How does one share so openly, so freely, with a group of strangers?


  1. I thought you were getting ready to share one of your own personal regrets with us :)

    I think I'm actually more comfortable sharing with a group of strangers because they don't know me and probably never will.

  2. Think you can take this as personal as you want... Could probably really write about a literal road you didn't go down ;D

  3. I agree with Katie actually - it's sometimes harder to share with people closer to you because they are actually a part of your life. Sometimes, I feel I have to explain more when I'm unburdening my soul with a friend, so they don't judge me...

    But you are free from that with strangers. They usually don't judge too much, cause they only care a little bit about you (and why shouldn't they? you only just met!). I feel free with strangers in a way I can't with people close to me.

  4. I think for me, it's equally as hard sharing with strangers as it is with friends. :( I just don't want to spill the beans...any beans! But I know what you guys mean...at least the strangers won't ever see me again - we're only together for ten weeks.

  5. I agree with Katie - in the interest of full disclosure and learning to deal with sharing personal stories, I think you need to post what you wrote! ;)

    For me the hardest thing about an assignment like that is that it would take me twice as long to write because I'd over-think it and then it would not only contain something very personal and awkward, but it would also just stink as a literary assignment.

  6. i agree with katie...sometimes it's easiest for me to be open with absolute strangers. honest is scary. but brave. and helpful--lets those around you know they're not alone. exposes humanity and makes life worthwhile.

  7. It's decided then - I'm going to be more honest with strangers!

  8. Aw, I feel special that so many people agree with me :) Yay for being more honest with strangers! Haha!