Trying to be honest about yourself in a public way is very challenging. For me, it’s not about the introspection. It’s more about getting over how people are going to react once the story changes.
Self-improvement, self-understanding, self-anything is not set in stone. There are days I write from the highest point of my experiences; that is to say, the point where I am able to be the best version of all that I have learned. Like most things in life though, it is not a permanent transcendence. It’s like anything – you have to build a foundation and work your way up. Which is also to say, there are days I’m not on the top floor.
So it’s hard to say “Hey! I’ve learned a thing! I’ve realized something!” and not have that mean “Hey! I’ve learned a thing! This is permanently where I am at until I learn another thing!”. That’s just not true. That’s not how learning or living or developing works for me.
If I am learning to not be defensive, it’s not an on or off switch. It’s still being defensive sometimes and knowing that there are times I am allowed to be, and being defensive other times and realizing after the fact how I was acting, and sometimes during it and trying to change course. That’s pretty much how every process goes for me. I have often lived my life in extremes, and after getting to the highest and lowest points, try to navigate what all the middle ground work is. I find my boundaries, and then I learn the lay of the land. It takes time, fuck-ups, apologies, and even more learning.
But like I said earlier, it’s not the introspection and learning that I find difficult. It’s not even the sharing that I find hard. It’s the things that when I wrote a piece that stated I once smoked a half-pack of cigarettes in a day, I have people calling me out for saying I’m a non-smoker when I obviously am a hound for nicotine. Did they miss the other parts that talked about the contrast to that and then doing yoga? Are they missing the point that we all contain multitudes, or that people do things without being a do-er of those things? Am I not allowed to try on a hat and then realize that hat is ugly and I don’t want to wear it?
I don’t write for others. I write for myself. When I get people holding my own words against me in a trial, I find it hard to articulate anything other than “fuck right off”. This isn’t the graceful reaction I want to give, but I try to honour that it’s genuine. Because I – and everyone – are allowed to talk about their experiences and learning curves without it being held to them as the ultimate truth of their being. I don’t think there is an ultimate truth. I think everyday we wake up, we find a different purpose within ourselves. Sometimes there are many days where our purpose aligns well with itself, and others where it seems to completely clash with the last. But that is being human.
I started reading about a spiritual practice that has always interested me but I hadn’t yet taken the time or dedication to explore it. Someone said to me “Well I’ve never heard you even talk about this before and now suddenly you’re saying you’re this!” like they were surprised that I, at 21, still had things I had yet to explore about myself. Like I have spoken out loud about every conceivable interest.
The point is, it’s challenging to stand by the words and actions (or non-words and non-actions) of a you that you no longer are. It makes it hard to move forward, to grow, to keep good people from an old you in the life of the changed you.For me, part of self-growth is acceptance – of the present, and past. I mean, I’m not going to change my name and move to a different state every time I have a radical self-discovery. And I’m also not always going to explain it or feel bad either.
At the end of the day, I talk about the inner process of myself because it would have helped me so much if I had understood earlier that I don’t have to make sense. I talk because I want people to understand there are layers to growth, there are hypocrisies in becoming yourself and being yourself. I want to share that you do not owe anyone an explanation. You do not have to understand yourself completely. You are not obligated to be a certain way, or to traject slowly in the direction of who you want to be. You are allowed to take things as fast, slow, or radically as you want. And people will always hold a different version of yourself beside you – you do not have to explain why you are not that person anymore, and you do not owe anyone an explanation of the plethora of minute ways that no one is ever a stand still, everlasting version of themselves.
It’s taking me a long time to understand that just because I am constantly evolving, doesn’t mean that I have to be. That I do not have to share all of my experiences because I run this blog; that things are allowed to be personal, take time, clash with other beliefs or knowledge of myself. I’m just out here trying to be good, and I hope that you are all comfortable enough to try to be whatever you want to be too.
Written by Forest Greenwell