Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

There’s this thing that’s been going around the internet for the last week. It started with one woman writing honestly about aspects of her life that were incongruent with the persona and lifestyle depicted on her blog, and spiraled out from there. These confessions have ranged from very superficial to very personal, and have left me thinking a lot about what I do and don’t share here (or in other, less public fora).

I’ve written here since 2001, though the URL has changed a few times, and much of what I wrote in the early years is no longer public. Since I started this blog, I have lived at 15 different addresses in 6 cities, worked at 13 different jobs, and had 4 serious relationships, much of which has been documented here. When I need to remember what I was thinking or feeling at a particular time, this is one of the places I turn. On this site, as in real life, there are few topics that are off limits – but on this site, as in real life, I’ve constructed an identity that incorporates the parts that I’m willing and able to share.

The last 6-9 months have been a rollercoaster for me. I’ve been trying hard to put my finger on a triggering event or events, but end up with more questions than answers. In doing so, I’ve been working on being very honest with myself about a lot of things. Along the way, I’ve realized a few things I’m afraid to tell you:

Over the last few years, I’ve used my tendency toward introversion to avoid investing in my relationships. It’s not that I’ve ever had a shortage of friends. It’s that I stopped trying to really connect. Since realizing this and starting to open myself up, I have experienced a depth of connection, communication, and honesty in friendships that I’d forgotten was possible.

I require fulfilling work to be happy. Of those 13 jobs, I can point to two that really made my heart sing: the year and a half of gyne instruction and the almost three years at GSLIS. I’ve had jobs where I worked with wonderful people, and I’ve had jobs where the work was challenging, and I’ve had jobs where both of those statements were true, but for the last few years, I’ve been stalled professionally. My current job holds a lot of promise in this area, but I’m trying not to swoon yet. I would like to be one of those people who can leave work at work, for whom a job is just a way to pay the bills, but when I’ve been in those jobs and when I’ve aspired to those things, I’ve felt myself steadily go numb. I would be such an excellent housewife if I could just turn all of this off.

I really don’t know how I feel about having kids, and that’s a pretty scary thing to me. Most days I’m resolutely in the anti-kids camp, in part because I can’t see a persuasive reason TO have kids. But my strong opinions on this subject are undermined by a nagging fear that I’ll change my mind after it’s already too late. I also worry that the fact that I’ve never had a serious pregnancy scare points to some underlying fertility problems.

I have a very hard time communicating my needs in relationships, intimate or otherwise. I’ve become inured to disappointment, and to a large extent, that’s my own fault, as I haven’t given my partners or friends the opportunity to be the people and things I’ve needed them to be at the time, and so of course I’ve been hurt and disappointed. This tendency grew out of a terribly low self-esteem that led me to believe that no one would ever love me as much as _______________ did, and so I’d better do whatever I could to be happy with whatever was given, rather than advocating for my needs – emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. I have worked hard at this in the last few years, but I’m still so far from where I need to be.

I have never been able to establish the habit of flossing. I also keep nail clippers in my desk because I will destroy my cuticles otherwise.

I worry that I’m too selfish to be in a real, lasting relationship. Since starting this blog, I’ve had two relationships that lasted six years, a relationship that lasted three years on-and-off, and a relationship that lasted one very tumultuous year. I don’t (think I) have unrealistic expectations about relationships. I’ve been there. I’ve done the work. But then I’ve also not done the work in significant ways, and I’ve hurt partners, and I’ve failed partners, and I’m no closer at 32 to understanding any of it than I was at 21.

I’m afraid of failure. Like, really afraid. You’re saying to yourself “duh, everyone feels that way,” but I feel it acutely, and am often simultaneously too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve been a perfectionist and an overachiever since at least age 5, when I came home from kindergarten in tears because, as I told my mom, I felt like I had to turn my brain off when I went to school. I was moved up to first grade shortly after that, and haven’t stopped being my own hardest critic since. If there’s anything you might think is wrong or could be improved in me, you can rest assured that I’ve already dug into it and remind myself of it all the time. Like my failure in relationships or my stagnated career.

I’m trying to practice vulnerability. This post is part of that practice.

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0 thoughts on “Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

  1. This is a really amazing post. Thank you.
    Also, I was reading some nonfiction recently that talked a little bit about gyne instruction in the context of a larger story (Stiff by Mary Roach maybe?) and the author mentioned she believed gyne instructors deserved “living saint awards.”
    So true. I’m glad it was rewarding for you, but it’s also something that is so, so necessary.

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  2. Yeah, me too about the kids except I enjoy my animals so much that I’m also afraid that I couldn’t love a child as much as a cat. I have never expressed this to any friends with children, but I’m pretty sure they would either reassure me that there’s some hormonal thing that happens that fixes it all (a weird reassurance that I have heard before), or never speak to me again.

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  3. I love you, honey. I know how hard this is, and the other things you’re going through. And you’re right – being open and vulnerable is so so so very hard, and so so so very rewarding. You have an enormous support network, probably bigger than you know, and we’re all here for you.

    And re kids: I have the exact same fear that there’s some underlying fertility issue because I’ve never had a pregnancy scare either. And while I know that I don’t want kids now, and I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want them, I have the same nagging fear about what happens if I want them someday and it’s too late, or it hasn’t been possible all along. So basically I’m just saying ‘me too’ and have nothing to add there, but I’m right there with you.

    And also, I get really tired of people telling me that the hormonal thing will fix everything. Or that I don’t know what love is until I have kids.

    Anyway. Much love and support, as always – I’m here. *hug*

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  4. Wow saw this linked from twitter. Thanks for posting. I can really relate to what you are saying here (except for the flossing bit :). Really though it is great to see other 30 somethings vocalizing that maybe kids are not for them. I also struggle with not having a compelling reason to have them and, when I sketch out the pros and cons, being certain I don’t want them but then being flooded with that doubt that what makes perfect sense now will someday be a mistake. Anyway thought I would drop you a line as another GSLIS grad/Chicagoan/runner person not so sure about the kid thing and in search of work that is satisfying.

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