Behind The Spotlight
Well, I did it. I successfully completed the certificate requirements for my University of Toronto Continuing Studies Creative Writing course. Here's the proof.
I offer proof because those who know me well know the feet dragging that went on behind the scenes. They know that I am one who, when the finish line is in sight, takes off in a whole other avoidant direction. Everyone knows about fear of failure but my ailment is fear of success.
The fear of success involves being afraid of achievement, often to the point that people will sabotage themselves.
In particular, there's this:
Being afraid of what will happen if you were in the spotlight
Feeling anxious about acquiring new responsibilities as the result of your success
Being worried that things will just get more complicated than what you can handle
Fearing comments from naysayers or worrying about experiencing other social problems
The thing is, all along the way of this, I felt like an imposter writer. Despite the fact that right out of the gate, my first assignment garnered me an Honours grade which U of T considers "of publishable quality" and that I continued to receive Honours on each course I wrote, I never felt qualified to be there. The writing came so effortlessly, it felt like I wasn't the one writing at all.
I took a Personal Stories course that was taught by a middle-aged male who told me that what happened to me as a child would never happen in real life, that it was unbelievable as a plot point. With no sense of irony at all, he said this knowing that he was teaching a personal stories course, not fiction. He gave me the inferior Pass grade which anyone who can fog a mirror gets. (I am trying so hard right now not to go off on a fuck the patriarchy rant).
It's complicated when you are abused from a young age. You can't really know what motivates or demotivates - is it because I am truly lazy and obstinate or is it because safety became my priority motivator and all decisions stemmed from this one crucial trigger? That teacher's denial of my actual experience was familiar to me and, I'll be honest, it sent me into a tailspin of self-doubt.
But, it also helped me to realize that it no longer mattered what anyone else said, whether or not they believed my stories, whether I was too sensitive, too forthcoming, too revelatory. My younger years taught me that it was unsafe to be in the spotlight, to be seen, Trying to avoid abuse rather forces one to hide. As a grown up, I didn't have to hide anymore.
The journey to becoming a writer, in truth, was motivated by that eight-year-old girl there, the one whose story deserves to be brought into the light. She is strong and courageous and resilient, a fighter for her dignity and her broken heart. Despite all evidence to the contrary that people were to be trusted, she learned to love with fullness and faith. I owe everything I am today to that beautiful broken girl.
Becoming the writer I always wanted to be has been a soul-mending journey. Sharing my stories has been scary as hell and that includes my fiction. Even some of these blog posts, once I've hit Publish, cause me unexpected anxiety: Have I said too much? Was that too personal? What will people think of me now? Did I use fuck too many times? I am still influenced by that little wounded voice that whispers, Duck. Keep your head down or they'll hurt you again.
It took me about seven years to complete the writing certificate and that's okay. I'm not beating myself up for it taking so long because it was a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. That little girl and I have slayed a lot of dragons along the way. And, in case you didn't know, slaying dragons is hard and terrifying work.
But, the rewards are immeasurable because here we are now, writing our heart out.