When I was doing my Bachelor’s degree at CMU in Winnipeg, I decided to do a semester abroad in Paris. Perhaps a little questionably, I appropriated this dream from Anne Frank, who I had played in a community theatre production a few years prior. “I want to go to Paris,” she wrote in her diary, “to study music and art.” Since I was already studying music in Winnipeg and was quite pleased with the quality of my education, I thought just studying art would be fine – and I had to justify the semester abroad in the context of my degree, of course. So I made a big fuss about the school not requiring enough language credits, and accreditation, etc. etc. etc. Looking back, I think I was a bit of an asshole, actually. But underneath it all, I was just afraid to do what I wanted without justifying it in some other way.
It makes sense, really, because I was still quite a bit of a Christian, and in my mind, it didn’t matter what I wanted, it only mattered what god’s will for me was. I had written a paper, for example, on head coverings for women during church. I had set out to conclude that it wasn’t necessary to wear a head covering, but what do you know – I concluded the opposite. So there I was, about to go to Paris to study art, crocheting myself a covering for my head in order to make sure I was subjugating myself sufficiently before god during chapel services.
I started a blog, to keep everyone up to date on my Paris adventures. It was on Blogspot, and I will venture to say it was well-read by my family and close friends. Back then, search engine algorithms were less aggressive and who was searching for me online, anyway? I posted every day for the first 2 months of my adventure, signing off with, “I feel your prayers” or some other shout out to the Christians in my life. I was staying with a home stay near Boulogne-Billancourt, and studying French, Figure Drawing, Painting from Raw Materials, Art History (in the Louvre), and Argentine Tango. Looking back over those old posts, it’s funny to see the almost unreadable text, as I would be typing on a French keyboard as fast as I could, trying to beat the clock at an Internet cafe or at the language school before class. Those are the memories!
I don’t remember having any bashfulness with regard to who would read these posts, even after I started posting about the French boyfriend I had met, and probably stopped posting about Jesus as much, it never occurred to me that someone might be judging me, or raising their eyebrow even a millimetre at the change of tone. I truly used the blog as my personal journal, only somewhat filtered for the “public” eye. Now, trying to start up a writerly blog of sorts again, having no idea who will read it and what they might think sends me into a veritable panic attack. I can imagine all sorts of different reasons someone I love (or used to) might disown me after finding my writing: me having changed my name and pronouns since they heard of me last, being queer, being on the political left, having used the word “veritable”, being open about Autism or past traumas, or just having a general feeling of “cringe” or discomfort when they are reading. I imagine you raising your eyebrows, shaking your head, letting out one guffaw and showing someone else your screen to laugh at, or at worst, quietly hitting “unfollow” and deleting my number from your phone.
I’m hoping that as I write a bit more and publish it, I’ll see that nothing bad happens, probably no one except my mom reads what I write, and that the positives of putting my writing out here outweigh the negatives. I’m not in Paris at the moment, and I’m certainly no longer a Christian, and I embody far fewer ideals than I was raised to believe were attractive in my childhood. But, those ideals were unattainable, and I’m living a life now that is more true to myself, more in line with my values and desires, and ultimately more honest. Maybe that’s why my writing has slowed and almost stopped recently: it’s a lot more terrifying to post a hard-won truth than a pre-approved report.