Happiness Hinging on Impossible Expectations

When I started this blog, I had expectations I wasn't even aware of. I expected to be able to present a vulnerable part of myself in a way that wouldn't leave me feeling exposed. I expected to be removed enough from the process that posting and being active on here wouldn't be scary. I expected to share moments where I was once vulnerable, but wasn't anymore. I expected to create a portfolio of impeccable essays that would be so well-written they would absolve me from anything embarrassing written within them. 

Of course this isn't how it panned out, and it was pretty naive of me to think in absolutes like that. The initial wave of support subsided and the pressure settled in. I put the pressure on myself, and then that caused me to endlessly guilt-trip this thing that was supposed to be comforting. I let my perfectionism take away what I liked about the blog and replace it with a big burden and a feeling of fraud. 

I've learned that my tendency is to take things meant to be outlets and weigh them down unnecessarily until they're not an outlet anymore, but instead, another chore. I create standards that are a little unrealistic and then scold myself when I don't reach them. For instance, yesterday I cleaned the whole house, cooked a huge meal, did some reading, worked out, and watched a bunch of Law and Order: SVU (the only relevant Law and Order, by the way). I carry anxiety in my neck and shoulders before I register it in my brain. So yesterday when I found myself all clenched up, I realized I was anxious and tried to figure out why. I realized it was because in my mind I hadn't accomplished enough. I was thinking about all the things I hadn't done that I wanted to do-- like submit a packet of my poetry to a literary journal I've been eyeing, or do laundry. Even though I got a lot done, I didn't do enough, or didn't do what I had done well enough, and that was giving me anxiety and a sense of lack.

Maybe it's because I'm friends with so many really impressive people, or maybe it's impostor syndrome, or maybe it's just textbook perfectionism, but I find myself lately holding up a bunch of things I *have* to get finished, or else I'll be a fraud. I'll be unworthy. Even when, on paper, I get a lot done, I find myself clenched up, dissatisfied, and worried.

All of this brings me back to feeling blocked about this blog. I feel guilty that I've struggled so much, especially since the initial outpouring of support was so lovely and humbling. Mostly, though, I just feel like I'm not doing enough-- that each post has to be really thoughtful and well-written. I write drafts halfway and then agonize about how I sound: whiny? privileged? obnoxious? self-serving? I look back at old posts that (even if they got a good reception) feel written in poor taste. In short, I'm super critical of my writing here.

So this year, I'm trying to lighten up a little bit, and ignore my inner perfectionist who, if given her way, would hand-wring and edit all of my creative work into oblivion. I didn't make resolutions. I'm just trying to go easy on myself, compare myself less to others, and treat myself as a friend, and not a critic. I get this is all pretty standard self-love stuff, but it's what I've been struggling with and being honest about it is a good first step. Anyway, so that's why I haven't been posting-- not like any of you were like, on my page just refreshing over and over or anything. But I'm going to try and be a little easier on myself and let things be imperfect. 

I think the real power in a person is not the power of the finished product, but the consistent showing up. So I'm going to try to show up for myself, and let go of any expectations beyond that. 

My new saying is "Done is better than good. Done is better than good. Done is better than good." 

Since I've been quiet on here, I have been writing, though. My friend Brittany is a treasure of a friend and just launched her new webiste, Quarter Life Crisis. She asked me to write the first piece, which I was thrilled to do. It's called "Powder Rooms and the Forgotten Power of People-Watching", and I edited it for a year, but I'm pretty proud of it. Please give it a read if you like. 

I'm also so grateful that my poem "Prelude to the End" was published in Magma Poetry magazine. It is the first in a series of end of the world poems, which were initially part of a whole chapbook I wrote after college, but then ultimately scrapped. I am pretty proud of the prelude, though, and the rest of the series is being published later this month in a different magazine, which I'm so excited about. I'll share when it runs. 

Anyway. Thank you for your generosity and patience as I find my footing on this platform. Here's to a fruitful, rewarding, and forgiving 2016.

Love, Emma