So needed this
So hi, I'm on Substack now—plot twist!
A few weeks back, I had an astrology reading and they asked me a profound question that seemed to rearrange my identity: “Have you felt misunderstood most of your life?” It hit me so deeply, I let out a sharp exhale.
Have I felt misunderstood most of my life? Well, yeah. It was the strangest moment, to be understood about being misunderstood. Something within me seemed to loosen and unravel. This has been my Thing for such a long time—a secret little shame that I return to over and over. An existential FOMO.
I remember when I started blogging seriously way back when in 2009. I wrote a lot of comedy and pretended I didn’t have emotions. I didn’t think anyone wanted earnestness or a detailed portrait of the way sometimes sadness snaked its way into my life and made me listen to a heartbreaking song (Hopeless by Train or anything from Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, personal standbys) on repeat for hours/days/weeks.
I thought that would make people dislike me, so I employed what I’d always done when I thought I was too much for people: I made them laugh.
For years, my “brand” of writing was snarky irreverence, making light of my life and trying to conceal the darkness that lurked within. I was funny! I was unaffected! I thought maybe I was uncaring and apathetic in that cool way!
By 2015, when I no longer had any comedy left, I resorted to the Personal Essay. I spilled out all the inconvenient feelings I typically swerved away from with a smile and a joke and I let myself write about topics that felt like way too much and way too vulnerable. I let my fears and anxieties finally out of the locked place I kept them. I wrote things in public forums I had only ever said in whispered moments with trusted friends. I said things I was sure would make people see me differently (and not in a good way). I felt like I had flayed myself open and gave up the rawness within.
I felt deeply uncomfortable about it, especially because at the time I was writing for a website that was known for the kinds of comments that make you wish you weren’t a woman writing on the internet. And there was a commodification aspect to it—was I writing the truth, or was I writing for clicks? My job was to generate clicks, so how much of that writing was real and how much of it was salacious and performative?
After a year at that website, I felt dirty, like I was mining my own pain for the sake of ChartBeat (don’t ask; you don’t want to know what freaking ChartBeat is, promise). I couldn’t find my grounding after that experience. I didn’t know my own voice. After a year of trying to write a book that couldn’t come to fruition through sheer force of will, I stopped writing for a couple years. I took a much-needed break from the internet and learned what boundaries are.
I learned how to be a person in the world that didn’t need to translate every experience into a “blog post” or, as they might say now, “content.”
When I returned, there was a new fire in my writing. It was from a rooted place. I had done a lot of inner healing work and no longer felt raw and unruly or too deeply concerned with how my work would be received in the world.
When you’re writing for clicks and views, you have no choice but to think of your art as something to be consumed. I needed time away from the internet to recognize that my writing was not something for others to consume—it was a medium for me to create. I had to change how I approached my writing and what I wanted back from it. I couldn’t anymore post something on the internet and wait to see how many likes, clicks, or views it got. I stopped getting excited about virality and instead got excited about connection.
Something really magical began to build when I shared my writing from that place. I’d get these comments from strangers saying, “how did you know I needed this?” or “this is exactly what I needed to hear right now” and “I thought it was just me.”
But, I was the one who thought it was just me.
I’d put out these very specific emotions and feelings that I had believed for years I was the only one afflicted with. I’d say, not the most popular thing, but the truest one. I was writing for me. I was writing so that I could finally listen to myself, give that part of me that thought I had to be the funny friend space to actually have a voice. I was writing my secrets and shames and anxieties and I was doing it because those things were bubbling up inside of me and I needed them to go somewhere else.
I needed to stop pretending I was someone I wasn’t.
Sure, yes, I am funny, but I am much more than that, too. I am also deeply existential and weird and I can talk to you for hours about past lives and soul journeys and also about the best Taylor Swift songs to cry to and how good the show Unstable is, among many other things. I might even be able to guess your sun sign correctly. I definitely know what Mercury is doing right now. And I am a little psychic; just ask my friends.
The writing I was doing wasn’t for clicks. Or likes. Or followers. It was finally—finally—my truest voice coming out clearly.
I had no idea if it would be received. Frankly, I didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted to write again, and not be paralyzed by the fear of judgment. I wanted to give my words the weight they deserved, because I alone anointed them worthy, not because the internet made them viral.
Simply, I wrote to understand myself. Instead of waiting to be understood by others so that I can feel “good enough,” I decided I’d understand myself and make my words and emotions worthy and acknowledged.
And, in turn, I was powerfully understood in a way I never expected.
“I thought it was just me.”
“You make me feel less alone.”
“I needed this so much.”
“I didn’t even know I felt this until you wrote it.”
Those are things people say to me all the time, but I could say the same back to all my readers. You have no idea how special it is for me to be understood. Because, I was the one that thought it was just me. I was the one who felt alone until you said “me too.” I was the one that needed this. I was the one that didn’t know how I felt until I wrote it.
Have I felt misunderstood for most of my life?
But every time I share a piece of my soul that feels like too much and too sensitive and too earnest and one of you says to me, “how did you know I needed this?” that misunderstood part of me steps into the light a little more. I get braver. I build up more nerve to be even more honest and authentic.
I have felt lonely a lot of my life—like I’m never in on the joke at the right time. But with all of you, there’s a connection that is a salve to the little girl with big feelings and nowhere to put them.
You make me feel less alone.
And that is why I’ve started this Substack, because screaming into the void of the social media algorithms is not the way. I have always been in this for connection and community. I have always loved that part of social media more than anything else. I mean, I was the weirdo in middle school making online ‘zines in AOL instead of, I don’t know, dating? Playing soccer?
I have always used words to try to fuel connection and reach out into the void.
So, welcome to my Plot Twist—wherein we use this space to feel understood, together.
More to come, but for now, I’m so happy you’re here (most of you are because you were on my previous email list so don’t be alarmed). And if you feel inclined, please consider a paid subscription to support my work. As I continue to evolve in this space, I will add more for my paying subscribers, because for the cost of just one Starbucks iced brown sugar oatmilk shaken espresso (my personal fave), you can make this writer very happy to know her work is being supported and loved.
Thank you for being here.