(This is part of my ongoing effort to blog, even if it’s bad blogging. Because bad blogging is better than no blogging at all, right? Maybe?! Also, I need a tag for these – #nottrying? #phoningitin? #badblogger?)
In light of recent news, I am reminded that there are two groups of people in my life…the ones who know about me, and the ones who don’t.
I’m not ashamed of where I’ve been and what I’ve been through. On the contrary, I tend to wear it as a badge of honour (<<—-bad spelling habit picked up working for an international company). But it’s just a different world, a different experience, when I am interacting with people who “know” or “don’t know”.
It’s always been a “thing”. For so many years, it was a point of shame. Such an odd thing, though, because I always thought it was so much of what makes me “me”. How strange to have to hide one of the most integral parts of who you are…because it’s embarrassing? because people won’t look at you the same way? because nobody can know that you have had this inside of yourself?
I’m not easily embarrassed (well, allegedly I’m not), but I do hate the idea of people looking at me and labeling any and all behavior (<<—-Americanized spelling, but I was tempted) as evidence that I am what they now know me to be.
And now? Today?
I am reminded that there is a whole new batch of people in my life who are in that “don’t know” column. And I am suddenly reminded of what that means.
If they knew, they would be cautious with their words.
If they knew, they might feel like this was a good time to give me a lecture.
If they knew, they would try to bond with me over it all, just as people tried to bond with me on September 11th, spilling out all of their own thoughts and trying to work out their own drama across the gaping scar of my own experience.
In September 2001, I had just been back to New York to visit less than three weeks earlier, but I hadn’t lived there for more than a year and a half. It didn’t matter to people, though. They knew that I had lived there. They knew I had walked those streets, and they wanted to know what it felt like to have walked them.
It will be the same way now, if people know. They will want me to interpret, to translate what they can’t understand. They will tell me that once, for a very brief period of time, they visited New York too, or thought about it. They will try to fathom it, try to get me to help them understand what it’s like, why someone might make this choice.
But here’s the thing. I can’t even begin to tell you why this or that person made this “choice”. To be honest, I really don’t like you calling it a “choice”, or a “decision”, or a “selfish act”. Because you don’t know what it is if you haven’t been there. You can’t say that you understand the magnitude of those towers collapsing like dominoes when you have only seen them in pictures and you don’t know someone who’s inside of them as they fall. You don’t know what it’s like to have walked through that place on a daily basis, to have worked there, *lived* there. You think you know New York. You don’t.
If they knew, I might be more or less subject to their judgment. They might ask me to explain, or to justify, or to make them feel better about themselves, or to apologize for the actions of all of those like me, past, present, and future.
But when they don’t know my story, they don’t know me. And yes, I suppose there is a place for boundaries and conventions and building up trust over time and in small parts, but at the same time, I am me. I have been to that place, and while my experience there will never be the same as anybody else’s, there are things that I know for having been there. This is why someone I’ve met “in person” maybe twice in my life is someone who feels like a friend I’ve known forever. This is why I am trying so hard to embrace the discipline of blogging, because there is so much left for me to say, and the story isn’t going to tell itself.