Being Honest: This is Why I Write

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One of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes is, “Be who you are and say what you mean [feel], because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I tell you, while this fellow wrote children’s books and poetry, I find his words just as inspirational as Tony Robbins’ and as comforting as chocolate chip cookies. This one in particular is a healthy reminder that people are going to say things to you and sometimes it’s going to be painful, but you can’t stop saying what you mean. I know, I really reached deep for that one.

Yet I point out this quote today because lately, I’ve been letting it all get to me. An important individual at work is pretty ferocious with attacking words these days, and I’m growing weary (hence the slow down in posts lately). Additionally I’ve mentioned in a previous blog some of the struggles I’ve had in wedding planning and realizing that I’m just not going to make everyone happy. Which is kind of a bummer.

But most of all, I’ve been learning a lot from you, the readers of this blog. I want to thank you. While I realize this is a relatively small audience in the grand scope of public writing, it matters to me what people think and I care about your opinions and thank you for sharing them.

With all that, I’m learning why occasionally Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno will talk about a celebrity’s latest Twitter outburst after they’ve been heckled, put down or argued with one too many times. It’s challenging to put yourself completely out there and then realize that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. What?!

To just about everything I’ve written so far, no matter how benign I thought it was, it’s been met with opposition in some sense. I am a novice in this whole public writing thing, but I have learned quickly that voicing an opinion means putting a target on your forehead. I am asking directly for comment and to be totally honest, it’s thrown me on my back a few times.

I wonder…is that what progress looks like?

I think so, but only if I can get back up and keep going. One of my grad school professors once said that “Rhetorical criticism is society’s homework.” And to simplify what that means is – pay attention and think about it! Why did Wendy Davis stand for 11 hours? Is it helpful to society that Justin Timberlake’s new video is a boob-fest? What’s going on in Syria and should we intercede? Why would someone eat 69 hot dogs on the 4th of July?

Then comment on it. Say something about it. I have opinions on all of those items, and trust me I’ll get to them.

My point is, what I’m trying to accomplish on this blog is to get you to think critically about what’s happening around you. You deserve a raise, why won’t you ask your boss for one? Are you intimidated or are there social constraints that are causing this stymie? Why are you (or your partner) changing your (her) last name after your wedding? Isn’t there some kind of importance to a female’s family name too? Or why can’t you ever be taken seriously in a meeting with people 20 years older than you, even though you’ve proven that you can keep up with similar work?

I spend a lot of time thinking about these things and about a bzillion more. I’ve counted once, and I actually got to a bzillion and one. So I use this blog to talk it out, and hopefully get some constructive feedback that will help us all understand our world a little better.

That said, I realize that there are things I have said, and am going to say, that are offensive. I’m not out to offend but if it’s going to bring more understanding or alternative thinking, then so be it. I can’t be intimidated.

(yes, this is just as much a pep talk for me as it is for you)

I have had a lot of people in my life who have genuinely tried to control my life, my mouth, and my body. I realize that sounds like an exaggeration but it’s absolutely true and I won’t let it happen anymore. One time when I told my Dad I wanted to be a doctor, he said, “Why can’t you do something more lady-like? Like be a nurse?” Another time, my slim 13-year-old self reached for a candy bar and my older brother grabbed it and put it on my skinny thigh and said, “You might as well just put it right here. Pretty girls don’t eat candy bars.”

You’ll see that I have a lot of opinions with regard to gender equality. Another thing to note is that I was born in Texas in a mostly white community. One time the black boy in my class wrote me a love letter and I showed it to a family member who said, “I don’t ever want to see you talk to that boy. White girls don’t talk to n——.”

Therefore, I have a lot of opinions in favor of racial equality. I have stories with regard to religious oppression, political nonsense, and animal rights too. And if I am paying attention, would it be right to stay silent so as not to rock the proverbial boat? Should I have just gone along with what I was told to do? I say no, and my words are my most powerful asset and therefore I will use them to try and make this society a better place.

I realize that some of you will not like what I have to say, but my point today is that I want to express that it’s coming from a good place. I try to keep it light with humor, but even that can bring further offense. Yet at least I’m out here trying, and I encourage you to do the same.

While I’ve ranted a little about how I’ve been affected by some of the responses, please don’t misunderstand me and think I don’t want to hear it. I encourage your feedback no matter how sharp (or friendly!) it is. We all have a voice, and my point here is to get those of us who are traditionally silent to stand up and really be who you are and say what you mean.

After all, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” (Dr. Seuss)

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About jonierdmann
Ask thoughtful questions. Challenge tradition. Refuse to accept things are the way they are.

2 Responses to Being Honest: This is Why I Write

  1. anashayne says:

    I’m completely incapable of handling critique, I’m grateful I haven’t had anyone go off on my posts tearing down my opinion, I have enough of that elsewhere. I liked reading the bit about your childhood, that you were expected to be someone at all times and basically wasn’t accepted as yourself. I know how that feels, and I know how it feels to be skinny and have your family make sure you stay skinny or be the reason I went anorexic when I was a perfectly healthy 17 year old.

    Its not a fun journey learning to stand up for yourself. I look forward to reading more of what you write, please don’t ever hold back. 🙂

    • jonierdmann says:

      Haha yeah critique isn’t that fun but it’s a growing experience right? 🙂 I’m sorry to hear what happened to you and thank you for sharing. Sometimes putting it out there makes it easier to deal with. Thank you for reading and the encouragement. 🙂

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