You know, it’s funny how easy it is to judge people we don’t know.
I’m guilty of it- I’ve judged and can give many examples of where I’ve ended up not only in the wrong, but completely misunderstanding said person’s actions and reasons for doing so.
As writers, we put ourselves out there a bit. When I first started this writing gig just over a year ago, I did so to share the mundane and funny parts of life that we all endure as humans and parents. It’s fun to share with others, and have people laugh along with you.
I sometimes venture out of my comfort zone and share some of the deeper stuff, but for the most part, I share mainly funny stories. The serious stuff about your life opens you up to criticism—and honestly, that’s scary. The first thing you learn as a writer is to never read the comment section on a popular piece you’ve had published on a bigger website. I learned that one the hard way.
What I’ve learned from sharing my own stories on larger websites is that for every opinion I have, there are twenty people with varying opinions, and hundreds who not only strongly disagree with me, but are more than happy to voice themselves blanketed behind the safety of their computer screen and keyboard.
The stories that I’ve shared where I’ve been ripped to shreds in the comments sections are ones that maintain a certain level of “funny,” or are mainly satire based. Those mean comments are easy to brush off on posts like that because, clearly, the person commenting lacks a sense of humor, and those are people that I feel sympathy for..and feel I should probably e-mail funny dinosaur meme’s to in order to help them find their “funny.”
In all seriousness, though…
In a lot of ways, for me personally, that inhibits me from sharing some of the more personal pieces of my life.
I shared a BLUNTmoms article on my Facebook page the other day, The Women of Ashley Madison, about a female Ashley Madison user who shared her story about an affair she had with a male member of the site. I saw a bunch of comments on her post, some of them understanding, and some of them not.
What many don’t understand is that to put yourself out there in that way; to bare your sins, it’s hard, incredibly hard.
Think of all the less-than-stellar things you’ve done in your life. You may have went to therapy to help you process, you may have went to church to alleviate the guilt, or you may have asked the ones you hurt for forgiveness.
As writers, we are prone to expressing our life events and feelings into words. Sometimes, penning those words can come as a great release. Oftentimes, it’s nearly as difficult to get them on paper as it was living those moments. Essentially, we are recounting the events, the ones where we hurt the people we love, the ones where we failed our family and friends. However, sometimes doing so brings a cathartic release. Some say “Writing is cheaper than therapy.”
You can only harbor guilt for so long, my friends.
The person that wrote that piece on BLUNTmoms about her Ashley Madison account, and the demise of her relationship with her (now) ex-husband, is my friend. A very good friend, at that. We’ve spent time together side-by-side, laughing, sharing truths, and though this one particular narrative she shared with the world does not normally cultivate much sympathy, it also doesn’t define her. No one story that I share, or any writer shares, encompasses an entire person. It is not her whole story. It’s a small chunk of her life that she penned into words, and mighty well, if you ask me.
The shit that we endure as human beings shapes us. Not just the rough tides life throws all of us, but the the storms we create on our own, too.
I’ve had a challenging past myself, and to be honest, it’s incredibly hard to spill those stories into words. A lot of the things I’ve done in my past are painful to just think about, let alone write out. People are judgmental. I think sometimes people forget that the stories they read on the internet are written by actual human beings. People just like you, people just like me.
I share stories as the person I am today. I know I have a good heart, an open mind, and a decent sense of humor, however, I am flawed… Just like everyone else, possibly more.
I didn’t reach this version of myself without the aid of some monumental fuck-ups.
Just over four years ago, I was the worst version of Ashley Alteman. Those stories will never be penned in my name as I have two very important people to protect, my daughter and my husband. I’ve owned my faults and moved on, and as much as I would love to share, I choose to protect my family, so those stories stay buried on my external hard drive or float anonymously around the web.
However, what’s most important here is that those stories, those fuck-ups, those disasters that took me years to clean up, they shaped and molded me into who I am today. I am this version of Ashley Alteman because of the shit I’ve not only been through, but put myself through at my own doing. Fucking up builds character and tenacity. It is when we fuck-up the biggest that we are left with the largest life lessons, and when we make it out alive and can apply those experiences to real life—well, that’s when we blossom the most as humans.
We’ve all done it, we’ve all faulted, and if you haven’t well, you’re either fooling yourself, or you’ve just not crossed that bridge. I’ve yet to meet the perfect human, however, I’ve met a lot of pretty fucking fantastic imperfect people. Those are my favorite kind; the imperfect people who have weathered the storms and come out the other side with the sun beaming on their face and a new sense of self.
So, when you read the stories of someone else’s self-made disasters, as easy as it is to judge or type in the comments section “They did that themselves, they deserve what they got,” remember that they likely already know that. It often takes years to build the balls to share a story, to share your truth, as my friend who wrote the Ashley Madison story did, and when we are in a place strong enough to re-visit it, it’s because we’ve come out the other side of the storm.
The articles you read, the sad, the funny, the truth- those are human beings that are writing and sharing with you. It takes courage to pen them for the masses.
We’re all flawed.
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