or Trying to Self-Author My Story
“I was looking through your resume and saw you have a website! Why did you decide to do that? What do you… do on it?” My manager for a social justice pilot I’m in asked as she got to know me
I felt a trickle of sweat roll down my neck. My stomach clenched a little, and the flurry of self- doubt and deprecation began to scroll through my mind:
how could I think I needed a website? she must think I’m such an asshole. It’s so dumb. I’m not even a good writer. I don’t deserve that site. I don’t deserve it.
I sighed, and took a big breath, and repeated a mantra I’ve been trying to remember in times of doubt: Take. Up. Space.
So I told her a story. I talked about how fellow educolor member Bill Fitzgerald messaged me, saying he noticed that my name was available as a domain. I had considered it briefly, but didn’t know if I deserved a site. He responded, “Your writing and ideas need a broader audience, and you deserve a home for them that you control.”
His words stuck with me. Clearly, I shouldn’t need anyone to validate me (and Bill is excellent at owning his privilege), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t help.
The biggest obstacle is fear of looking like a braggart or an asshole. The first word that actually comes up is that I shouldn’t “mayabang,” or “boast” in Tagalog. It’s ancestral– not because my parents weren’t very verbal and constant with their praise and affection, but because that’s not who we are. Women in general are often told not to be too “high and mighty” about our achievements, lest we appear bitchy. The idea that I ever show pride about the things I’ve done has a weird, gross, undercurrent of things-you-can-feel-but-never show.
Which is difficult, because Western leadership often values the exact opposite. Where does that leave me?
I don’t think that taking up space means assimilating to the cult of personality, but I do think it means accepting and navigating the squicky things that come with creating that space– and ultimately, doing it. Again, if I think my voice matters, I also have a right to protect and control spaces I create.
If there’s a place between “OMG CHECK OUT HOW AWESOME I AM BRUH” and not sharing– the “Hey! Here’s a thing I wrote that I’m proud of!” space– I should try and find it.
Because, here’s the thing: I am proud of my work. I am proud of the stuff I’m doing and think that it occasionally deserves being shouted out.
Does that make me an asshole? Even just writing that felt weird, and I’ve written and deleted this post a few times, but I think it may be time to stop pretending I only self-deprecate and don’t take pride in what I do. If I didn’t, why would I continue doing it?
If I believe that women, especially WoC writers, should control, create and self-author their own space, I should walk the walk and try and do it myself if it’s what I want.
So, I bought a domain, which you’re on now. I share and write a lot about race and social justice issues, especially in education. I sometimes often share that on facebook. I think that has come to be… strange for some of the people I’m friends with. Not all of my family agrees with me (which is 100% fine), and I’m sure a lot of my friends and family are a bit oversaturated. Sometimes, I am too.
Normally, I’m a big believer in the Donna Meagle school of Social Media:
but I know things are different on facebook. I don’t want to lose connection with family and friends who want to mutually share in each other’s joy of cute animals, babies, and vacations. That space should exist too, even for me.
I don’t mean no one should put hard news on facebook. Plenty of us do. It’s more an exercise for me in finding balance– something I sorely lack.
Part of creating space is knowing when to give it. So, with the help of other great mentors (Alex, JLV, Doug), I’m doing something a bit crazy for me and created a facebook space to talk all things social justice, race, and education writing. As I begin to freelance a little more, I hope it will also be helpful.
It could be great. It also might go horribly. I really have no idea. I was worried I would look like an asshole doing it. JLV loving came back, “Then you’re an asshole. Over it?”
And I think I am. If only to try new things, maybe I need to do things that at least push me outside my comfort zone. If “being an asshole” means “fighting for self-authored space,” I just might be fine with that. At the end of the day…
and there’s nothing I can do.