Yesterday I began to write my reasons why I no longer want to hide my past, and how I should answer a writing colleague who wonders why. He deserves an answer; as well as asking me to my face, he wrote the question on his critique of my personal essay: “Why can’t the writer just MOVE ON and forget about all these injustices which are way gone?”

Interestingly, the same man also wrote, “I learned a lot about this social anxiety problem,” and he told us he’d looked up the term.

In the excellent post I mentioned yesterday, Joe Warnimont also wrote:

It’s when we forget to listen to stories of misfortune, the same events happen over and over again.

In writing, we need to consider what readers can gain. The rest of my reasons for writing about my past are for the readers:

  • I want to help readers to understand me and the many others like me. I want to clear up the misconceptions: that we’re stuck up, don’t want to talk, etc.
  • I hope, like my writing colleague, readers will learn about social anxiety, which is much more common than most people think.
  • I hope readers will learn about bullying and what it can do to the one on the receiving end of it.

If my writing could also lead to help for those who are suffering now, that would be the best reason of all.

I didn’t gain anything through all the years I tried to forget what happened. As Angela Brown said in her comment on my post from yesterday:

Forgive, forget, move on. Easier said than done because, in more instances observed, moving on doesn’t come from forgetting, it comes from the growth learned and earned from experiences.

Remembering is much healthier, if done in the right way. I don’t write about the past to perpetuate some feeling of victimhood. I’m not stuck in the past. My essay ends on a positive note with my hopes for the future. Looking back has helped me to look forward to something better.

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I’ve been working on a personal essay with my writing group. At the beginning of the year, I submitted fictional stories for them to critique, but after reading personal essays by other members, I decided to try my hand at one, too.

My essay discusses how I became aware of social anxiety and the effect that awareness has had on me. Naturally, it also describes my childhood, explaining how I caught social anxiety in the first place. So far, I have submitted the essay twice. Each time, the members and the mentor said they wanted to know more. They wanted more examples, more explanations, more dialogue. So I’m still working on it and the essay is growing.

One man asked me a question after the last meeting. “I’ve heard stories about difficult childhoods before,” he said. “I always wonder why the people can’t just forget what happened and move on.”

An elephant never forgets. Should we?

An elephant never forgets. Should we?

I stood there transfixed, not knowing what to say. I wasn’t hurt by the question; I knew he’d asked it because he wanted to understand. The truth is that there are many answers and someone was waiting to give me a lift home. But even if I’d had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t have been able to respond because… well… I have social anxiety. I don’t know how to think up responses on the spot.

“I suppose it’s easier said than done,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, escaping with my lift-giver.

While editing my essay, I’ve been thinking about how I should have responded. How I could respond in writing. How I’m going to respond right here on my personal blog.

I tried to do exactly what my fellow writer suggested. When I left school, I tried to put all the nasty experiences behind me and start again as if they had never happened. But they did happen. They shaped the person I became. Ignoring them meant that I had less to talk about, because a big part of me was buried along with them. This was true even on the basic level: when anyone mentioned childhood experiences, I couldn’t join in with mine.

Today, I read an interesting blog post that tackles these issues.

You can’t shut out your own misfortunes because you need to piece together the reasons it happened, in order to communicate that to yourself and others.

says Joe Warnimont in the post.

There are other, less personal reasons why I want to write about these things. But I think I’ve written enough for one blog post. I’ll continue this another time, maybe tomorrow.