“My blog is just my blog, a universe of one . . . we can never present our entire personalities in all our complexity; we have to decide which aspects of ourselves we want to share . . . the memoirist becomes a character, someone whose company the reader enjoys.” -Gail Carson Levine in Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink
First, I’d like to thank you for enjoying my company. That is an honor I don’t take lightly and something I try to handle with care. Since I started blogging six years ago, I’ve learned what power my voice has and that when I write people, shockingly, listen. I can’t tell you how long it took me to learn that lesson and how it has changed me. I take that power, that honor, very serious.
It also has come with some responsibility I wasn’t expecting when I started. If I say something flippantly, it might hurt people. If I say something uninformed, it can mislead people. If I say something mean, it can alienate people. For someone who pretty much just says whatever she wants, this has been a huge exercise in thinking before speaking.
You coming here and reading my words has compelled me to think more, read more, pray more. So thank you for that butt kicking.
You coming here has made me a better writer, a more thoughtful person, and more intentional. Again, thank you.
I hope you get something out of this relationship too, obviously. I don’t want to be that friend that always takes and never gives. That’s exhausting and won’t end well. I want us to end well.
(I don’t want us to end anytime soon though so don’t get any ideas.)
The other day I was thinking about the above quote from Gail Carson Levine. About how blogging is a decision I make, a person I portray to you that cannot be the whole picture of me. No matter how well I try to write, no matter how transparent I am, no matter what I share, there are still parts I can’t write about, parts I can’t explain, parts that don’t need to be broadcast on the internet.
Picking and choosing those stories, those sides, is sometimes hard and sometimes easy. But I have become, to some extent, a character on my blog. I shine a light on some parts and ignore others, not to be secretive, but to be human. To be someone more than just this storyteller. To try to be better in person than this edited and shined person you meet here.
Can I tell you a secret that kind of embarrasses me?
Sometimes when I’m out and about, shopping, traveling, eating, I’m recognized. Are you Mary Graham? someone will say. It always catches me off guard and my first thought is I’ve done something wrong or I’ve lost a kid and didn’t realize it.
But then they introduce themselves and say they read my blog or follow me on Instagram or something like that. I immediately forget how to talk or think and just smile and nod; I’m sure I blush a little bit too.
I have this fear that whatever you think I am on the internet isn’t who I am in real life and you’ll be disappointed.
In March when we traveled to Savannah, Georgia, for spring break, a reader (hi, Jen!!) recognized me on the street as she was driving by. She made contact and we got to meet in a park that afternoon with her friends, and it was pretty awesome. I was in workout clothes and wearing a very unflattering headband, trying to have a semi-normal conversation while being dragged down the sidewalk by my dog. It was totally glamorous and fancy. During this interaction, I prayed that Jen thought the person she was meeting in the park was the same person she reads, that I wasn’t any different in real life.
I think the worst insult someone could direct at me would be to call me fake, to tell me that I present myself in a way that isn’t really an authentic me. So while yes, Gail Carson Levine is right in the sense that I decide what aspects of myself I share here, I hope that if we were to meet in person, the character on these pages, on this screen, would be recognizable and real, that you’d see her in my eyes and hear her voice when I speak. And that you’d be just as excited to meet me as I would be to meet you. That you would enjoy my company. That we could talk more about you than me since I seem to do most of the talking. That we could be friends because what you see here is what you see in real life.
I hope that you could say that also, that what you are presenting on the internet is not only the best you, but the most real you. Your people need you to be authentic. Whether that is Instagram, Facebook, or your own blog, I pray that you can be proud of the you God made, embrace the not-so-perfect, and not set others up for an unrealistic way of life by what you show them. Your audience deserves that too.