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Tiny Revolutions №36: Mask Off
No, not that mask 🎭
Hi, I’m Sara, and this is Tiny Revolutions, a weekly dispatch of personal writing and links about the art of becoming who you are. Reply anytime, I love to hear from you.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been having conversations with the readers of this newsletter to learn about who you are and why you’re here. It’s been fun and interesting, and if I had to point to one common thread, it’s that most people have cited that they appreciate my willingness to be vulnerable and share personal stories about Hard Things. I appreciate that you appreciate that!
And then I saw this tweet from an Internet friend who runs an online community I’m part of:
So I thought it might be a good time to write about how I got myself to a point where I feel prettttty comfortable (while also still terrified) about airing my demons in public.
First of all, it’s been a journey. I started my first blog in 2005, the year I moved to LA. It was mostly Internet ephemera and other jokey stuff that made me and my circle of friends laugh. I blogged under my real name, but this was before Twitter and Facebook and other ways to widely share your content came along, so the chances that anyone I knew professionally would see what I was writing about were very slim.
I worked in PR then, which meant that I was paid to craft narratives that would make journalists want to write about executives and their companies. This was a pretty cool job and it had me working with people who were, frankly, way out of my league. A lot of CEOs and founders of very successful companies along with the high profile journalists who covered them. There was a certain veneer of professionalism I had to maintain in that job for obvious reasons, and I started to get a little nervous about blogging.
So at some point I adopted a pseudonym, Jane Donuts (it’s a play on “Jane Doe,” but wacky, get it??). I began publishing my blog under that name, and it remains my handle on Twitter and Instagram to this day (though now the name associated with my profile is my real one).
This was good because it gave me cover to just write what I felt like writing and not have to worry about whether it was intelligent or good enough. And it made it much easier for me to publish things that were personal.
Mainly, I was afraid of revealing myself because I wanted to be successful professionally and make good money, but I also knew that self to be:
Interested in a million different things, many of which were wildly outside of (or even in direct conflict with) my choice of profession
Filled to the brim with self-doubt and self-loathing
Kind of a clown
Granted there are lots of positive things I could say about myself too, but I was worried those would be drowned out by the more scurrilous stuff. Put simply, I had a difficult time reconciling the mess that was me with that shiny polished persona you’re supposed to cultivate in order to be marketable in a professional way.
But then I started publishing essays in places other than my own blog, and I had to decide whether I wanted to keep the pseudonym or just go public. And I’m glad I did the latter because, guess what?
No one actually cares!
I used to worry that I wouldn’t get jobs if people googled me and read about my messy relationships or mental health struggles or often childish sense of humor. But I don’t think that’s been the case. In fact, I think I have gotten some gigs because people would, say, read my Twitter timeline and think I sounded like fun. And if being myself in public has cost me jobs that I’m not aware of, well, screw those people, they’d have been terrible to work for anyway.
But also, here are some of the other things I’ve learned.
Working with all of those executives at the PR firm and then later on at the various jobs and clients I’ve handled since has confirmed one thing, and it is this: no one really has any idea what they’re doing. Everyone is making it up as they go along, and anyone that claims to have it all together is suspect. This goes for wildly successful people in every possible field. Life is messy and there are no easy roads and to pretend otherwise is not only dishonest, but it actively harms others by obscuring reality.
The idea that you can’t be both a real person with problems and a person who is good at their job is such a dumb idea. I have noticed that it tends to be propped up by people who stand to gain from presenting some kind of bulletproof posture that is wildly disconnected from reality, which is, again, generally pretty fucking messy once you get a closer look.
Wearing a mask is exhausting. It just takes much less effort to be yourself. Truly.
People are desperate for authentic connection. I think this is always true, but it’s especially true now, when the world appears to be crumbling into a stinking ash pile. If you are given the choice between dealing with someone who seems transparent but possibly a little kooky and someone who seems really put together but may have ulterior motives, who are you going to pick? Personally I’ll take the former anytime, and I’d prefer to interact with other people in that camp as well.
I guess it depends on what you want of your life, really. I have wanted and do want a lot of different things, but more than anything, I have wanted to feel at home in my self, my body, my world. It’s a never-ending process, but I don’t feel afraid of who I am anymore. I just figure the people who like it will like it, and the people who don’t won’t. This would be the case regardless, so why not just do it my way?
On to some things I found interesting this week.
“Managing and harnessing your emotions before they get the best of you has always been a useful skill, but it’s never been more vital.”
(Just want to add here that while I find guides like these to be useful, they presuppose that people are recognizing instead of repressing emotions. How can we get more people to be in touch with their emotions? That’s something I think about a lot.)
Check out @anonymousphotoproject, my new favorite Instagram feed for its timely/timeless pictures.
“If you’ve ever wondered why many celebrities disappear for a period of time, sometimes years, it’s often in the hopes that the below will fade or go away. Sadly, it’s very hard to put the toothpaste back in the toothpaste tube once you have a large Google footprint.”
Speaking of Tim Ferriss, on his podcast he recently shared the first episode of The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers’ series of interviews with mythologist Joseph Campbell. Choice section:
A Twitter thread that might give you some ideas for movies to watch/rewatch on this long weekend:
Something to celebrate this Labor Day weekend?
Ok, I’m off to a pool now with a good book and a lot of water.
p.s. Share this newsletter. And then comment with something that amused you this week.
p.p.s. 🤡 😂 😎