As a writer and parent, I model self-possession, composure and control of my emotions. I model what I want to see in my children and in others. I tell stories online with the understated goal of readers finding a piece of themselves in my story and gathering strength from the kinetic energy of the yarns I spin.
I let them see me try.
I used to write stories for myself, for my own growth, bound in leather journals and relished for posterity. Earnest stories told by my 11-year-old self of first crushes and future dreams. Years later, imagined histories of the ever-changing guests of the balcony hotel room I could see from the dilapidated courtyard of my newlywed French Quarter apartment. Then, naive realizations of how challenging sleep deprivation could be for a new mother married to a law-school student.
I fancied myself the next great (undiscovered until death) writer, very Emily Dickinson. Nature had a different plan.
One deceptively lovely August day in 2005, those 17 years of journals washed away in a storm. After months of evacuating false-alarm hurricanes, my journals safely tucked away in waterproof boxes, I let my guard down. I left them behind. Because how bad could it be?
Twelve hours later, they were washed out to the Gulf of Mexico, a bare slab of concrete left behind. Of everything we lost, I mourned my stories the most.
I was faced with a choice: stop writing and avoid the pain of another loss, or lean in to new stories and tell them no matter the risk.
After six months of watching for the headline, "Journals of Undiscovered Literary Titan Washed Ashore," I chose instead to up the storytelling ante on my own. I moved my journaling online, sharing stories with the audience my words could resonate with most clearly: other parents.
An entirely new risk appeared, not one of physical loss of my words, but of seeing them claimed and morphed for the purposes of others.
The risk of ridicule, yes. But even more astounding was the risk of empowering others, because then? Then I would feel accountability for the changes my words wrought in the lives of others.
I decided to put my head down and write. I would show them my successes and struggles. When I let others see me trying, it was an exhale. An interlude. A sigh of ambition.
I learned there is power in vulnerability. There is power in wanting. When I began to share my process, my readers leaned in to my voice. I projected myself onto the world and invited them to do the same to me. Where our stories overlapped is where we found bold ground to explore. Letting my audience see me try to be a better parent and writer gave them a model on which to further frame their own locomotive tracks.
Lay bare your ambition and do not flinch. Believe your bonds are gossamer. Let them see you try.