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Overcoming the fear, one post at a time

In the early (to me) days of blogging, back in 2006, I found myself one day crying, petrified, completely in fear. I was about to press “publish” on a blog post.

See, I’d gone from writing a few blog posts here and there — posts to be read by “I don’t know who” “I don’t know when” — to writing about events happening in my community to be read by “people I know” “both now and down the road.”

The difference in the relative anonymity of posting into the wilds of the internet versus writing about a small community for a small audience had me transform from an almost cavalier attitude to one of sudden fear.

I was at the home of Cherie Beck when I sat quivering, quaking and crying. Cherie, was not only my very good friend, she was also fierce and fearless in her confidence that we could “figure this blogging thing out,” plus she, like me cared about our community and pondered how to make it more resilient and connected. She was my supporter, cheerleader and, quite often, my thinking buddy and sounding board.

But it wasn’t her blog, nor her name as the author. It was mine, and I was afraid. I was afraid to state my opinion. Afraid to make a claim. Afraid to take a stand. Not that I was afraid to do these things with my mouth. Expressing my opinion, speaking my mind and saying what I felt needed to be said were activities that came quite easily to me. But to write it out? To publish my thinking on the internet, for others to see, for others to respond to, for others to, perhaps, blast me, online, for my opinions? That shook me to my core.

half the world will disagree

And then Cherie said something I’ll always remember. She said, “The minute you take a stand, half the world will disagree with you. It’s just the way it is, Jessie. Say what you need to say.” And so I quelled my fear, pressed the “publish” button and began a short stint as a local blogger in my community and a lifelong stint as one who writes to speak her mind, online and beyond.

Cherie and I talked often and much, especially in those early years of social media, about having a perspective, taking a stand and speaking one’s truth. One of the things I came to understand as well is that when I’d only published a handful of blog posts, each one felt more of a direct line into my mind, heart and soul. Though, over time, with well over a thousand blog posts, many thousands of tweets, and untold numbers of Facebook posts and comments, the fear lessened each time I pressed the “publish” button.

Now, it’s not uncommon for me to get a PM from someone, or to be pulled aside at a party, with someone thanking me for what they may see as my bravery in speaking my mind on Subject X, Y or Z. I thank them, knowing how hard it was for me to start, and I never pressure anyone to do the same. They have their reasons why they do or don’t want to express their opinions publicly. I get that. I respect that.

the right to evolve

When I was in my 20s and 30s in particular, I recall so many times when politicians, in particular, would be slammed for voting one way in their earlier political life and then another way in a decade or two hence. As though it was a sin to have changed one’s opinion over time.

I never understood that. Wouldn’t we want politicians, in particular, to be able to evolve, for their comprehension of a subject to grow and for their perspective to–in some cases–change and evolve as well? That’s Basic Human Development 101 stuff. We evolve. New information sheds light on old experiences and understandings. We not only have a right to change; we have a responsibility to assess our understandings and perspectives as we grow and as we encounter new information.

While my fundamental nature is still my fundamental nature, how I see and perceive situations can (and I’d offer, “should”) change over time.

I’m so grateful to Cherie, my partner in The American City Girls and so much more. Cherie and I are examples of our own perspectives evolving. Where we once found ourselves quite aligned, over almost two decades of friendship, we also found our perspectives changed quite a bit and our friendship changed with that.

I’m good with that, and I’m pretty sure she is, too. Even in the separation of our ways, what we shared together was ever and always so important for the person, the writer and the blog-post publisher I became, and for that I am ever grateful.

Happy birthday, Cherie! Happy birthday!