Why I Have No Memories
Writers need to connect with their audience. Common wisdom says to be real, and share your "personal" experiences to drive real engagement. What do you do if trauma has taught you that's a bad idea? Sometimes, letting go of a habit that helped you long ago is the only real way forward.
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As someone who is learning the craft of writing more (as thousands of Medium wunderkinds do on a rigorous schedule), saying more, and teaching life lessons to people who desperately want clarity in their lives, I’ve been at a loss for the last year about one thing.
Everyone asks me to share a personal memory to “engage” my audience more fully. “Show your vulnerabilities,” all of these life coach gurus say. Until I do, my message will be held back.
Just Like Us
I appreciate what these guys are saying. They want me to show my inner puppy, elicit the “ahhs” and “she’s just like one of us” reactions that draw massive Likes and Follows.
Here’s the problem:
I don’t have many “ah shucks” memories of my childhood or even young adulthood (at least until the age of 22), because my childhood sucked. Don’t get me wrong — my parents really loved me and tried their best, but they were so screwed up, they could barely help themselves.
If I were to divulge details, many people would probably call my childhood emotionally tragic. It lasted forever as I was experiencing it. In order to get through it without losing my mind, I had to focus on the future like it was a religion.
Surviving The Jungle
I didn’t “live in the present” because I couldn’t afford to.
My house was an emotional jungle, with a lot of hate being flung around, and I just wanted to make it out with sanity intact.
Whatever sh*t was happening in the family, my mind was somewhere else, focused on a goal, on a future that I could make for myself once I left.
This well-practiced mental and emotional muscle allowed me to not only claim my ticket to one of the most selective colleges in the world, but helped me to get through the kind of harsh, male-dominated world of Wall Street to create a reputation that would move markets.
Niot living in the present saved my ass. Not loving in the moment was my grace. But now, being a mom and a teacher of finance, my survival mechanism has become the iceberg to my emotional Titanic.
Hard To Let Go
I’ve worked for two decades to create a life for myself with so much potential for satisfaction and love.
And now I need to live in the moment. I want every moment to matter. But it’s hard to let go of your habits. They are automated. They feel so intrinsic.
Survival mechanisms become a crutch that many of us mistake as a personal characteristic. And then you subconsciously give up on changing the way you react in certain situations, because is it even possible or desirable to change your personality??
It’s hard to see that many aspects of our behavior has been shaped by our past contexts, and should therefore change as contexts change.
It’s hard to recognize that your personality is very much a product of having peered at life through a lens, and is not your essential character. It’s hard to let go of your survival mechanisms once they’ve outlasted their usefulness.
But it’s worth it. Not because of the stories that you can now tell on social media to get more Likes. Not because you can rewrite your stories to end with some “a-ha!” teaching moment that can illuminate other people’s lives.
But because today really is worth noticing and awesome, and you can always start being grateful for being you, now.
It’s ironic. Happiness and success is often seen as a future goal, when of course, it’s really found in what you’re doing at this moment. Success is a state of being who you are and really having a great time of it, being driven by it.
You’ll Find A Way
It took a long while for me to notice that today wasn’t so bad.
I don’t regret my survival mechanism. Sure, I may not have as many treasured memories of my childhood, but my adulthood’s looking pretty bright. Don’t worry about it if you don’t fit a certain construct that other people deem as the most effective one for whatever you’re trying to do.
If you’re passionate about your life today, you’ll find a way, and it just might be ground-breaking.