Over the years I have slowly “come out” of the closet as a writer. I have gotten braver with each passing year, as if I am slowly earning the right to be myself. However, whenever someone asks me what I do and I tell them, I often get from them a sort-of glazed-over look, as if I am the third person to identify themselves that way today. Their eyes narrow slightly and I imagine them wondering: Is she a serious writer? Or is this just a passing phase? Aunt Mildred had a passing phase. She wrote silly poems about woodchucks ….
Then, as the glaze clears, I see a secondary thought: But she looks so normal.
To say that I have a book finally out creates new responses by those unfamiliar with my journey. A sort of smile masked with skepticism. Doesn’t everyone have a book out these days? this smile says. Or at least everyone they know is writing a book, or wanting to write a book, or maybe even considering reading one.
Do we label ourselves to makes things easier for us or for other people? If I say I am a writer, then I allow whoever’s listening to entertain their preconceived notion of what that means. Like if someone tells me he/she is an accountant or a lawyer, I have a sense of what his/her life is like. Or I like to think I have a sense of what his/her life is like. Actually, I have no idea.
I wonder sometimes if labels are helpful at all. Perhaps it makes sense to use them on complicated processed foods, or medicines. But other things in nature don’t label themselves. The woodchucks Aunt Mildred wrote about do not pontificate, I think, therefore, I am … a woodchuck. A woodchuck who chucks wood. I venture to say that woodchucks are simply what they are, and they give no thought to whether they are a slender woodchuck, or a woodchuck who could lose a few pounds, and really should join the water ballet class at the pond.
What must this be like, to simply be who we are without pretense or fear? Perhaps, when this glazed-over life finally clears, we will know. And then we will each have our own “coming out” story. A “coming out” to our authentic selves.