I’d like to claim I’m a steel magnolia, but there is very little steel about me. When describing myself, I’d have to go with something softer and more malleable, like aluminum. Aluminum has its own weird strength despite its tendency to bend and crinkle under pressure. For one, it knows how to cleave when it ought to cleave. You can tear it, but a fold or two will fix it right back up again. It can take various shapes when it needs to and it knows how to yield.
“What the hell are you talking about, Hillary?” Lemme ‘splain.
So, Thanksgiving comes and goes with its usual fat-kid foods and wonderful company. There are laughs and plenty of happy memories to be shared. It was a good time. It’s usually a good time, so this was not a surprise. What is surprising (to me at least) is how I feel after spending time with my family. They’re smart people who have strong convictions. They’re well-spoken and have truly interesting stories to tell. More than that, though, they’re strong. Whether it’s from my grandmother’s battleaxe parenting or surviving the various punches life threw their way, my mother and uncle never cease to amaze me with their resiliency. They’ve seen and done stuff beyond my scope of experience and — as such — are granite.
In comparison, I’m sheltered. This comfortable little bubble that is my life is great, but it may have done me a disservice in its own weird way, too. I don’t feel like I have the Monahan mettle. Sure, I’m outspoken and loud. I have far too many opinions on far too many things. That’s not steel, though. Often, I think willingness to speak one’s mind translates to “strong” to those who aren’t so good with the “getting their thoughts out there” thing. Does it take some stones to blurt your brain babies in front of others? Yeah, I guess, but not as much as you might think. It’s one thing to yammer on with gusto to those you’re comfortable with — friends, family, co-workers — it’s quite another to present it to the general public (and I do mean in front of real life people here – the anonymity of the interwebs lends itself to far too many “would be” ballers.) I’m good with telling those I know and trust how I feel, but I generally shy away from it with strangers. Why? No idea, but I can tell you that the disdain of strangers terrifies me more than it should.
Thus, no steel for Hillary. I can’t take my loudness and convictions into the world without the fear that everyone’s going to laugh at me or find me somehow lacking. I’m afraid that despite my greatest efforts, how I relay my thoughts will always be picked apart by a smarter, brighter star. Sometimes, I’m willing to try anyway, which makes me feel like I’ve got at least some juevos, but it’s different. And this is where my aluminum analogy comes from. Foul-mouthed aluminum in the house, thank you very much.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff lately, mostly because my life is going to drastically change in the not-too-distant future. My name will be spoken by a lot of people I will never meet. Sheltered bubble girl is going to be thrust into a limelight. Despite what you may think, writing is not a career that lends itself to squirreling yourself away in a house. As Lauren put it, that only worked for J.D. Salinger, and I am not J.D. Salinger. I’m going to have to speak on panels. I’m going to be reviewed and ripped apart by anonymous critics. I’m going to have an online presence I’m accountable for. People are going to ask me what I think about things and the worst part is THEY’RE GOING TO LISTEN TO WHAT I SAY.
I’m not going to lie, the scope of all that terrifies me. It’s bigger than what I’m ready for. I know my aluminum skin will help me through a lot of it, but sooner or later something will puncture and it will hurt. Lucky for me that I have such amazing people around me. When I go soft, there will be a few steely types for me to lean on. I can find a measure of comfort in knowing that. It helps me be a little less scared about what is surely going to be a very long, intensive ride into a public life.
And don’t get me wrong, y’all. I’m thrilled with what’s happened to me and what’s going to happen to me going forward. But after all the dazzle fades and you’re looking at the road ahead, you start to see some of the bends you may not have noticed before. Realities set in. That’s where I’m at. Not ungrateful, not complaining, but feeling very, very unprepared for my own future. I’ve never been in a place like this before so let’s hope I don’t fuck it up, hmm?