Have you ever thought of reading out your diary entries from your teenage years to a hall full of hundreds of people? Me neither, but it turns out that there's this spoken word production called Mortified that gives people an opportunity to do just that, and it's rapidly growing in popularity across the United States.
Now it may sound horrifying to most to imagine sharing your most intimate feelings growing up to a complete group of strangers, but it turns out to be quite beautiful. Reading these stories out loud and hearing people laugh and cry seems to be an effective way of discovering common ground with others. The act itself seems to allow the participants to find solidarity with a crowd, to discover the angst, silliness, fears, and hopes that we all experienced growing up. Just that act of being heard seems to heal some wounds from the past, or make people feel better about their overall journey through life, about their identity. It's an experience that brings shame to light, and laughs it away.
Hearing all these different performer share tidbits about their past was really beautiful, and it made me think more about my own life. Near the end of the film, I found I had become upset. You obviously know that I write about my life periodically, but you may not know how long I've done it for. I started blogging back when I was 17 years old in a blog entitled "Can You Relate?". Growing up, I never felt like I belonged, and did a lot of stupid stuff to try to fit in. This lead to further separation, and I needed a place to get that all the feelings that came with that out. I wrote a bit in notebooks, but eventually I came across Tumblr, and I realized that the best way to create connections with others might be accomplished by sharing something real with them. I had a feeling we might not all be so different, so I set out to shine a light on that and see if that was true.
Well, I may not have been cognizant of it at the time, but I wrote a lot of crazy stuff. But unfortunately, I can't really reflect on that initial foray of mine into writing, because I deleted it all a few years back. Sure, I have some idea of what I accomplished with that blog, but after watching this documentary I now realize the loss associated with that decision.
So why? Why did I delete years of writing? Remember when online privacy first emerged as a public issue? If I remember correctly, it was right about when Facebook was becoming really popular in my second year of university, so 2008. I distinctly remember walking through my ex-girlfriend's dorm building, and seeing a post on the wall with everyone's pictures posted on it, and a note that said something like "How private it your life?". I guess that RAs had gone on people's online profiles and printed off those pictures. Well, this planted the initial seed that maybe I should be a bit more cautious about what I share online. Then, a year later, I hit a negative point in my life where I became really afraid of what others might think of me, and that was the final straw. I decided to delete all my blog entries, and shut down my Tumblr account. I didn't even save the entries on my hard drive, because at the time I had set my mind to be forward thinking, and didn't want to dwell on past foolishness; and I thought that it all seemed so amateur and silly, so why would I or anyone else ever want to read it. And for a long time, that was that. It was a decision that I made, and I didn't think twice about it. But now...man, I'm really bummed! I wish I could go back and revisit all those pieces I wrote.
There are distinct moments that I kinda remember, but that I would love to have more detail about, and I know that reading those past pieces would of been so worthwhile now after having watched Mortified. I remember having written a piece about a very impactful moment in my life while my Grandpa was dying, and feeling totally weirded out by having to be the one to comfort my mom about it, a total role-reversal. Or I'd be happy to read about past adventures, my first philosophical inklings, struggles with depression, and so on. But now, it feels like that part of my life is disappearing. As I move into the future, the fog surrounding that time becomes thicker and thicker, and I worry that someday it will be like I never had a childhood. That will never be entirely true, because there are catalysts in life that can help bring your mind back to those moments, like if your friend brings up a memory of a time you shared together. But there's something much more powerful and immersive about reading your own words, because it was you! It's like a direct time machine back into the mind of your younger self, and with those gone, I feel sad. But I guess you can't dwell on the past. I know now how important my maturation and writing is to me, and I can take steps to preserve the relics of my past that I still have. And hopefully, there will be enough there to look back and get a truer picture of myself, to find peace with my past and pass it on to family and friends in the future. More than anything, it still comes back to this desire to connect with, and understand, both myself, and others. That part of me lives on, so I will continue to document this journey. And maybe you'll see me on the Mortified stage someday, sharing some cringe worthy posts that I wrote in my early 20s.