Facing fear and writing with gusto

Today I spent most of my writing energy finishing a post for my other blog, On the Margins. It is the first post I have written in months. Taking a class, other projects and then fear of coming back to an otherwise-abandoned endeavor kept me away from writing there. The longer I didn’t write, the more convinced I became that I couldn’t write, at least not about the blog’s topic, affordable housing. I was sad to think I had moved on from what had been an all-consuming passion. I believed the story I told myself that I had given up on a vital interest, that I had failed to follow through on this, as in so many other projects. I internalized the shame I felt, and was unable to envision a reality in which I returned to my work. 

The break had originally been intentional, a way to give myself permission to work on other interests. But I didn’t give this break an end-date and so never made my return a priority. I thought about it often, but always had an excuse ready: I am busy, I would tell myself; or, I have no ideas now, perhaps I should try again in a week (or two, or three). 

A the months dragged on, my desire to return was supplanted by the shame of failure. Most of the time I could not even bring myself to read about affordable housing; I avoided the news and many of my favorite blogs. They all taunted me, reminding me of a world in which I felt I no longer could exist. I grew crabby, withdrawn, unable to focus for long periods of time on any work. I was denying a central part of my identity, even as I questioned its existence within my true self. 

Advocacy for affordable housing has formed my purpose for several years now. I have worked with residents of affordable housing, have written countless essays and articles in support of providing all people with shelter, and have done extensive research into policy. I am not quite an expert, but I am (or was) on my way to becoming one. After long discernment, I have decided to stray from this path and pursue a career in mental health counseling. There are connections between housing advocacy and counseling, such as providing people with the resources and stability they need to succeed. The biggest difference though is the amount of time I will spend interacting with people versus writing alone in my office. I am excited by the prospect of helping in a more direct way. I am overwhelmed at the prospect of changing the content of my writing from housing to humans. There is so much more complexity in the latter, and the risk of offending is much higher. 

I do not know how I will make the transition, if I will stay with my existing professional blog or if I will create a new space for myself. I do know that writing today about an inclusionary zoning ordinance in California was uplifting and energizing. As is writing here. I took a risk today and returned to my silent blog. For this, I am grateful. 

And so, here I go, without a totally clear plan but with the knowledge that whatever happens with my career in the upcoming year, I will remain writing with gusto.


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