“You have found your style at last,” said her father. “You put your heart into it.”
—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
I’ve noticed that the writings of mine I love the most are my notebook rants, where I just pour out the thoughts in my head, the things on my heart. It’s when I try to clean them up through editing that I begin to like them less and less.
It feels like mono-cropping. Editing feels like chopping down a diverse messy wooded area and planting rows of corn. Year after year of planting the same crops strips the soil of nutrients and richness.
My goal with writing is to connect with others who feel the way I feel, who see the world like me, to open their minds, to make them feel less alone. My goal is not to be professional but to connect.
Why am I so concerned with editing?
Because I’m afraid that the words from my heart don’t make sense to others.
When I was in bible college, I broke up with my boyfriend there because we were moving in with his parents in Mexico in a couple months and he wanted to marry me the following year. And I was afraid of losing my independence, afraid of binding my life to his. I felt too young. I hadn’t done anything with my life.
I became sick and feverish after ending our relationship and I began to write him letters while bedridden in my dorm room. I missed him, I loved him, I wanted to build a life with him, I felt safe with him, I was sorry for being afraid.
Less straightforward than that, more fever dream.
But the letters, while feverish, concluded with me saying I made a mistake, I wanted to be with him.
We met up a week after our break-up, on a bench across from my room. I gave him the letters and watched his face as he read them. His eyes were a mixture of blankness, confusion, and anger. Finally he looked at me, gestured at the letters in his hand, and said, “What is this?”
“I . . . “ My voice cracked. I cleared my throat. “I want to get back together. That’s pretty much what I was trying to say.”
“Good,” he said. “My cousin’s in town and going to be visiting campus in a few hours and I didn’t want to have to tell her we broke up.” He picked up his bike. “I’ll text you when she’s here. Make sure you’re ready to leave by then.”
And he biked away without another word.
I looked down at the bench. My letters were lying there pathetically, like a crumpled white rose. To you, with love from me. And he didn’t take them with him. I picked them up and held them to my chest, feeling cold and numb and afraid again.
We didn’t stay together for long after that. I broke up with him again, for good that time.
But that fear never left me, of giving someone I loved pieces of my heart on paper, and having them rejected.
I got into a pattern of writing letters to guys only after they rejected me. A love letter to an ex-boyfriend after he broke up with me because he couldn’t handle long distance. He texted me that he got my letter but couldn’t bring himself to read it, so he stored it somewhere, out of sight, unopened. Last year I told a friend I had feelings for him and he said, “I don’t know what to say.” The letter I wrote him afterwards is in a dresser drawer and I’m very glad I never sent it.
The biggest heartbreak I experienced was three years ago. I was in love with my roommate, and he with me, but of course it was all unspoken. But then he ran into his ex while at the beach and felt some sort of “sunk cost” with her, felt the need to try to rekindle things because they had so much history.
He came back to me, to our house, a few days later with whispered apologies, and my days with him after that were some of the happiest memories of my life. But he left again when he found out she was pregnant, and he tried to destroy my life after that.
I wrote him multiple letters of course. I’d never felt more myself, open and free, than I did with him, and haven’t felt like that with anyone since then.
I thankfully didn’t give him the letters but a year later I published a short love story about him teaching me how to surf. I didn’t identify him in any way, but an old roommate sent it to him and he unblocked me to tear me down. “Me and our old roommates had a nice laugh at that garbage you wrote. You’re delusional, and no one will ever love you.”
Why am I equating “writing authentically from my heart for my online readers” to “love letters I write to boys who hurt me”?
Well, why do I only tell people I love them after they’re gone?
I’m afraid of rejection. But I want to be honest. To admit to someone the depths of your feelings for them is to risk pain and rejection. So if I wait until I’m already in agonizing heartbreak pain, then additional pain won’t really be noticeable.
I guess I see the things I write and share publicly as love letters from me to you. “This is what’s on my heart. I know there’s someone else out there who feels like this. You’re not alone.”
I’m afraid that no one else feels like me, so I edit my heart words into oblivion. Try to mask them with style and professionalism. And thus, most of them rot away in my drafts folder.
Maybe the unedited writings from my soul will feel like fever dream letters to someone, not worth keeping, but that’s okay. I’d rather connect with the right people than make perfect sense to all the people.
While I’m not ready to risk more romantic pain any time soon, I am ready to put more “delusional garbage” on the internet. Because I love my words and I know I have good things to say and I know someone out there feels the same way I do.
And I want you to know that I love you.