Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid: The Gift of Privacy

I’ve kept a public blog for about 17 years on and off since high school . I remember the reason I first started to share my writing online was to be connected to my friends at the time. In my teenage angst, being able to document my mood changes and emotional challenges while receiving affirmation was paramount. I refined my writing abilities this way. In college, I didn’t blog as often but became a part of the poetry scene. The poetry that poured out of my peers and I was deeply personal, revealing childhood and adolescent memories, secrets and struggles. Those poetry ciphers served to develop sincere friendships born of mutual growth, art and support with the themes that we had in common. Reading my words out loud changed my reason for sharing from not only connecting with others but realizing I am quite skilled with putting my feelings and thoughts into words. This skill made others feel relieved that their very struggles are reflected in my work; college was the first time I had people come up to me after I spit a poem to tell me how healing my words were. For a long time, I shared my poetry so others would feel the same catharsis I did.

I don’t regret the things I’ve shared. My later work after college, including my book Hija De Mi Madre, became more and more personal as I documented my struggles with my family, mainly my mother, sexual trauma, spiritual journey, victories, failures and everything in between. Again, these pieces have been healing to both the writer and the readers. As I got older, reading my book, which I wrote at age 23, became difficult. I found myself embarrassed and in disbelief about how many details about myself I shared.  To this day, I have not read that book from cover to cover in years. The book was a necessary work of literature. It contributed to healing much of my early life, gave me the opportunity to present and connect with different audiences, opened the door to making sense of adolescence and has provided other AfroLatinx people, particularly women, a memoir and research that give them the same context I needed to make sense of my cultural identity. In retrospect, however, I feel that I have overshared details of my life. I cringe to read my book because at this age, I have learned that some things are meant for me. Not everything that has happened to me belongs in the psyche of others.

As I prepared a manuscript of essays written after Hija De Mi Madre, I asked a sister friend of mine to write the foreword for it. I didn’t anticipate that her essay would make me hit pause on the process. Offering intimate details about myself without context invites the reader to create a story about me, and ultimately judge me. She made me realize that my journey out of trauma into healing is mine and sharing it to the world is a privilege I am conferring to my audience. Before the advent of the internet age, the trials, tribulations and gifts that my healing journey has given me would normally be shared with those who have earned it.  My responsibilities as a writer are to myself, I realized, and though my story is ever unfolding, I must be careful with how I share my story to the world. People are not always so kind nor generous with their reactions to our personal sagas.

I began to write less about my personal life over the last few years and have taken on a more journalistic voice, using my writing to speak on human rights with a focus on reproductive health. I felt the need to protect my story and my journey from being prematurely exposed to the rest of the world. There has been an overwhelming increase of oversharing because of social media – intimate moments are livestreamed for the entire world to see. Nothing seems sacred anymore, from birth to spiritual rituals to a child’s entire life being documented without their consent. Folks have gotten into the habit of sharing both random and incredibly personal details of their life, giving others full access to their thoughts, feelings and lifestyle. The oversharing has spilled into offline life, where we share details with people who don’t deserve to know them. This has also caused me to withdraw and protect my personal life.

Have you ever had a delicious meal put before you with all the hopes of enjoying it yourself? Usually, you get to savor each bite without having to ration it off to everyone who walks by. Parents of small children don’t always have this luxury and have hidden their favorite food/snack so that they can enjoy it alone without small hands grabbing for it. This is how I feel about my personal journey. As it gets more vibrant, colorful and complex, I want to savor it. I want to clap for my damn self; I don’t want a standing ovation. I crave to connect in person with the very small circle of people who have earned the right to celebrate my joys and support me through my lows. Another reason I have taken up this move to keep my life to myself is because, quite frankly, not everyone wishes me well. Not everyone is offering commentary out of a place of love. Furthermore, the false sense of familiarity that is developed online has rubbed me the wrong way.  Being public with my life in the past has made me susceptible to people becoming enamored with the idea of who I am, with the assumption that learning a personal part of my life has granted them access to me in often uncomfortable ways.

Let me be clear that this post is not about dangerous secrecy, the type that keeps an abuser safe and leaves you in danger. I have shared those secrets that needed to be told. With that said, I know there is a way for me to share my story in ways that honor me and what I have lived through. For now though, this is my meal. These lessons are my medicine before they are anyone else’s. My audience will hear from me and will see ideas put forth from me as the compassionately fierce human being I am. I will push myself to finish essays that contribute to the evolving landscape of reproductive justice and healing journeys. This is about having boundaries and sticking to them – for if I violate my own personal world by letting trespassers come and go as I please, that world is vulnerable to being distorted and desecrated. My life is mine to live and to decide how to share. Not everyone deserves access to the innermost soft and delicate parts of me.