All writers, I think, want to be a certain kind of writer. I, for instance, have always highly valued versatility in voice and range. The ability to be as powerful in resisting as hooks, as culturally and intellectually insightful as Achebe and Adichie, with the empathy of Emerson and C.S. Lewis, the certainty of Orwell, and to make reading words feel like making love in the manner of Angelou.
Now I do not have illusions of grandeur; I am nowhere near the acclaimed, past or present. And I don’t know if I will ever be, or if I even have to be. I do know that I want to share stories and narratives and ideas about the world, and with the world. I know I have been given a gift. And I also I know that I am not alone.
I sometimes feel confused that what I consider to be the writing I struggle with the most – writing about emotional things, personal feelings, romance, etc. is sometimes what resonates with people the most. It reminds me that people don’t care as much as you think they do about how intelligent you are, or the degrees you have, or the ways in which you can explain the world in complex ways. People care, and people have always cared, about what is in your heart. Because hearts connect.
One of the great ironies of our time – and it has been said over and over again – is that we are all supposed to be so connected to each other; so available, so close. And yet at times it feels that even though people are a text away, a picture away, a flight away, a hello away, a touch away, we are all still so far away. In a time of overshare and voyeured knowledge about the things that we are all supposedly doing and believing and living, we still all don’t really know each other. Why don’t the things that are supposed to make our hearts connect faster and more readily do their jobs? There is a disconnect.
The disconnect it seems, is that in an effort to show the world who we really are, and to connect with people in ways that are meaningful and authentic and true, we have forgotten how to truly be with each other. We tire ourselves peering into the peripheries of the lives each other claim to lead. We tire ourselves with our comparisons to those peripheries, those performances, those unintended but ironically almost perfectly calculated works of fiction. And we find ourselves alone. And not just alone, but lonely. Alone, not in a peaceful solitude, but in a heartbreaking isolation. Alone, lonely, faceless strangers in the midst of a crowd.
Every time I have written something that was truly personal – even though I think of all my writing as revealing sometimes small and sometimes large pieces of me, not all of it comes from the deep-seated places that I still fear to reach into. But every time I do, I find that is when I connect with people the most.
Sadness, pain, heartbreak, feelings of inadequacy or ugliness or just a sentiment that leaves you in want – this is what makes hearts connect. This is the acceptance of the tragedy of being human which although is quite tragic, is also quite ordinary. Ordinary, because we all experience it. And perhaps it is these things that we need to tell each other more. These sorts of, “I am happy but sometimes I am also quite sad.” Or perhaps, “My heart is mostly full. But sometimes it is also heavy with burdens I don’t know how to survive just yet.”
So take heart when the isolation feels so real, so present that it becomes almost tangible. Take heart when the loneliness creeps and sits and stays and you become uncertain as to when it will leave. Take heart when you lose love, when you gain heartbreak, when your heartbreak comes from having no one to give your heart to. Take heart when you experience loss and grief and suffering and pains that feel like death, with tears that feel permanent, and a breath that feels torturous to breathe. Take heart when your heart breaks in little ways and in big ways simply because you are alive. Take heart, and perhaps tell somebody. Because you are not as alone as you think you are, I promise.