I’ve been writing online since 2005. I started with an alias and did many of the reckless things that one does when they are anonymous - like talk smack about their mother. When my mother found my thinly veiled musings, I realized there was no such thing as being truly anonymous online. I decided to embrace that and threw myself out into the world with my words - warts and all.
Well, I don’t have warts, but I do suffer from depression. I’ve also been to marriage counseling, have a brother who has been arrested, and have had more than my fair share of struggles with self doubt. It’s easy to say that now, because I’ve already said it numerous times in black and white on my blog or one of the numerous other websites I write for.
Yeah, I’m authentic, baby. I’m real and raw, and I have fan letters that say that is fantastic.
I wonder, however, if it was also very stupid, at least professionally speaking.
Maybe a prospective client doesn’t want to work with someone who once laid in bed for a week, even though I’ve never let my depression interfere with a deadline. Perhaps my constant babbling about fears overshadows the fact that I’m actually good at what I do. I imagine it’s hard to see someone’s talent when they’re publishing laundry lists of their insecurities.
I worry, too, because it’s not 2005 anymore; I’ve grown as a person since I started documenting my every thought online. Sometimes being online feels a bit like going back to my old hometown: I have the shadows of who I was in the past following me. I could move away from my high school, but there’s no leaving the Internet behind.
Yes, I wonder if I have said too much.
But the words have already been written and read. There’s no unringing that bell.
The beauty of having been overexposed for so long is that I am less at risk to find myself in a work environment that is a horrible fit for me. I might not like the idea of missing out on opportunities because I’ve been a bit liberal with my personal sharing, but those are probably opportunities better suited for someone who doesn’t think child birth is suitable dinner conversation. Having a raw version of myself indexed by Google makes it harder to interview my way into a situation I’d eventually hate. Score one for authenticity.
The truth is, all of us have pieces of our past floating around us. Whether it’s old pictures we get tagged in on Facebook or the friend requests we choose to ignore, reminders of who we once were are everywhere. Sure, some people developed the wisdom of discretion sooner than others, but I suspect secret pasts are no less haunting than blogged ones. No matter how well or poorly we’ve hidden our beta versions, their remnants will always exist
The challenge now isn’t to convince potential clients and employers that I am capable of being professional or to make my colleagues see how much I’ve grown in the last decade. The trick, I think, is to remember that truth myself - and stop being afraid of who I was.