Sometimes I Forget
I few months back, I wrote a post about the guy who gave me my latest tattoo. He recently shared my post in surprise and tagged me so I was aware he read it and shared it. The things I wrote were positive and he wasn’t angry with anything I wrote or even that I wrote something. I would instead describe the reaction as bemusement. But it wasn’t until he shared my post that I realized he would maybe read what I wrote.
I didn’t use his last name but I wasn’t trying to keep it secret. I wrote a thing and posted it on Tumblr and then shared that post on various social media outlets so if I was trying to keep it under wraps I did a pretty terrible job. However, the things I tend to write on here are as much just a message to myself in an attempt to better understand an idea, a thought, or even an interaction I have with someone else. I share them publicly because it’s another way to possibly connect with people and, let’s be honest, my desire for a certain amount of attention for my creative work.
Sometimes when I write things here I’m very aware that the person I write about will likely see and read what I’ve written. Every post in my Friend A Day project was written with the subject very much in mind and with an eye towards how the post could make them feel. But most of the time, I forget about the people included in any of my posts when I consider potential audience. I pretty much assume maybe two people will read any posts, one of whom is my mother and she seriously likes everything I do.
So, when Brent the tattoo guy shared my post I felt nervous and weird because he returned to being a three-dimensional human being instead of the striped-down character people inevitably become in a few hundred word essay about getting a tattoo. It made me realize I could stand to take more responsibility for my words and for the people I pull into the writing that I make public. Anything I write that purports to be non-fiction is still just my experience on any interaction. Maybe the way I remember something or just the way it made me feel or think is absolutely counter to any other involved people. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong or that I’m wrong it just means we’re all having our own experiences in the world even when we’re sharing time and space.
I don’t know if I could possibly capture someone else’s experience of a snapshot in time when I was a part of that experience. I would have too many of my own emotional, physical, and perhaps mental touchstones to stand outside of the experience and try to collect from the other participants much of how they experienced it.
I don’t think journalism can ever be truly objective because people can’t untether themselves from their thoughts, feelings and experience so that information is also at play, but there is something to being a few steps removed from a story in order to get closer at what really happened. At the same time, what really happened in any story changes depending on who is telling the story because there isn’t any one true version of events because a story is highly impacted by the way it was experienced. There can be a list of facts that make up “what happened” in a story, but the whys, the hows, and the what does it all means of a story are really what matter most of the time.
I want to heighten my awareness of the people I write about in this place. But no matter how aware I am I don’t think there will ever come a time when I’m not still using them in some way to learn more about myself.