Augusten Burroughs. David Sedaris. Koren Zailckas. Mira Bartok. Gretchen Berg. Bethenny Frankel. Elizabeth Kuster. These are authors I admire because I consider them to be "fearless." (The latter is actually responsible for my beginnings as a "published author" and for this opportunity as well.) They put it all out there -- the good, the bad and the ugly, knowing that they risk being met with criticism and judgment by some who may not agree with or understand their viewpoints. They have written about growing up in families that would make our own look like the Cleavers, their coming-out stories, struggles with substance abuse and promiscuity, battles with mental illness and, of course, a nude rock-climbing expedition that was photographed and videotaped for "art."
I may be biased when I say this, but I believe that being a writer, actor, singer or anyone else in the public eye takes a certain amount of fearlessness. We all have trying moments in our lives or decisions that we aren't proud of having made. We're human, which means, hey, we aren't perfect! Most of the world gets to hide behind a certain sense of anonymity, but what about those in the public eye? When Britney Spears shaved her head, I was the self-proclaimed number-one supporter of Brit-Brit getting her sh*t-sh*t together. Let's be honest: A lot of people in the world struggle with substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness (whether their own or that of someone close to them). We just don't all have it plastered across the tabloids and news programs. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to overcome life's challenges when the world is watching your every move. Oh wait, yes I can! (Okay, maybe not the world, but whoever's reading these posts!)
Whether or not we agree with the choices that other people make in their lives, putting those choices out there for the world to judge (because it will) takes a certain amount of bravery. Snooki is arguably America's favorite celebrity du jour to pick apart. Because clearly, none of us have ever gone out with friends, had too much to drink and partied like rock stars. I challenge anyone who thinks that what Snooki has done on TV is out of the ordinary to spend a weekend during the summer at Fire Island. Or to think back to their own college years. There are Snookis nationwide.
I have always wanted to write; it's my passion. I cannot begin to express the emotions that go through me just thinking about the possibility of one day seeing my name on the spine of a novel in my local bookstore. I will never forget the first time I became a "published author." (I had written letters to the editors of my local papers before but hey, anyone can do that, right?)
One day, I stared my fears -- fears of rejection, of success, of the world -- in the face and picked up the most recent issue of Cosmopolitan... and the phone. I opened the magazine to the masthead and called the deputy editor who, at the time, was Elizabeth Kuster. My hands clammy and my throat completely dry, I left this stranger a voicemail about my story -- a story I wanted to tell, in my own words. When Elizabeth returned my call and requested a rough draft, I was professional and composed. Then I hung up the phone, cried and screamed out that "the mothership has called me home!"
Six months later, my story about an acquaintance rape was published in Cosmopolitan. And boy, was it met with mixed reviews. Some members of my family were angry with me, saying that I had only thought about myself and not about how they would feel when I told my story (despite it having been written under a pseudonym). Some people thought I had been naive in not seeing my rapist's red flags sooner. Truth be told, they're probably right. Some people commended me for being brave enough to share my story and to help others by reminding them to look out for themselves. Some were just plain proud of me for finally making a dream of mine come true. That issue's cover is still framed on my desk in my office at home. One reader wrote in to Cosmopolitan and thanked me, stating that my article helped her come to terms with her own similar experience. Her letter to the editor was published several issues later. (I have that framed, too.)
All these years later, here I am writing for The Huffington Post, partially as a result of having stayed in touch with the editor who helped me realize my potential, a realization that perhaps never would have happened if I hadn't stared fear in the face and dialed that phone.
Those of us who write for Becoming Fearless -- who use our own life experiences as material -- are certainly no strangers to judgment. And that alone gives us the right to fly our fearless flags high. Right next to our "freak flags." People are always going to have something to say, but being true to ourselves is the bravest thing any of us can do in our lives.
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