"I wish we were on vacation in New York."
Those were the first words out of my father's mouth after I returned home from the conference I had been anxiously anticipating for an entire year. Not, "How was your conference?" Not, "We're proud of you." Not even, "How was New York?"
His words stung. They often do.
Writing and being published in print were life-long dreams I had and achieved through blogging. And yet, I struggled internally. The stories I wrote often hinted at tragic truths, satirizing painful memories. But most of these stories were merely choreographed dances, carefully composed so I could deny them if I was ever exposed as the author of them in real life.
I was fearful my family would be angry with me. I worried you would loathe me if I revealed too many of the hideous scars I carry. To write openly and honestly about growing up with alcoholism and abuse and about living with anxiety and depression required courage and strength. It required the kind of bravery the VOTY's and guest speakers who spoke from the stage had. I simply did not possess it. And so, the internal struggle became paralyzing.
I arrived at #BlogHer15 with a heavy heart, prepared to say my final farewells, delete my blog, and stop writing. Forever. That was my plan.
I sat with my peers and brain crushes each day of the conference soaking in the profound and moving messages. There were many more young writers and bloggers this year than I remembered in past years. The young people on the stage and in the videos were so incredibly self-assured and courageous, so certain of their purposes. They were so very proud and confident. They were proud of their voices.
As the conference progressed, a growing voice inside of my own head began with a whisper. This time, it wasn't accusing me of being an impostor as it often did by asking, "Who do you think you are??? You're not writer. You don't belong here. HOW IS YOUR VACATION?" Instead, it encouraged my growing sense of courage and bravery about what my purpose truly was and what my legacy messages ought to be. The voice reminded me that I am a writer and this is exactly where I belong. No apologies.
I knew that I wanted to be somewhere brave. I knew I wanted to share my stories honestly and unfiltered. I wanted to tell the ugly truths about alcoholism, abuse, and the tolls they take on our hearts and minds.
Suffocating depression. Self-doubt. Anxiety attacks. Incredible strain and damage to relationships.
I wanted to tell every single person suffering in silence, "Me too."
Attending BlogHer and being a part of its amazing community gave me the courage and clarity to understand what I need to do. Four years after beginning my blog, I finally understand my purpose.
I want to be able to look my daughters in the eyes and tell them about how my vacation in New York was no vacation at all. It was a pilgrimage.
"Every one of our voices matters. It is our right and our responsibility to tell our stories, especially when it helps others find courage. I'm going to be brave for those people. And there are people out there who need YOU to be brave too."
You can be brave. You ARE brave.