I rather enjoy being an anonymous blogger. Aside from the tiny handful of you who know me in real life and the one or two other bloggers to whom I have divulged my first name, no one knows me. I am the woman behind the experiment. Writing from somewhere, usually, in the United States. The voice behind the awkward girl on the tightrope or the woman walking with the transparent umbrella (below). Truth be told–as I was saying to a coworker just the other day, after announcing that I had decided to put The Used Life on Instagram–I would never want to market this project with my face. It doesn’t feel right. I, I declared with the firmest imaginable conviction, am TheUsedLife! I am going to self-publish a collection of my meditations on the feminine, and it will be authored by (written precisely this way, but in a decidedly more appropriate font) theusedlife. I have updated my About page and, with a bit of trepidation, referred to myself in the third person, as TheUsedLife. Writer who garners her greatest inspiration from psychology. Who is passionate about giving form to inner experiences and giving voice to a multitude of complex states of being. Who seeks to fuse the personal and the theoretical, or the scientific. Self-proclaimed Master of None. I am TheUsedLife.
It’s not the name of my blog. It’s not a side gig. It’s not a hobby (and I am so, so very tired of my habit of treating it like one). It’s me. The Used Life is the place where I can do work that I love. Where I can say what I think the way I want to say it. Where I can immerse myself in the ultimate quest for self-expression. A place where I am never bored. Where I am genuinely lighthearted. Where I can look forward. Where possibility is always in sight. Where I can Be, with a capital “B”.
I suspect creative folks generally, and especially, need a place like this. A place for retreat when the burdens of everyday living become too much to bear. When we yearn for balance. For nothing more than to strip ourselves of the masks we wear, day in and day out, for the sake of safety, of comfort, of practicality, of being liked or wanted. When we’re looking for the courage to fuse that all-too-powerful need for self-expression with other spheres of our lives and need a space to plan, to experiment, to morph. To step out of ourselves, at least for awhile.
I am TheUsedLife. I realize that I am angry. That this decision was prompted not by some soft-and-feely form of esteem I’ve developed for this project, but because I myself am restless. I’m mad. I’m mad at myself. Mad that I haven’t made pursuing my own, highest goals my top priority. Mad that I’ve gotten comfortable with my routines, including those which keep this project a hobby of sorts. Mad at the sacrifices I make, daily, to fit into my environment and to make other people happy. Discreet–and often not-so-discreet–everyday words and behaviors. When I say what I think other people want to hear. When I only half-express myself. When I dumb down my passions and my intellect for the sake of getting along. I betray myself at every turn. And, I can feel it.
That’s what I’ve been giving up by not being TheUsedLife. Growth. Living in accord with my highest values. I’ve been holding on. Playing it safe. Refusing to shed some of my own skin. In real life, I have been cowardly. I’ve been impoverishing my own spirit. And, I know it. And, it makes me want to set the world on fire. I am TheUsedLife. I don’t usually write posts like this one. But, I can’t spend as much time as I do reading the likes of Abraham Maslow and Rollo May–intellectuals who inspire me, whose work fuels my passions and feeds my soul–and refuse to be moved by what they say. Moved by what I already know to be true. I can’t deceive myself into believing that I’ll reach my highest potential by thinking and not doing.
My esteem for Maslow cannot be overstated. He is a stunningly compassionate, deep, and original thinker. Though, a spitfire, to be sure. (I’ve ordered his journals, and I cannot wait to read them.) Put simply, he makes me want to help other people bring out the best in themselves. He says of those for whom creativity is lifeblood, those who would sacrifice even basic needs for the satisfaction of what he believed to be a manifestation the highest, those who, by all appearances, reversed the proposed order of his hierarchy:
There are other, apparently innately creative people in whom the drive to creativeness seems to be more important than any other counter-determinant. Their creativeness might appear not as self-actualization released by basic satisfaction, but in spite of lack of basic satisfaction. – A.H. Maslow
To be creative is often to walk a path of misunderstanding. It is to be deemed irresponsible, careless, flighty and sometimes impractical. It is to be driven by a different set of needs and values than almost everyone else you know. To be impelled by a force from within–by a calling, or a sense of self–that is altogether too strong. You’ve got to be, to enact, that which you can imagine, no matter how much time it takes, no matter how much work it requires. Because no alternative will ever be good enough. It’s a kind of death for someone who is, perhaps, a little too much alive. To be expected to live by and understand other people’s rules is one of the most baffling–and the most maddening–struggles you’ll ever have to face. And, when the pressure to conform is too strong, your choices are to either rage against it–to go boldly forward in the face of all obstacles–or to give up. But, giving up–if, in fact, you can sacrifice being yourself, in all of your strangeness, for any length of time–is a forfeiture of the most glorious part of your identity. That’s a fact. If you were to ask me how many times in my life I have turned my back on comfort, on certainty, on stability for the sake of creativity–the most powerful synonym I know for authenticity–I would say several. If you were to ask me how many times I have been called irresponsible for doing so, I would say, every single time. If you were to ask me if I’d do it all again, I’d say, yes. If you were to ask what I would give in order to be myself creatively–to be fully TheUsedLife in every sphere of my life–in all of her chaos, her impracticality, and her weirdness–I would say, everything. I would say, absolutely fucking everything.