The other day I read An Abundance of Katherines, and it wasn't until I got to the end and saw the author picture that I realised that John Green was in fact, that John Green, whose YouTube channels had briefly glanced upon my life. I had been impressed when I saw those few videos, watched a couple more, intended to look further and then forgot.
Today, and following the buzz that even someone like me, who actively avoids the mainstream media, had picked up around the release of A Fault in Our Stars, I read an article on Green on the New Yorker website. I hadn't understood before the depth of his influence, and I remembered what I had noticed when I watched those few videos. John Green cares. He doesn't care to sell more books, and you can see that even though he is dealing with some huge topics, and is clearly worried about the advice he has to give to young people who look up to him, he puts everything into his caring.
I started wondering what it was I cared about enough to give up all fear for. There are lots of things I care about. Lots of things that stop me sleeping, lots of things that I refuse to be part of. To name a few, I'm vegan because I refuse to have the way animals are treated from birth until death in the food industry performed in my name. I have no TV license because I don't agree with the way the license fee is spent and I don't believe the BBC to be unbiased. I do what I can to limit the input Rupert Murdoch has into the media I consume. But I don't stand up for any of these things. I don't fight. For example, I actively avoid confrontation about being a vegan. My stance is and always has been that if you have educated yourself on what happens in the industry and you are happy for that to continue in your name, then so be it. Perhaps it's defeatist to accept that things will not change.
Then there's the depression. It took a lot of redrafts to write that piece on depression that I published a few weeks ago. And when it was published, I didn't link to it in the standard channels I usually do, to my admittedly meagre audience, because even though I was happy for strangers to see it, I didn't want my friends, colleagues or family to know what I had been through. Even though I had faced death and won (dramatic as it sounds), I was worried I would be judged or treated differently. Even the blog itself wasn't entirely honest, and things were missed out to make for a more comfortable write. Similarly, for the past year, where my writerly output has been close to zero, I was attempting to work on a novel based around depression. But I couldn't do it because it was too close to home. It felt too self indulgent and too raw, both at the same time.
I put up barriers between myself and the things which may hurt me, but it never seems to do any good. I still get hurt, and I still spend all the time worrying about getting hurt, and worrying about the paths I haven't trodden, and worrying about the depression returning so much that when it does, (and it has), it's not even a relief, it's just a different type of bad. That's no way to live.
There are things I have always wanted to do, but I don't because of fear of failure, ridicule, and hurt. I don't vlog, I don't sing in public, I don't write books or blogs which bare the pain of depression or the agonies of loneliness and fears of mental illness. And I want to, but I'm so scared. Hell, I can't even bring myself to market my book, or send it to any reviewers because someone, at some point, will probably say something bad about it and I'm trying to spend my life being cushioned from that sort of blow, but it isn't working. Stuff hurts, and if it isn't external then it's internal. I don't even put proper posts on the blog I moderate, that nobody even reads, because I'm too scared to get into a fight with a stranger on the internet. Which both overestimates the importance and reach of my blog, and undermines the importance of my opinions in my own space.
This isn't some realisation I've suddenly stumbled upon after reading an article about John Green. This messy stream of consciousness isn't my life-changing pivotal moment, it's something I've known and tried to ignore for years. And I hate it. And it's time I believed in something enough, because all these barriers I put up are merely of my own making, protecting me from the life I could have, leaving me alone to be tortured by my own mind.
So there you have it. I want to make a change, and over the past year I have made one or two. But where there are days that even paying to a real person in a shop, rather than using self-service feels like too much interaction, I'm going to struggle. But maybe in the future you'll see a video of me singing 'Let It Go' on YouTube. (You won't.) Perhaps more realistically, I'll start writing more honestly and openly about things I really do care about, and maybe I'll even return to that WiP on depression I never finished. Because there's no point being too afraid to do it./