|"Super Hero Pig and Piggie" drawn by my daughter|
Not long ago, my daughter told me in her four-year-old matter-of-fact manner, “I know a lot of things. I’m very smart.”
“Yes, you are smart,” I told her, as I prepared my lecture of hard work and compassion, “But there are many things that even more important than being smart…”
“I know,” she sighed, dramatically, “like being brave. Be brave!”
I know that, to her, being brave means being willing to use the bathroom on an airplane; but her words struck me. The truth is, I haven't written much--on this blog, social media or even my own work since the election. I have tried, countless times, to write my thoughts but every time I wrote something I ended up deleting it. It didn't seem helpful or wanted, but, mostly, it just felt like I was putting a target on.
I write the words I cannot say. I've never been particularly eloquent when speaking; even though I give speeches they are all pre-written and practiced. I'm not an off-the-cuff speaker, I've never been one with a quick wit or silver tongue. And, truthfully, my instinct when feeling insecure is to keep my head down.
After my post about my election despair, two responses stuck out to me. One was from a reader who was unhappy about how I felt. Amongst other things, she asked if I would apologize for overreacting in four years when proven wrong and I was surprised.
Because of my books, I travel all across this country--to small towns and big cities, red states and blue, coastal and middle. I've met so many people. They have all greeted me warmly and I've always smiled back. I had never doubted that our interactions were genuine. But post-election, I found myself truly shaken. Was is all fake? Was it all "PC" politeness? Hidden behind those pleasant faces, was there a secret belief that I didn't belong here? Were the smiles simply a clenching of teeth?
I have said in interviews that one of the reasons I write books is to make friends, that they are my way of reaching out to people. So in many ways, I see my readers as my dear friends. And to suddenly suspect that those whom I considered friends might actually secretly despise me...it shakes me to the core. It makes me doubt why and what I write. It makes me feel terrible.
So of course, I would apologize if I was proven wrong. I want to be proven wrong. Why would one think I want to feel this way?
The second response was from my mother. Don't feel bad, she said. If we are nice people who can contribute something Americans need, we will be welcomed.
I know she meant well, but this rankled. Aren't I American? I was born and raised here--I can't even speak Chinese in an understandable way. My mother, is an American citizen and has lived more years in the US than her "homeland." Why do we need to prove ourselves to be welcomed into our own country? And when will we ever be deemed "good enough?"
I have no answers, only a tumult of emotions. I don't know what project I will attempt next, but I know that I've never begun one before feeling so insecure about my place in the world. For a while, part of me thought maybe writing just wasn't in my future anymore. But I watched the Women's March this past weekend and for the first time I felt like I could at least write this. And my daughter says, "Be brave."
So, here I am. Trying to be brave.