Not long ago I was lured into an experiment through a vague yet enticing invitation to go on an adventure! There were very few details. All I knew was that risk was certain and success was not guaranteed. Trembling with fear, I summoned my courage and responded to the invitation.
Within a short time, I had joined a Facebook group of over 2,400 other people who’d also been hooked in by Jon Acuff’s ambiguity. Jon Acuff, bestselling author, dubbed us “The Start Experiment” based on his newest book Start. As Acuff wrote in an introduction to all of us, this “experiment” is an attempt to answer this question:
But how do you build community in a rapidly disconnecting culture?
STOP! – You had me at community.
The word “community” ignited an unbridled exuberance within me! You see, I was slow in becoming an adult. I had hated my 20-something self so much that I tried over and over again to die and failed. By the time I reached my 30s, I finally caught up with reality only to discover my friends had settled down and started families. If they hadn’t yet married they were at least on successful career paths or accumulating graduate degrees. But when I tried to reconnect with old friends, we found our paths had diverged too much for us to realistically have time for each other. For someone who struggled to find her self-worth, I certainly felt like an utter failure.
Sometimes I just want to scream I’VE ACHIEVED GREAT THINGS TOO! But it’s like screaming at statues. My psychologists and my parents know me and they know how far I’ve come as well as how difficult my journey has been. But I’m afraid everyone else sees me as a grown, unemployed woman in her thirties mooching off her with her parents. I don’t blame them either. Without the context of my story, what else can they see but a loser who’s going nowhere?
I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who is legitimately “lazy” but I do know the pain of being looked down upon because I’m perceived as lazy. This is why my story must be told! It’s not about profiting from the life over which I had little control. I have an amazing story! My closest friends are sick of hearing about it because I like to tell it so often. I’ve tried to write it before but it wouldn’t let itself be finished because pain had not healed enough to end with hope.
Part of my story includes an “experiment” I did secretly in Fall of 2002.
This year my father gave me my first iPad. Through this medium I became inspired to write my story in a new form, one which would have the capacity to hold audio and video recordings as well as scanned images. My archives are full of such things, spanning all the way back to my childhood. My life is thoroughly documented. All it needs is some beautiful narration and clever organization.
I’ve decided to write an e-book because an e-book doesn’t have the overhead cost of a traditional, self-published book. This allows me to give it away for free because I don’t want to wear long sleeves to cover my scars and pretend I don’t have mood disorder. I don’t want to create an elaborate story that may not be a lie but still leaves out a huge chunk of the truth. I don’t want to feel shame for being me. I don’t want anyone who has a mental illness to feel stigmatized. I want to offer hope and when I’m done writing this story, I have a million more unfinished stories waiting to be born.
The Stumbling Block
All this may sound great but the thing is, I kind of messed up on the experiment. I went on vacation with my mom who uses a walker to get around and needs special assistance. We had a great time! We visited relatives and I brought the camcorder and voice recorder and I collected stories from our family. I tried to escape now and then to get some alone-time, but it wasn’t happening. My dreams and my new community had to be postponed.
What does this mean? Should I give up and admit defeat? NO! Community is not immune to unforeseen elements nor are we all equipped to combat the elements alone. My story is empty without hope. If I can’t find hope, how will I ever be able to give hope to others?