Vulnerability is My Superpower: My Life on the Internet

Sometimes people ask me why I share so much of my life on the internet. Can’t you just share pictures of your kid and funny memes? If I am being honest, sometimes I wonder why I do it too. It is incredibly difficult work. I regularly find myself sitting behind a screen pouring out some of my deepest secrets, publicly wrestling with my mess. This work often leaves me emotionally spent, opens me up to lots of criticism, and for what? Rarely is there a clear and definitive benefit. Is anyone reading? Is anyone growing? Does it even matter? What do I hope people get from engaging with my work? Those questions feel impossible to answer at times.

Then, inevitably just at the moment that I think “maybe this is all a waste”, someone reaches out and says “me too”. Sharing my own mess and publicly wrestling with my emotional baggage opens the door for others to wrestle with theirs. It lets them know that they are not alone. It affirms their feelings. It shamelessly invites them in. To the core of my being, I believe that the best thing we can do is learn to be honest first with ourselves and then with others. There is freedom in owning your truth. I believe that a lot of conflict happens because we fail to recognize that we are all doing our best to navigate murky waters, waters that perhaps we could help each other navigate if we’d allow people in. I think lots of us miss out on truly experiencing unconditional love because we won’t let people see our chaos and love us in it. Vulnerability is my superpower, it is the gateway into every single good thing in my life. And that is why I share. I have found a sense of freedom in being unapologetically myself, in doing the hard work of self-reflection. I want you to know the freedom of laying down your facade, letting go of other people’s expectations, and leaning into self-awareness so that you can build the life that you want. It seems counter-intuitive at first, that there is freedom in owning your mess, but there is only one way to let go of the weight of something and that is to learn to accept it.

Thank you for bravely and generously trusting me with your stories. Thank you for engaging with my work. That you for wrestling and for watching the mess of my own wrestling. I hope we all are better for it.

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Stop Exploiting People's Trauma for Personal Gain

Every time I write something, I ask myself four questions:

  1. Is this my story to tell?

  2. Why do I feel compelled to share it?

  3. Who will be impacted by it and how?

  4. What do I stand to gain from sharing it?

It’s rare that the answers are clear and I’ve chosen not to share some potentially impactful stories because I can’t get clarity on these questions. I spend even more time wrestling with these questions when the story is traumatic or deeply personal to the people involved. Because I’ve been reflecting on these questions in my own life, I’ve become acutely aware of instances where someone is sharing a story that isn’t theirs to tell.

Often it’s well-intentioned. The person sharing the story is trying to bring awareness to an issue. Perhaps they think they are relieving the emotional burden of a marginalized person by doing the emotional labor of sharing the story. Usually they are trying to rally people around a cause. Regardless of intent, it’s important to recognize that when we re-tell a story that is not ours to tell, we insert our own interpretation, we filter it through our own lens, we inevitably use it to promote our own agenda, and ultimately we are the ones who benefit the most. As people in positions of privilege, we need to consider the ways we can elevate the voices of marginalized people rather than exploit their experiences for our own gain.

I’ve recently read several books written by people in positions of privilege where they share stories of people they’ve helped - families who have immigrated illegally, LGBTQIA+ homeless youth, etc. I can’t help but wonder if there was a way the authors could have empowered the people involved to tell their own stories. I wonder if the people involved share the same hopes and goals as the authors. I wonder what it feels like to read about the hardest moment in your life from someone else’s perspective. I wonder if the author is able to be objective about their own involvement. Most of all, I wonder what they do with the proceeds from their books. Do the people they are profiting off of see any of that money? Our nation was built off of exploiting marginalized people and profiting from their labor…is profiting from their trauma all that different?

Even when the intent is good, even when we are attempting to dismantle systems of oppression, we’d be better off to empower people to tell their own stories. When people with power or in positions of privilege choose to center themselves and share a story that is not theirs to tell, they inevitably benefit the most and end up upholding white supremacy culture rather than dismantling it. If we are truly committed to empowering others, if we truly want to dismantle white supremacy culture, if we truly want to share the benefits of our privilege, then we have to be willing to de-center ourselves.

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StoryCorps Interview with Katherlyn Geter

I am so excited to share this interview that my friend, Katherlyn, and I recorded as part of StoryCorps stop in Chattanooga. Moms for Social Justice asked us to get together and talk about our experience as moms raising kids who have disabilities. It was such an honor to spend some time with my friend and to bear witness to her story. This is unedited and unscripted, just us speaking straight from the heart. To help you follow along (since we don’t introduce ourselves), Mandy is the first voice you hear.

I also want to share some links to some disability rights activists, writers who have disabilities, and organizations working in the disability realm whose work I follow and particularly appreciate. I have learned so much from them (and so many others that I will inevitably leave out) and want to elevate their voices as people who have lived experience with disability. They are they voices that matter in this conversation, far more than mine.

PS- I hope to transcribe this interview soonish to make it more accessible.