why I want to hide but am sharing this instead

I’m writing this post with a queasy stomach, because I’ve told myself all kinds of stories about “what people will think” (quotes because I can see how that’s a ridiculous construct, though unfortunately that doesn’t make it vanish): that I’m lazy, can’t make a decision, can’t follow through, cowardly, not “trusting the universe,” etc. I won’t bore you with the rest— y’all know these stories. 

Here’s why: I’ve decided not to do (or at the very least, to significantly delay) the doctoral program I was enrolling in for the fall.

Even writing this right now is an exercise in decision-making and trusting my intuition as I notice how it feels to write those words. Though I can look back at the long pros-and-cons list in my journal and still acknowledge plenty of pro’s of forging ahead with it, my gut is telling me that the cons are more significant right now, and writing these words feels true and right. 

I realize at one level that I don’t have to explain or justify this choice to anyone— this is my decision. 

“But you told the whole internet!” 
“But the people who wrote your letters of recommendation will be upset with you for wasting their time!” 
“But your friends were proud of you and excited for you!”

Blah, blah, blah. 

I am not writing this post for those reasons. I am writing it because a big part of my life’s work so far involves helping others learn how to share their truth and their stories as a way of practicing authenticity and not allowing shame to breed in the darkness of isolation. It’s nice to share when the truth is shiny and exciting— but what about when it’s kind of embarrassing and makes you want to hide? 

Don’t hide. That’s the most important time not to hide. 

I’m also freshly inspired by the bold truth-telling of Glennon Doyle, whose first memoir I finally read on a long drive over the past few days. I have followed Glennon some on Instagram and heard her interviewed on a few podcasts, so knew a little about her, but hadn’t gotten around to reading either of her books (or many of her blog posts) until now. 

Carry On, Warrior is about Glennon’s journey through recovery from alcoholism, bulimia, drug abuse, and unhealthy relationships, into a life of radical authenticity. She learned that one of the greatest gifts she has to offer the world is sharing all parts of her story— especially the messy ones. After finishing the book, I was curious about what she shared publicly about her divorce, since she and her husband were still married at the time the first book was published in 2014, but I know she is now married to former US soccer player Abby Wambach

What I found was a post Glennon shared in August 2016 on her blog, Momastery (which is the platform that led to her first book deal) about the separation. She wrote about how, with her second book Love Warrior so close to its release date, pretty much everyone in her life was telling her to wait until after its publication to share the news.

“Glennon, it’s a relationship book— what will people think?”
“This will kill the sales. Can you just wait a little bit longer to talk about it?”

She said no. Withholding the news— waiting to share it more “strategically”— would feel like a betrayal to her readers, especially as someone whose entire message was based in honesty and authenticity. 

So she told. And you know what happened? The book did great anyway. People showed up to her tour stops and loved her through it. 

I’m sure some people were judgmental— there will always be some. But not the ones who really matter. 

I’m not at all comparing the content of my present situation to hers— but seeing her process of “Well, this is gonna be pretty fucking hard to own but I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna do it right”— emboldens me, not just in this situation, but across the board. 

I exchanged some emails with my mom about this hard decision, and in her seemingly infinite wisdom, this is one thing she said: 

“A sense that your life has an audience watching and judging everything you do is a downside of social media. But if you must, think of it as setting an example of allowing yourself a deliberative albeit bumpy decision making process, including ‘trying on’ the idea of one decision, wearing it around outside the house for a while so your friends could see, then deciding it doesn’t quite fit after all. But hey - you didn’t sweat in it or cut off the price tags.” 

Damn right, Mom. 

I have an insatiable desire to keep learning — and though I won’t be Dr. Martin anytime soon, this alternate path will re-open the possibility of doing other professional trainings that I wouldn’t have the time or money to pursue during a doctorate. 

It will afford me the time and energy to explore some other things calling to me right now, especially how I can merge the work I’m already doing with my passions for restorative and racial justice, ecopsychology, and animal rights. And it will give me the opportunity to direct my resources toward my own financial freedom (like uhhh paying off those existing grad school loans #adulting) and putting more of my money where my mouth is with activism. 

No judgment toward anyone who pursues further education at a private institution (I might yet be one of them in the future), but the six-figure investment was getting hard to swallow the more I’m reconnecting with my social work roots by having more willingness to face the social and environmental ills and injustices we’re surrounded with in our Industrial Growth Society, and all the important work there is to be done. 

I don’t know yet where I fit into that. And I don’t know what happens next. But I do know that I am proud of myself for having the guts to change my mind despite all the stories I could tell myself about that. I’m still trying to figure out my own personal blend of skepticism, mysticism, realism and idealism, but I sure did smile when I saw the below post on my Instagram right as I was starting to write this post. (I’m a Pisces.)

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Last of all, thank you to every person who has encouraged me at any point, including with this most recent part of my winding path. If it were all a clear, straight path, that would be pretty boring, right? 

I hope that this post also encourages you to know that it’s okay to change your mind, about whatever it may be— and to be honest and open... especially when it’s hard. 

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.