My Inner Blake/Chad

You want to know who I think are some of the worst people in the world?

People who criticize how another person laughs.

If you criticize how another person laughs, you are a killjoy. Textbook definition, baby.

I got wound up the other night about these haters, and here’s why. I’ve noticed a discouraging trend in the comments section of the Barstool Sports Instagram page’s comments section. If someone laughs in a video on this page, you can bet there’s going to be some Chad or Blake yakking about how “the laugh kills it” or “that’s a gross laugh” in the comments section. Chad/Blake, can you just be positive for one second and enjoy the video of the guy getting nailed in the crotch with an exploding beer bottle?

I want my stance on ugly laughter to be crystal clear: I would rather you laugh like a Canadian Goose in heat while peeing your pants on my finest oriental rug than you hate on another person’s joy.

Last week, as I wrote my previous blog post, some major killjoy voices came out to ruin my fun. These were my inner Chad, my inner Blake. But instead than hating on the sound of my laugh, these voices were telling me how useless my writing was.

“Personal non-fiction? You’re so self-centered.”

“Right, because everyone wants to hear your takes on life.”

“Who do you think you are?”

I could go on, but it’s ugliness. It’s ickyness. It’s stuff I would never, ever say to another writer. I understand why Anne Lamott talked about shooting these voices in the head. They’re no fun. They’re judgmental. And you know what the worst part is? Even though I’d read about these voices in “Bird by Bird” and “The Artist’s Way” and I was warned they would do their best to stop me, I still haven’t always recognized them for what they are. But the other day, as I hesitated over “post,” two things clicked: my recognition of the mean voices, and my finger on the button.

If you’re a writer who has ever felt the same way, let me tell you what helped me, so hopefully it can help you a little too.

If I believed these voices, and telling personal stories was actually a waste of space, then we’d need to eliminate some of the books that have impacted me the most: “Educated” by Tara Westover, the entire canon of David Sedaris books, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Frankly, a world where I don’t get to hear about Elizabeth Gilbert riding away on a jetski with her lover in Bali is not a world I’m interested in living in.

But on the real, stories build compassion and empathy, widen our perspective, and connect us with other human beings—three things absolutely critical to being a feeling, thinking, real, loving person. Whether that story is told poetry or prose, film or stand-up comedy, fiction or personal non-fiction, it is a brave attempt at connecting with other people. At least, that’s what I’m saying to myself now when my inner Chad and Blake emerge with their wet blanket the size of Siberia.

Yes, this writing is about myself, but my deepest hope is that it doesn’t stay about myself. The ultimate goal in my writing is to help others feel seen, less alone, and to hopefully make them laugh in the process—three things I know I need in all moments, but especially trying ones like these. My lesser goal is to attract the attention of Justin Timberlake, who will hopefully marry me (or at least let me live in his guesthouse).

The killjoys are out there, people. They’re in Barstool’s comments section, but even more importantly, they’re in our minds. I’ve found that if I listen to them, I won’t laugh, I won’t write, I won’t try to connect with people anymore because I’ll be too paralyzed by their critical comments.

I know Tamara Levitt of the Calm mindfulness meditation app would not approve of this, but if Chad and Blake come around my mind from here on out, I’m driving them out like the drunken pool stick-wielding banshee I was at Grandpa Al’s dive bar the night after my ever first parent-teacher conferences. If I’m going to thrive, if we’re all going to thrive, these guys need to get kicked out of the club. And that’s that.

Let’s Get Real

A quick note: This is a little different from my normal posts. You might be asking yourself “what’s a normal post here?” That would be a valid question, because my blog really runs the gamut. From odes to airport fruit cups to tales of travels gone awry, Hayley’s Bizarre is kind of like a mystery-flavored lollipop. It is bizarre, after all.

But this is like, really different. Because I’m going to get real. There’s no sarcasm here (although hopefully there’s still humor, because the last thing I want to be is a boring ol’ stick in the mud). I’m going to channel my inner Brene Brown and let y’all in on some soul-searching stuff.

Ready? Let’s go.

A couple years ago, my cousin Ingrid introduced me to a neat take on New Years resolutions. Rather than writing out a laundry list of goals for the year, she simply chose one word as her intention, the true north of her compass. In one word, she sought to encapsulate her ultimate goals for the year, the value she wished to develop, and the person she wanted to become. She told me that her word was “courage.”

Full disclosure, I’m a huge New Years resolutions person. As a naturally contemplative person, I relish listing the highlights from the past year and dreaming in bullet points about the year to come. As a lover of writing, my goals feel so much more real once I’ve seen them printed in my journal. At first, I wasn’t so sold on Ingrid’s idea. What would I do without my lists?

Like most people, I also rarely get around to checking off every resolution from my list. So this year, after reflecting on another half-completed list of aspirations and inspired by my cousin Ingrid, I decided to pick one word: honesty.

You might be thinking, “Gee Hayley, are you a pathological liar?” The answer is no, I am not. (Of course, I could be lying about that too, but I hope you’ll trust me.) When someone asks me a straight question, I tell the truth. Okay, I am known to exaggerate stories a little bit (like any good storyteller. Hello, Tim O’Brien!), but that’s it.

So if I don’t have a lying problem, why honesty?

As I’ve grown up, honesty has developed a much deeper meaning to me than it did when I was say, in high school. In high school, I viewed honesty as a means to not get in as much trouble. I knew that if I did something wrong, my dad would be much less mad if I fessed up to it than if I buried the truth and he found out anyway. Honesty didn’t flow purely from my heart as much as it lurched out from my deep desire to avoid unpleasant consequences (cough cough, getting grounded on my 16th birthday for crashing prom).

I picked honesty for my word because I noticed that I had a pesky habit of being dishonest with myself when the truth was inconvenient or painful. Unlike the prom crashing, this wasn’t dishonesty in a direct, flat-out lie type of way, but more in an insidious denial of my deepest needs. I judged my desires or believed they were flawed, just like me. So the truth got buried deeper and deeper and deeper. While the consequences of lying to myself weren’t as clear-cut as getting grounded, they were much more serious.

Of course, like Carl Jung said, “what you resist persists.” The truth never goes away. It will continue being true whether or not you accept it.

Here’s an example for you. I had a job that I felt absolutely “meh” about for a few years. Yes, years. I knew I didn’t love it. I knew I didn’t love living in a small town, or teaching, or being so isolated. I could admit that to my friends and family jokingly, but never in a serious way that demanded attention and action. So I remained stagnant for years. And why? Well, in a way I suppose I wanted to avoid the painful consequences just like in high school. Admitting the truth to myself would demand action. It could be difficult. Did I believe in myself enough to take action?

One day, I got the nerve to be honest with myself and admit that I wasn’t happy. Since making the decision to leave that job, I’ve felt more momentum in my life than ever before. My five-year plan is still nebulous, yet I feel more hopeful that I’m moving in the right direction. Honesty got me unstuck.

I picked honesty because I recognized the difference it made in my life. I knew that I wanted to do this more: to live on a deeper level, in tune with my real self and in deeper connection with others, especially when it was hard. (Okay, to be HONEST, I did not feel excited about being honest when it was hard, but I realized that was the only way it’d be meaningful.) I wanted to be real about whether or not I was living my values. I wanted to get honest about what I really want out of life, and not avert my eyes when I believe it’s too daunting, too spectacular an opportunity for disappointment or failure. Dear lord, I just wanted to not get stuck for years in a job I felt “meh” about like I’d allowed myself to do already!

Until at least the end of 2020, I’m going to be writing reflections on honesty. How it is truly the best policy. How it is hard. How it packs a ton of power. I’m not 100% sure what this will look like, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve storytelling, truth telling, and a healthy dose of philosophizing.

I hope these reflections will be encouraging to anyone who is on a similar journey.

P.S. Here’s a very on-theme, hilarious video about honesty that my friend Arisa showed me.