My Name Is Iden | 12 months of being honest
- Published: December 21, 2022
By Iden Crockett
November marks the one-year anniversary of this column. Writing these essays has been an emotional and transformational journey. A journey that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to make. The act of creating is wonderfully fulfilling and the mere act of writing can itself be quite a transformative thing.
But when I started writing these essays, I was not new to creating. I was not new to writing. I had been writing fiction for years, for decades. I had piles of prose, stacks of stories stagnating across three generations of hard drives — and almost no one had read any of it.
I hid my creations in the same way that I had hidden myself. It isn’t easy to hide your real self. It is an act of incredible cruelty to take that person and stuff them away into a closet, and it is torture to live alone in that darkness. I didn’t realize how much pain I had caused that self.
I had thought that I was protecting her. The truth of what I had done became clear to me two years ago and it shook me. I was not, am not, a cruel person, but I had been terribly abusive to myself. I didn’t do it out of malice, but out of simple, primitive fear.
I vowed that day, “No more.” No more hiding. No more fear. That day, I released my true self. I unlocked that closet, that prison, and I promised her that I would never force her back into that suffocating darkness ever again.
It was exhilarating for Iden that first day that I stepped out into the sun. At last, my suffering was over. At last, my pain was behind me.
Or so I thought.
Then I lost my job with the fire department. The thing that I had always feared would happen to Iden if I didn’t keep her safely locked away in that closet happened. The people I had thought were my best friends, whom I trusted more than anyone, had rejected me. The nightmare that had lain twitching at the base of my brainstem for all those long years became reality, and it was a pain like none I had ever felt.
I faced a choice then: keep trying to live as myself and risk new and terrible hurts or shove her back into her cell. My instinct was to lock Iden away. As awful as it was to be in the closet, at least it was a pain that I knew. But I couldn’t do that. I had promised her on the day I came out that I would never, ever, put her back into that cell. So there was really no choice at all. I had to face my fear. I had to keep trying, keep trusting, keep sharing my true self with the world and hope that I survived it.
I began a practice that I have come to call “radical vulnerability.” It means sharing myself honestly and completely at every opportunity. So, when I was offered the chance to write this column, I knew I could not pass it up, and I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I had never written anything like this before. In all of those heaps of writing I’d accumulated there was nothing like these essays.
Writing fiction is fun, and plenty therapeutic, but I had been writing fiction my whole life. For four decades I lived a life that was make-believe. I lived that fiction because I did not understand all of the facts, and those that I did understand I was too scared to face. But I owed her. I owed Iden. I owed myself the truth.
I had committed a crime against her by locking myself away for those 40 long years, and it would take another 40 years to make it right. Here was a chance to tell her story, here was a chance for Iden to step fully out of the shadow and be seen.
Being radically vulnerable is difficult. I have shared things here that were once my darkest secrets, my greatest fears, and my heaviest shames. Nothing has been so rewarding. I am here today, one year into this experiment, to encourage all of you to be more vulnerable. Tell your secrets. Face your fears. Take your shame and share it. You’ll find that the only person judging you was you. Put yourselves out there and trust people. Trust is the antidote for fear, and vulnerability is the key that will unlock the real you, the self that you’ve been hiding.
I am going to continue to share my stories and my feelings here. Iden’s journey has only just begun, and so far, she has enjoyed every minute of it. Even when it hurts. At least I can still feel the sun. Believe me, after a lifetime in the dark, there is no better feeling.
*Iden Crockett is an artist and writer. She lives in Yellow Springs with her wife and three children. You can follow her work at http://www.mynameisiden.com.