When it comes to sharing my writing, I always feel a little terrified. Knots in my stomach. Palm sweat. A fuzzy haze in my eyes. I even wait until the very last minute to write these posts because the idea of getting my thoughts on a page is so daunting– after all, someone is going to read this. My editors. Possibly my friends. Maybe my family. But when we write, there’s a zone we enter where nothing else matters and we demand to be seen, and that’s a space that I’d like to live in forever.
In reality, we don’t get that much grace from our brains. It’s so easy to second guess our thoughts and question if the comma really goes there or if we need another panicked grammar lesson via Google search. With all my years of writing, this inner struggle always rushes in. It comes in waves and I get lost in the undertow of overthinking, roaring in my ears.
After I graduated, I took down my poetry page on social media. I switched my main creative one to private, performed and wrote poetry in short bursts, and, I think, became a shut-in. I’ve been with LYF for over three years and met the same artists over and over again, but some never remember my name because– well, I was always too afraid to say much to them. And I don’t want anyone to pity me or anything–I just want you to know that if this has happened to you, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you, and if you sit in the corner all night and you’re intimidated by all the other talented artists around you, trust me that someone else feels the exact same way. It’s scary to put yourself out there.
It takes so much to get comfortable in your own skin. Out of fear of being in a new city, I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough of a writer to make a mark here. I was too anxious to say yes to events or open mics and general networking opportunities. I was afraid to get a job in my field as an English major because I didn’t think I would do well enough, so I spent my days working in a restaurant, afraid to apply for any creative endeavors. I wrote journal entries and tried going to online meetings of my Poets’ Club. I dabbled in making writing workshops with LYF, but I felt so mentally and creatively drained that I finally settled on founding the LYF blog back in 2020, which is something I always wanted to do.
Sometimes it takes doing something different and surrounding yourself with other artists to find your place again. Creating a space and choosing what the blog would look like was liberating for me because I could read others’ work and feel inspired as the Editor-in-Chief. I could teach others the art of writing and how to be vulnerable. I felt less guilt over not writing myself because I was helping others express themselves.
Working behind the scenes helped me build my courage when I wasn’t ready to take a leap of faith in my art. My turning point was when LYF had the theme “Embodiment” and I wanted to tell the story of one of the darkest points of my life. Before that theme, I did not expect to have the courage to write such a raw and honest post, but Aaron and Shane, two of my first blog writers ever, were becoming so much more vulnerable in their pieces.
I wanted to be brave again, just like them. I encouraged them to be vulnerable and now it was my turn to write on the blog. I stepped down as Editor-in-Chief to focus on blog writing for a while, and I like to think of that investment as my first leap of faith.
What does taking a leap of faith look like to you? Take a second to close your eyes and dream up that future you want as a writer.
Maybe you see pages of your book or a microphone on stage. Other countries. Published in a newspaper or magazine. Thousands of followers on your poetry Instagram. We all want something. And sometimes we’re too afraid to work for it, or we don’t feel ready, but there’s going to be a breaking point. My breaking point happened recently.
Within the last six months, my life has changed completely. I met a friend in April who invited me to a poetry group and that was the catalyst for a lot of self-reflection. It took making new creative friends, a breakup, a Poets’ Club reunion in Santa Barbara, and the deaths of loved ones to make me ask: When did I stop loving my life? How did I let myself be so afraid to write for so long? Where did my mind go? I let others’ opinions get in the way of my art and I allowed myself to shrink for their comfort. It’s not fun to think about, but we’re all going to die someday. Experiencing loss helped me open myself to grief and I wrote in a journal almost every day without a filter because my emotions could not be bound. What if I lived every day remembering I was going to die someday? What would I do? Who would I be? Who would I love and surround myself with?
I don’t know where you are in your writing journey, but if you’re stuck in any form, I want you to ask yourself what you would change about your life right now. Is there something you know is no longer serving you that you still keep? Write it down. And if it feels right, rip it up and throw it away. And if it feels more right, make the steps to let it go. You are more powerful than you will ever know, so you might as well lean into that.
My leap of faith looks like performing spoken word. My days are spent working, but practicing guitar and writing by night. I see shows that are curated around my original songs and poems, where crowds are snapping, laughing, and crying. I want to see my poetry books in a shop one day and I want to write a romantic comedy YA novel with one of my best friends, Bronwyn. I have a website in my head that has all my favorite colors, where I have all my works and I even sell my visual art. I paint for fun with my friends and I’m with someone who loves me and all the art I make, no matter how much space it takes up. I am not afraid to take up space. I am an artist, through and through.
I feel embarrassed to tell you my dreams, but maybe if I am bare with you, you will be bare with yourself.
I had a call with my friends that I met from the Poets’ Club at UCSB and my friend Andy shared a poem he started writing in 2019. He finished it just last month. My friend Jason told us that he dropped his poetry concentration to focus on fiction for his MFA. Sometimes it can take years to get a poem right. Sometimes it can take years of poetry to get you to finally work on your novel. And as for me, sometimes it takes leaving something you love because you know it would be best for you. After reading them a couple of my newest poems, I told them that I am taking an indefinite hiatus from LYF.
Shock has been the initial reaction for everyone. I flashback to when Monica and I were writing which holacracy circles we would have on a notebook piece of paper, writing our original bylaws, and having meetings in apartment lounges or outside at UNLV. I think about putting cats on the training slides for the blog and the excitement in my belly when I scheduled our first post. I can feel the nervousness of recording a podcast episode and going live on Instagram for announcements. I have grown to love myself because of LYF and I am forever grateful.
But our very first value is: “Live your self-love mission.” If I am to truly and wholly love myself, I have to love what I create. I have to make more space for not only the organizer, planner, and leader in me, but for the writer, painter, and singer in me.
Letting go is never easy, and even after hundreds of goodbyes as a military kid, I don’t think I’ll ever be used to it. I am not without fear or doubts, but I will take my leap of faith anyway because my happiness is more important than any hopeless “what if.”
I want you to ask yourself hopeful what-ifs.
What if I write only what I can write?
What if people like it?
What if I love it?
What if I deserve to be happy?
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to trust yourself enough to work for your dreams. You probably don’t hear this enough, but I am so proud of you for getting to where you are now. For reading this. For going to this little self-love corner of the internet and finding my blogs meant to help writers.
I am so happy to have met you, and I’ll see you on the other side. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet, but I have a feeling that it’ll be good.
I’ll leave you with some words my friend Lake gave me as a graduation present:
Keep writing. It’d be a loss to the world if you stopped.
Mei-Mei has worn many hats since joining LYF: Executive Assistant, Event Manager, Editor-in-Chief, and Blog Founder, but before anything, she is a human who loves to write and make art. She graduated from UC, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in English and a minor in German. She was the President of UCSB Poets' Club. She has traveled to 12 countries and counting, feeling lucky and cursed as an Army brat. In 2019, she moved for the 9th time from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas, where she put her love for writing, performing, advocating for mental health, and building communities into the Love Yourself Foundation.