How much should I share with you?
Welcome to the meta week, in which I ruminate on the concept of writing about private life in public.
In my final semester of college, I did what all newspaper nerds do, and published a senior column.
The story, entitled “Hindsight bias can leave you breathless,” began with an anecdote from the first day of my freshman year.
“I don’t know anyone here,” I cried on the phone to my high school ex-boyfriend. It was August 2014, and after a tumultuous and difficult summer, we had agreed to take a break. But I loved him like crazy. He was my rock.
“You’re Rachel Greenspan,” he reminded me. “Go down the hall, introduce yourself and make a friend.”
The advice was good, and led me to a life I wanted to live, because what he meant was, You’re Rachel Greenspan. You’re not shy.
I don’t like to keep my life to myself; I like to share, I like to commiserate, I like to rejoice collectively with those I love.
Writing is a reflection of that, and it’s also how I process my emotions and express myself. Usually, that writing just exists in my computer. Now, once a week, except for last week, some of it goes here.
But with that openness can come anxiety over whether you’ve shared too much.
For example, the “Diarrhea Ghoster,” a man from my past who ghosted me after having diarrhea in my apartment, has probably seen my viral tweets about him and begrudges me his unwanted (though anonymous) fame.
The idea that he may know stories of our dalliance have spread on the internet makes me deeply uncomfortable, like I did something patently uncool.
That was, in fairness, just a tweet — a short joke sent into the ether without much of a thought. But the same feelings come when I publish writing about my personal life, including this newsletter, though it’s one of my favorite genres to write and to read. I’ve definitely had my fair share of anxious moments after publishing an essay about my anxiety disorder.
My gut says to ignore that feeling and continue mining the territory of discomfort.
But I know there are people who will classify some of this as oversharing.
What if I meet someone on Hinge and he Googles me and doesn’t want to get drinks out of fear he’ll end up in a blog post?
What if acquaintances gossip about me? Will they shit-talk me in their group chats, laughing at my audacity? Who the hell does she think she is, they’ll say.
Maybe they’re right.
Who the hell do I think I am?
In the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, I took a poetry class.
It soon became clear that I was among the few students sourcing inspiration from my own life. One poem I shared opened like this:
There’s a photo of you on Facebook in the sand by the ocean with your girl. And I wonder if you remember how you told me it’s impossible to go to sleep when we’re in bed together.
We never went to the ocean. No, you saved those things for her.
From there, it became a bit graphic. Several peers told me they found the poem “funny.” Except for one, who soon inspired more poetry, including a piece in my final portfolio of the semester that was called “On Longing.” (His number is now blocked.)
He loved the poem (and if I’m being completely honest, so did my professor), so I brushed off the embarrassment.
Reading it now, though, I’m horrified anew, recalling how a room full of people laughed at me for sharing too much.
There’s a candle in my apartment that smells like vanilla and says “DO NOT TEXT HIM.”
My best friend sent it to me in the summer of 2020, after a guy I’d fallen for ended our weeklong romance but sought to continue a friendship.
The toxicity swelled as we remained in touch. I him wrote a poem, “A letter for the winter,” that he claimed to have printed out, because it made him happy or flattered or something, which is kind of funny, because it’s the worst poem I’ve ever written.
It’s also a ledger of emotions and thoughts for a man whom I will never see again, etched in paper that’s probably stuck between bills and broken pens in his desk drawer.
It’s sickening that he can access those feelings — he has written, physical proof of my interest in him just hiding away in his home.
One day, when the excitement of this new project wears off, will I rush to destroy the digital evidence of what I thought at 25?
Will I look back at age 50 and go, Wow, that was embarrassing, those years that I thought I was a writer?
I fell in love for the first time at a young age with the boy who was mentioned at the beginning of this newsletter.
“10 Thoughts After the First 48 Hours” was the title of a poem I wrote him at 17. It was, as stated, a list of thoughts collected after two days of being his girlfriend.
The poem was kind of cute: trite, and not very good, but exceedingly hopeful and sweet.
“The sun and the stars worked together when you were born to sprinkle the most perfect shade of gold atop your head.”
But now, that just makes me smile. I can’t feel embarrassed, because we were kids, but also because his character arc in the story of my life is so important that I would never regret sharing anything with (or about) him.
I hope he remembers the poem, and the phone call, and all the rest. That silly poem captured a feeling that has always been too important to me to second-guess.
Maybe this newsletter will feel the same.
I can’t know whether I will one day feel embarrassed for what I’ve shared here — the same way I can’t know if my future self will hate my blonde highlights, or regret aspects of my career choices, or wish I’d spent more time with one friend in lieu of another.
Last week, I didn’t publish Rach Ruminates, because I didn’t have anything to say. Of course, there’s not always something worth putting to paper, and even when there is, it might be just for my notebook — something for me, and not for the world.
But when I feel that tug in my gut, the one that says it’s time to share, the one that calls me from the couch to the computer and makes my fingers start typing, I’ll listen.
And I’ll write.
SOMETHING THAT MADE ME HAPPY LAST WEEK
This weekend, I stayed at an Airbnb in the Catskills with four very important companions.
My best friends, Tali and Alison; Tali’s husband, Noam, who is also in the category of best friend; and Tali and Noam’s dog, Mac, who is a dog, and therefore I cannot in good conscience call him a best friend, as sad as that is. Tali sent me the “DO NOT TEXT HIM” candle; Alison was in the room when I wrote the “There’s a photo of you on Facebook…” poem.
I love them all so, so much, and it was one of those trips that I couldn’t believe was real. I savored every moment, from walking up and down icy, freezing paths to listening to Frank Ocean in the car. Alison is an amazing chef, and one of my favorite things is to cook with her, especially while Tali and Noam are drinking wine and raising the vibes.
Here’s some photo evidence.
I feel so lucky.
I hope you, too, felt joy, peace, and comfort this weekend.
Thank you for reading.