If you’ve ever expressed a strong opinion online, you’ve probably experienced it: someone you don’t know taking it wrong. Not understanding your intent because they don’t know you and if they did, they’d realize what you really meant. Or you think they’d be kinder because people you know don’t want to hurt you.
If you’re a blogger, it’s those readers who stop by because someone they know shared your post. They’ve never read you before and they don’t know your whole story or get when you’re being a bit tongue in cheek.
Even if you’re not a blogger, it’s when somehow, due to facebook’s ever-changing ways, the second cousin of a friend of a friend sees what you posted and decides to judge you based solely on that.
We call them trolls, we roll our eyes, confident that no one we know would think such things of us.
But there’s a beauty to strangers.
To those who are getting to know us by our carefully written words.
They let us write. They don’t interrupt in the middle.
They read and try to understand us, instead of half listening because they think they know us so well that they don’t actually have to hear us out. Even if really, they don’t know us at all.
They start out quiet, as if we’re just writing to ourselves, putting our thoughts out the into the wind. Then the first one speaks up and there’s power in knowing we’re not alone.
They don’t assume our stories are about them or that we’re making judgments of them.
If they don’t like what we have to say, they can decide not to read us again. Maybe they’ll see our words shared in their Facebook feed and shake their heads, but they don’t have to see us at family dinners or on the sidelines of a soccer game.
And when they don’t like what we have to say, they don’t hold it against us for years, bringing it up passive aggressively every chance they get.
They don’t take apart our words, nitpicking and finding that one time years ago when we did something that goes against our strongly held written beliefs.
Those strangers, they still know we’re not perfect(we don’t even try to pretend we are) and that many shades of gray exist for all of is. But they accept it and don’t feel the need to fling inconsistencies in our faces, tallying up some imaginary score.
Or maybe they are doing these things, but it’s silently seething at their computer screen or maybe even leaving a nasty comment. But we either don’t know about it or we have the power of the delete key.
But when it’s someone you know and they’re sharing their judgments to your face or to your shared acquaintances, it hurts more.
Because those are the people who should understand. Yet, it’s so often the opposite.
The stranger who understands, who eventually becomes a real friend.
So, you see, this space started out as just for me and grew to something more. If you stumbled upon it, knowing me in real life and wondering why I didn’t share it with you, it’s because I wanted to keep it as a place where I could say what I feel, what I think, without the burden of a preconceived notion twisting things, where I could have conversations with people about real issues but where I could step away from those same discussions if I wanted or needed to just by stepping away from the computer to gather my composure or to think about what I really wanted to say, instead of having you bring them up when I’m not ready, when I’d rather just go about my day. Don’t dig for stories about you, as they aren’t there because it’s truly not about you, it’s just my place.
Just my place, shared with strangers who eventually made this feel like home.