Almost immediately upon announcing to my family that I wanted to be a writer, my sister told me that I wasn’t allowed to write about our family. At the time, I agreed with her that this would be a bad idea as our family is dysfunctional and not in a fun, sitcom-esque way. I was also eight years old.
However, 20 years later, I’ve found that getting to blast my feelings about my family into the Internet is cathartic. As my social media is usually friend-exclusive and privacy locked, I never thought this was a problem. I felt safe and comfortable letting these select people know what my family had done and how I felt about it, and I relied on them to help get me through these moments and gain some perspective. And, as I’ve gained confidence as a writer and begun to expand my portfolio into nonfiction, I find that my family naturally comes up and that I need to exorcise some of the bitterness that’s plagued me for over 20 years.
This creates problems. My family doesn’t appreciate when I discuss them in any capacity, and I periodically have to defend my actions. While I understand not wanting to have your dirty laundry aired, I don’t think it’s fair to ban someone from talking about their problems. I also find it unreasonable to expect a writer to ignore their family history, especially when they have had such a strong impact on their development.
Writing is supposed to help us understand ourselves and others, and that’s what I seek to do when I write. I want to view the event from a different perspective or at least get some of the vitriol out of my veins. I don’t seek to embarrass others, and I try to talk about events in the far past. I also want to correct some of my personality problems and getting to write about it helps. There’s even a part of me that hopes that whatever I write will reach my family, let them finally understand my perspective and how their actions and words have affected me. I hope that my writing will reach them where my words, tears, and anger couldn’t. That’s never been the case.
Being banned wholesale from mentioning my family only serves to alienate me from them and solidify the notion that they don’t care about me or understand me. Perhaps that is a simplistic and hyperbolic assumption, but it’s how I feel. I wish that I didn’t have to write about them and that I didn’t have to share that writing with others, but I do, and I’m going to keep doing it until the pain they’ve inflicted finally fades. That may take a while.