July 22, 2021

Real Growth happens when we learn to Open our Hearts for Everyone to See. 

I’ve never considered myself a writer.

Language arts was my least favorite subject in school, and it showed by the “C” on my report card every semester. I slacked off, and never understood the purpose of sentence structure…and those books they required us to read. It was mind-boggling to me.

I hated the mandatory agenda. If only my English teachers could see me now.

Despite my history with writing, journaling has been a huge part of my adult life. One of my many counselors encouraged me to write as a means of expressing emotions and processing life.

“Finding your voice through writing can help you find your voice through your entire life.” ~ Waylon Lewis

I stumbled across Elephant Journal by accident—mesmerized by the immediate connection to the articles. I was drawn in by the words and the emotions it sparked. It felt personal—like they were speaking directly to me.

I was inspired.

Elephant authors have given me overwhelming strength and motivation. I imagined expressing my thoughts and emotions with clarity and putting myself out there only to be judged.

This shy girl…I highly doubted it.

Last year, during the pandemic, I joined a narrative expressive writing course offered for healthcare workers by a local university. Through a series of weekly timed writing prompts, we were encouraged to simply write out our thoughts or emotions about our experiences and traumas related to COVID-19. Grammar and punctuation aside, whatever came to mind, we’d get it out.

Each session consisted of me crying over my keyboard as I tried to see through the blur of tears. “Just keep typing,” I’d tell myself.

My fingers couldn’t move as fast as the racing thoughts and emotions bottled up inside me. Week after week, I poured my heart out.

We (healthcare workers) were traumatized.

The feedback and support I got not only reassured me that I wasn’t alone, but encouraged me to dig deeper and write more purposefully. My journaling up to that point was surface-level thoughts, and the occasional drawing, neatly placed in my composition book.

This year, I challenged myself to learn new things, thus why I signed up for the Elephant Academy, Write Your Heart Out course. I wanted to hone my writing skills. I wanted to be able to express my thoughts in words that made sense. Somewhere deep within me, I wanted to share my writing, and to help others the way Elephant writers helped me.

Through weekly meetings with Waylon, the Editor in Chief, and small group support, we learned to be genuine and specific in our writing. Feedback was crucial. It pushed me to be open-minded about my writing, find my voice, and not compare myself to other writers, but instead learn from them.

Judgment was my biggest critic starting the course, but at no point did I feel judged. Even when Waylon peer-edited my first published article, live (for everyone to hear), I felt accepted. The heart-pounding rush of adrenaline by being put in the spotlight…worth it.

The feedback was gracious and honest. Everyone was genuinely supportive of my thoughts. And the best part was, at the end, he said, “I want more. More detail, more specifics.” That was a win for me. I knew where I needed to focus.

After making edits to my article, I published it on Elephant Journal—immediately second-guessing myself, which I’ve learned is normal.

“Rip the Band-Aid off,” seemed to be a regular saying in our group.

Publishing an article with personal details was as much a surprise to me as my family. There was an unexpected outpouring of support.

Putting details of my personal life into the open was extremely challenging—it was a lesson in vulnerability. But allowing others to read my writing was empowering. And calling myself an author…a dream come true.

But the real growth happens from learning to open my heart for everyone to see.

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