The thing about crying in front of strangers is that, when you’ve finished, they are no longer strangers.
On Tuesday morning in Portland, Maine, I sat in a narrow ballroom and shared my story with a gathering of photographers at Inspire Photo Retreats. I sat because I was shaking too much to stand. Anxiety is a bitch.
I talked about authenticity, and building a congregation of shared values and collaborative creation. I talked about the necessity of revealing ourselves if we are to ask our clients to reveal themselves to us. I talked about my journey of the past two years, from being thrust into the spotlight, to finding my authentic voice. And I talked about the intersection of depression and art – a crossroads with which I am all too familiar.
It was more difficult than I’d imagined, telling the truth – a truth I’ve told for years, but never so publicly, never so explicitly. It was heavier than I’d anticipated, seeing recognition dawn in the eyes of the warm, wonderful humans around me.
But it was in the recognition, in the knowing looks and nodding heads, that I found purpose. I went to Inspire to share my story. I left bearing the stories of dozens of my kindreds: revelations of pain and promise, exhaustion and determination, mourning and inspiration. They weigh on my shoulders like a cloak, anchoring me to the earth, assuring me that I am not alone, reminding me that the hard work of community-building comes with rich reward.
To everyone who unhesitantly pulled their chairs closer, forming a bolstering hedge of bodies around me: thank you. To everyone who lent me their eye contact, their quiet attention, their forward-leaning shoulders and scribbling pens: thank you. For every like, comment, text, and message of encouragement throughout an intensely emotional week: thank you.
To each person who reaffirmed that, though we artists are prone to melancholy, we are also prone to miracles: thank you, thank you, thank you.
I see you. Thank you for seeing me.