“I’m a fan. You’re a voice of originality in a world too little of it.” Seth Godin
We’ve all got a hell of story to tell.
The reason I tell mine?
Is because I don’t think you have to be a lost, disillusioned, cynical, angry-at-the-world orphan girl, like I once was, in order to feel like one.
God, how much does life hurt? It hurts like a bitch, this place, this world. It doesn’t matter who you are—I’m betting that you’ve been clawed opened and destroyed; bitter and broken; limp and loveless; and totally closed off, walls up, unsure which way to turn, and which way to go, at least once in your life.
Because life sucks. It does. It will chew you up and spit you out and laugh in your face while it gobbles Doritos on your couch and makes a mess on your floor.
But you don’t have to experience terrible tragedies to be heartbroken. Sometimes, the greatest of tragedies happen in quiet.
While you’re going to work everyday, “climbing the ladder”—your heart breaks a little in quiet.
While you’re kissing the man you don’t love, trading who you are in exchange for security—your heart breaks a little in quiet.
While you’re building a life you don’t recognize, because society says you’re suppose to: get married, buy house, have kids, settle down—your heart breaks a little in quiet.
When best friends become strangers and relationships change—when you stop being able to tell anyone what you’re going through, because no one will get it—your heart breaks a little in quiet.
And when you give up on yourself—when you’re overtired and whitewashed and exhausted from the neverendingness of it all, and you stop being a person you even recognize—your heart breaks a little in quiet.
Our hearts are all breaking in quiet every day, in all different ways. I know this from experience.
Growing up in a trailer park, unable to face my peers.
Mothering my own mother, who was gripped with anxiety.
Burying my parents before the age of twenty-one.
Being alone in a bar on Christmas, pretending I wasn’t.
Taking out loans for grad school—not for an education, but an escape.
Burying myself in debt.
Clinging to the shoulder of a man I never should have.
Being controlled and watched and accused and manipulated.
Retreating from myself, a little bit more every day.
And finally ending up in a Kmart parking lot, bruised and battered with $26 to my name, and no where to sleep.
They say these are the moments that define us, but I say that these are the moments that give us an opportunity to redefine a few things. Because you know what I discovered on the other side of desperation?
And you know what happens when you get gutted? The 8-inch layer of emotional padding gets ripped right off your backside, too. And when you’re standing there naked, in the cold—both literally and metaphorically—you know what’s left?
All of the things about yourself you could never see before.
All of your grit and your gravel and your fiber and your fuck-you. (Which, by the way, is an actual thing.)
There’s an unexpected grace on the other side of fuck-you.
Not the angry kind of fuck you that you experience when you feel trapped and bitter and resentful, but the kind of fuck you that happens when you’re not anymore.
Because it’s the kind that finally gives you permission be selfish.
And selfishness is how we recover.
But sometimes it takes a crisis until you get to the point where you feel okay giving to yourself again, because now you have no other choice. Sometimes it gets so bad, it really is do or die. And sometimes, crisis will force you to be good to yourself—maybe for the very first time.
So why did I start this crazy online rally called The Middle Finger Project? Because sometimes, saying fuck-you can change everything. It certainly did for me. Because you know what I did the night I found myself in Kmart parking lot with $26 to my name and no place in the world to go?
The most selfish things I could think of.
I opened my blog.
Published a post.
Asked people to take a chance.
Told them I wanted their money.
Started writing a book.
Sold my car.
Got on a plane.
Flew to Chile.
Wrote my ass off.
Started a business.
Figured it out.
Danced and laughed.
Drank and ate.
And vowed to do only what felt good every day.
And you know what happened as the result of my selfishness?
I was finally able to give.
I was able to give in so many new ways—ways I didn’t even know I could. I kept writing. Started leading. Started helping people get selfish themselves for the sake of their own good.
Fast forward to today, and I’m so grateful to be living this life of incredible fortune. I’m based in Philadelphia with a house in Costa Rica, where my incredible (almost!) husband and I run both an offline and an online business in boating & travel. The Middle Finger Project, as you can see, is more alive and well than ever, with our beautiful community of free-thinkers and folks who want to live a more unconventional—and honest-to-goodness selfish—life. I continue to write every Thursday here on the blog, having open and honest conversations about the ever-changing definition of “a life well-lived” (as well as a top-secret column, twice a week, specifically for women in business called Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends), and my writing business is better than ever. I’m delightfully represented by Writers House NYC literary agency, where I’ve got a really exciting book in the works—which makes my heart so god damn happy. And every three months, I travel somewhere new in the world, incorporating the act of exploring into my regular routine—because knowing who you are is just as much about knowing who you’re not: and only by seeing what’s out there, can you know what’s inside.
And honestly? It all stared that night in the Kmart parking lot.
I cannot thank that night enough.
Because as always, in our greatest desperation?
We find our depth.
And in our depth?
Well, that’s where our story really begins.
P.S. I’m so glad you’re here. Subscribe to my weekly Thursday column, and let’s stay in touch!
“You’re the best writer on the internet.” Best-selling author & speaker Michael Port (I swear I didn’t bribe him)