I’ve been thinking a lot about how a “normal” life has been the “enemy” for so much of my life. I’m not sure exactly where I got the idea that working a 9-5, having a husband/kids/house/dog would be awful, but I lived a lot of my life craving adventure and something I was passionate for. Absolutely nothing else would do. While I still love adventure (and can’t live without passion, of course), I think I’m starting to realize that normal feels right for me right now. I’m craving stability, routine–like my puppy, Olive–and realizing this isn’t a bad thing.
I used to think normal and routine were boring. How dull and unfortunate those people were who led predictable lives. How sad not to have passion driving you to do everything you possibly can do in a short amount of time.
I don’t think that’s true anymore–or at least not in the same way I once thought it was. Having lived my 20s as one of those zealous, unpredictable people, I can tell you that the road to that much passion is paved with burnout–usually more than one burnout. For me it also involved a lot of moving and constant emotional upheaval when my passions changed or shifted (as they so often do). It wasn’t until recently, actually, that I was talking to some people (explaining this drive to constantly move and switch jobs and feel trapped in relationships) that one of them said “that sounds like a textbook case of adult ADD.” I was a bit stunned. I had never ever considered ADD as a possible reason I felt compelled to move around a lot and live on a whim and a passion.
As a group of us discussed it (and our possible ‘symptoms’) I realized there was a real possibility I had ADD. In fact, one of the group’s members shared a test you can take at home and I scored really really high on it, meaning I need to see a professional about it soon. My point is, sometimes being adventurous and passionate are amazing. Sometimes they can also come with the inability to focus, feelings of boredom or feeling trapped, not finishing projects, and sometimes instability. Sometimes the glory of adventure brings with it a lot of negative things, too.
ADD kind of makes sense for me. I’ve moved a lot. I get bored with jobs easily, especially when they’re not an intellectual challenge for me anymore or if I don’t feel I’m able to grow professionally within a company. But the most scary symptom happened to me recently and it’s what made me speak up about this pattern in the first place. I realized I had accomplished most of the things on my goal list for writing and I was starting to feel almost…bored. With my dream job. I panicked. Here I was at the most successful point in my professional life and I was starting to wonder what was next and I couldn’t find anything writing related to put on the list. The only thing I hadn’t accomplished was in-progress and going well and otherwise, there wasn’t anything left for me to try. The only thing that kept coming up on the list was to learn computer animation and start a web comic. That doesn’t mean those are bad dreams–it just meant that my whole identity was having a crisis because those aren’t writing-centric.
Writing has always been my identity and my savior. When I was a child, writing was the thing that drove me to dream. When I was depressed, writing was the thing that drove me out of bed. Writing hasn’t just been something I’ve done; it’s part of me. It’s been the thing I’ve defined myself as for years. When someone asks who I am, “I’m a writer” follows.
It still is part of me and my identity. In fact, I’ve been taking a social media break this past week to work on my writing projects. But before I considered I may have ADD, part of me was really sad that I might be getting bored with writing. Or at the very least, I wasn’t sure where else to go with my writing career. And that was very stressful.
Maybe more than that, what worries me is that my priorities are shifting. Money is now a priority for me. I’m 30 and the things that I used to consider “old people” priorities really are 30 year old priorities: houses, health insurance, 401Ks, savings plans, investments, big back yards, and vacations. It feels weird. Being in ministry meant that I was in debt, and then leaving ministry meant I was behind in earning my degree and figuring out how I wanted to make a living. Being a writer meant I could steal be an idealist, but it meant that I would be poor. I’m sorry, but I did the poor minister thing and I can’t do the poor writer thing.
I think that’s what some of this is about. For so long, “normal” (houses/health insurance/401Ks) meant that I was “settling” and I was “giving up.” The people who influenced me told me I couldn’t have “normal” things AND passion. I don’t look at it that way now. I know I haven’t given up. I’ve gotten a lot fucking smarter. I know that to finance my writing career, I need a “boring” 9-5 and some health insurance. And guess what? I have actually found a day job that pays well and makes me happy to go to work. But it’s not writing. That means I will be writing into my retirement years to get everything accomplished and that means that my day job will look pretty damn different from my night job as a writer, but after a great deal of soul searching and experimentation with “dream jobs”, I realized that I like money and stability. A lot. I like safety and safety nets. I like savings accounts and low amounts of debt. I never really realized that I would turn into what the 20 year old version of me despised and love it. But I did. And I’m okay with that.
I love who I am, even if it looks boring to someone else. I don’t care what people think about my life’s choices, because I’ve learned that the secret to my happiness is stability. It’s to feel safe, to be prepared, to have a routine. It’s to be a bit normal. Sometimes that means wishing I could just write all day every day and instead having to go to a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I wouldn’t trade that stable feeling for anything. It’s my happiness.
Update: This lasted all of two days before I was going crazy wanting my blog back. Anyway, it was a really heart felt and appropriate post (at the time) so I’m leaving it here.
It may seem contradictory for a blogger to want privacy. After all, we put our lives on display-often with photos. We talk about our pets, our sexuality, our day jobs, dating, and our religious beliefs. Over the course of this year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I not only want privacy–I need privacy. I feel…not overwhelmed, but irritated by all the noise. The idiots. The shoddy journalism. The debates about everything and nothing. The inauthentic displays. I’m quickly becoming tired of the of “my perfect life” posts. You know who these people are and you have your own set of ‘friends’ who do this. They fill their social media profiles with such perfect status updates that you’d think they should live in a 5th Avenue storefront display. They never have a bad day or get acne. They’ve airbrushed out the flaws and the moodiness and the failures and left us with their vacuous self-image to stroke.
Yet no one is perfect. With the illusions we create online, we strip away part of what is real, vulnerable, and authentic about ourselves. The struggles, the tears (or holding back from tears in order to be strong), and the moments of great tragedy that we would love to share with caring people–if they weren’t preoccupied with Instagraming their vegan omelets.
I do care–rather deeply. Many of you have noticed that and reached out to me. Over the years, I’ve formed some of the most priceless friendships with some of you.
I’ve created an entire blog about a subject I was passionate about for years. When I first started, I wanted nothing more than to give all the people who had really twisted their power and greed into an abusive machine a big FUCK YOU. I’ve done that–rather successfully. Each and every person I wanted to have that message now has heard it loud and clear. Some have even pleaded that I let up, and I feel pity on them now. I also realize that there is power in telling your truth. I never realized how powerful my message would be until it was capable of making change. Yet, I don’t wish to destroy anyone completely and I never have. I have ethics–far superior ethics to those I write about and yes, I will gloat about that.
I hold their fate at the tip of my fingers and yet I won’t destroy them completely. This is my one fault; my one weakness. They destroyed me completely for a time but I will show them pity and release them.
I’ve rebuilt myself. I am strong. I have spent two years realizing my strengths and abilities vastly outweigh my weaknesses, and I am confident in them. They don’t belong to some deity or to anyone but myself. Stella got her groove back. My anger is gone. My introverted side is back. I’ve been happily reunited with my pensive nature.
Over the course of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I’m fortunate enough to live near some really pretty places:
Through that refection, I’ve realized my work here as a blogger on cults is done. You are stronger than you know and you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that or to guide you through the steps. I never set out to be anyone’s leader or guru and I will never take on that title or position in your life, but if I can be your example now, I want you to be strong and unapologetic about your strengths. Yes, people will always be escaping from cults and coercive groups, but there are people who have made full-time careers out of helping people recover. They are called therapists. I am a writer. There are also great people I’ve met along the way whom you may find with a simple Google search, or you can get in touch with International Cultic Studies Association.
My hope for you is that you own your weaknesses fully-be honest about them and apologize to people you hurt-but experience your weaknesses. Don’t shun them and don’t beat yourself up because you have them. Do you assume it’s abnormal to be weak?
Don’t criticize yourself for being different than other people, for in your differences you’ll find your greatest assets and strengths. Don’t set out to be anyone’s hero or guide. Instead, instill in people the idea that they will be strong, too.
Of course many people will return to this website and over the course of time, I would love to expand the content to include things that are new in my life. I’d love to include inspiration, recipes, and pictures of pretty things. Yet, I’m not entirely sure I will rebrand at this point because I need a hiatus from giving and I need to give back to myself. I miss spending hours outside in nature, not worrying about ‘checking-in’ or my blogging schedule or returning emails. I miss spending days mulling over writing a single sentence–making it beautiful. In Internet time that’s old news-but you know me: I don’t follow the rules. I break them.
I’ve also learned that being online can be a bad thing for a young writer brimming with ideas and a marketable story because people willfully steal those ideas, even when they’re still in formation (shocker!). I’m not talking about small things but there was a time this year when I suspected this TV show was influenced by the video interviews I did for DiGa Vision. Those interviews included all the secret workings of my own investigative journalism, cult advocacy work, my own personal struggle with PTSD, and my blog’s sphere of influence. The timing of the interviews being shown to the CW executives and the development of Cults was all too coincidental. The CW offered me a six year contract for my own reality TV show and then, when the Cults pilot was announced, they scrapped the show. I may never know, but I won’t ever share that much again with something that isn’t green-lit or bound contractually.
Yesterday I Googled “going offline for a year”. I wanted to see if anyone had done it because I wanted to take the leap and I wondered if any bloggers had. I came across Paul Miller, a tech blogger, who announced his departure from the Internet for a year this past April. The comments were atrocious and hateful as usual. My particular favorite was “Jesus Christ, these hipsters now have themselves convinced that going to the library is underground.” Paul is a tech blogger and gamer. In no way did he strike me as a hipster. He’s a bit too smart for that. I shared the link on my Facebook along with the above comment as a bit of an experiment and got responses like “I have no words” and “Pretension has no realistic self-image.” Disdain. Of course. Miller has the luxury of having an editor who will post his articles for him, so he will continue to post throughout the year. I do not. I also have no real intention of going offline for good, but I do aim to spend less time on social media–trimming my personal Facebook down to just people I know in real life (shocking!) and actually speak to intimately. Or maybe I’ll delete it altogether. I haven’t decided. I want to go off the grid, so to speak. I envy people who don’t feel obligated to be online. Novelists like Cormac McCarthy who shunned interviews and remained relatively unknown for years. I’ve learned that I don’t operate well in the spotlight and I think it’s best to operate within your own strengths and space. Like McCarthy, I relish intellectual conversation above being acquainted with the masses:
Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation…[He]…has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.
McCarthy became commercially successful in 1992, with “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner. Journalists did write about him then, but a quick glance at their tone and you can tell they despised his desire for privacy.
The question on every writer’s mind these days is (or should be): Can you be successful if you don’t have an online presence? I’d argue that you can’t. You certainly can’t sell books. If you don’t generate your online presence and cultivate it, someone will have to, but you’ll notice most established authors now run their own social media and many do so from their personal accounts. This is smart marketing. People are attracted to writers because they personally identify with them. For young writers still finding their voice I think social media is far less important-something I wish I’d known a few years ago. I don’t regret becoming successful at it–the skills I’ve learned are invaluable. Although I will say, I’ve learned I prefer the technical side of social media and websites as opposed to the content building. Online content as you know can often be garbage.
My favorite movie of all-time has to be “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I can quote much of it and even had a friend send me a ‘bouquet of newly sharpened pencils’ one Spring. You may remember moments of Cathleen Kelly happily reading to kids gathered around the storytime rug:
When Cathleen Kelly shuts down her store, The Shop Around the Corner it is so sad. She leaves this sign:
This is how I feel. I’ve loved being part of your lives for the past two and a half years–walking many of you through my own story, my healing process, and my thoughts on religion. I’ve relished in our many conversations over the years and have grown to adore you. I’ve loved seeing so many of you grow into strong people–getting your voices back, finding yourselves, creating beautiful lives around who you are today (which includes the pain you went through). We have all developed this intimate community where we have gathered strength from one another, asked genuine questions and have accepted that we may not have all the answers.
In January I started working with some very special of young women at Mercy Survivors. I have seen them all become stronger than they already were. None of them are victims of Mercy. They are all far more powerful than Mercy and I anticipate that the next few years you will see some incredible stories come from their website. I would continue to watch them, if I were you.
One of my initial blogging connections was with the creator of Recovering Alumni. I am so incredibly grateful to her for introducing me to her fellow alumni. Their alumni network is so strong and vibrant. In many ways, the men and women I’ve met there have contributed to my own growth and healing like no other group has simply because Honor Academy was so similar to Master’s Commission. It was nice to ‘swap stories’ with people who KNEW how I felt and felt that same way. This is the best thing you can do for yourself as a survivor–find the community you feel most comfortable in and tell your story. Tell it over and over and over. This is what you need to do to heal.
As for further help, or help for new readers who may come in the future, I compiled an eBook several months ago that I feel is a complete guide to sorting out the questions you may have. It’s not available in print. You can buy it on Amazon here.
As for cults, I’m done for awhile. I’ve definitely kicked ass whatever I’ve written about, but one can only exhaust a subject so much. Then it becomes forced. A writer can tell she’s lost her passion for a subject when she has nothing left to say about it. Trust me, I have plenty to say, but I’m ready to talk about something else.
As far as whether the blog will stay up indefinitely, not exactly. This is why I wrote the eBook. The blog will eventually be morphed into an inclusive website (not a blog) for information purposes only (excluding some of my personal writings which I may publish at a later date). It’s important that people know the truth about Master’s Commission and youth discipleship programs/residential treatment centers because they’re not going anywhere for the time being and I’ve always said if there had been anything available for me to read like this blog on Master’s Commission when I was applying, it WOULD have changed the course of my life. However, regardless of whether you shut a group down, the leadership will still start over somewhere else under a new name because they believe they are doing “God’s work”. So they need to be tracked.
I’ll still be updating my website here: www.thelisakerr.com and I started a personal blog awhile ago that I’ve enjoyed posting on about writing, creativity and inspiration. I hope to revisit that after I take this much-needed break. But first I need to feel refreshed and vibrant again.
You can follow me on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/thelisakerr and here: www.facebook.com/mycultlife. I will have a more private Facebook account just for personal family and friends, which means several HUNDREDS of people may be deleted from my existing account. I do feel terrible about this, but I’ve come to realize this will serve me best. Some people will be angry at me for this, but if you’re really interested in keeping up with me, please follow those pages above. I will update those pages and my website as often as I’m able to.
I would love to hear from you in the interim. I will read all the emails you send, but I will not be responding during the holidays because I’m going to enjoy my family and friends, some jazz and all the Hallmark Christmas movies I possibly can. I’m even going to stop obsessing about writing my book and put it all aside to enjoy winter. And these guys:
So for now, adieu, farewell. We will meet again. For now, though, I leave you with this:
Spend some time with yourself, after all, you know yourself best.
Enjoy the moments you have to yourself to ponder about what is important to you.
So with that, GOODBYE. I’m off to find my new HELLO.