A Manifesto: Dancing with Demons and Finding the Light

I wanted to write a manifesto over the holidays to make the principles that underlie my writing and my life clearer to myself and others. I started making an outline and was going to tell you to take things one day at a time, to stop auditioning for other people's lives and to start doing what you love, because you don't ALWAYS have to pursue your passion full-time. BORING! I gave up after five minutes, feeling totally frustrated and like a giant cliche.

Then I found the following diary entry as I was searching for a submission to the My Diary Unlocked project (whose mission is to share meaningful diary entries to help others live authentically), and in an instant it all became clear.

November 15, 1998 (I had just turned 15)

Dear Diary,

I can't help but write even though I have nothing to say. My overall feeling right now is anxious/nervous butterflies. I feel like I'm slipping away from everything and I'm holding on for dear life; while at the same time trying to do a one-handed push-up. Just to stay on track I have to fight so hard. Journalism, guys, softball, volleyball. I feel so clueless. I feel fat - and like I don't add up; like I have some good qualities but not enough to be anyone worthwhile.

Love, Jenny

Why do I read so many self-help books? Why do I care so deeply about sharing what I learn with you?

Because I don't want any of us to feel that despondent ever again. And if -- by some unfortunate cognitive error or faulty intellectual logic -- we do, I want us to have the tools to fight our way out and thrive. I want us all to live BIG...unapologetic and unafraid. Those of us who survived those tumultuous teen years were (thankfully) born with the ability to pull ourselves out of emotional ruts, but I am fiercely committed to make those tools even easier to find and access as adults.

I want you to know how special you are. I want you to know how loved you are. I want you to feel proud of yourself and proud of your life. I want you to appreciate and feel appreciated. I want you to smile more and dream bigger. I want you to take great leaps; to give yourself a chance to show how brilliant and resilient you really are. I want you to wake up excited and energized for the days ahead. I want you to to feel absolutely exhilarated by the possibility of it all.

Why am I here writing? Why the positive twist on everything? Why the overuse of exclamation marks and smiley faces?

Because I've felt the darkness. I've cried myself to sleep many times in my life, often "without reason" because I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong. Sometimes I still can't. This diary entry reminded me of every night I laid my head on a pillow soaked with tears . . . where writing it all down -- every high and low and tortured thought -- felt like my only salvation.

I was born with an active mind that bounces from dark to light with equal energy; a mind that dances with demons when I'm not careful. Maybe you were too.

So if I can shine some light on your day - help you laugh, feel better, solve a problem, think differently, live bigger - then I have done my job.

Kate Earl captures my sentiments perfectly in the chorus of her song, All I Want. To say I'm obsessed is an understatement.

If I could touch one lonely soul, If I could heal and be so bold To be a spark, to be a light, Set one heart on fire; That's all I ever wanted That's all I want, That's all I ever really wanted.

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P.S. Many of you have asked how the Creative Day of New Years Genius turned out -- in short, brilliant! It was a huge success for all involved . . . more to follow soon. One thing I did want to ask right away with all my creative juices flowing:

How can I be most helpful to you this year? What would you love to see on Life After College?