A few months ago, a friend explained a metaphor to me. The basic premise is to look at ourselves as a museum that contains three rooms – a showroom, a side room, and a warehouse. The showroom stores everything that is accessible to the public, those memories and pieces of identity that are organized and presentable and protected. This room is ready to be shared with people who want to enter.
In the side room are elements of ourselves that are less polished and more private. This room is accessible to people who can help us organize or process its contents, or people who may be just be trustworthy and interested.
In the warehouse are the memories, fears, dreams, and identities that are kept private to all but a very choice few. This is where our deepest vulnerabilities are stored, and where the most damage can occur if we do not navigate with care.
It’s important to consider how we decide what goes into each of these rooms. Are the elements of ourselves that we keep buried in the warehouse only there because we banished and neglected them long ago? Do they rest, collecting dust, because they need to be processed alone, or because we are afraid of the judgement that may come when we finally bring them forward? Perhaps we placed pieces of ourselves there in anger or fear or pain, and now they rest, gaining unnecessary weight instead of being released as part of the past.
It’s important to find a balance between these museum rooms. There needs to be enough substance and identity in the showroom that we can meaningfully connect with the people around us. In my experience, shutting away too much of myself only leads to isolation and loneliness. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that not everything needs to be seen by the public. We have to be able to judge when it is the right time to share, and when it is kinder and wiser to hold back.
I often spend too much time in the warehouse. At some point along the way, I think I locked the door between between those elements of my identity and past that I’m willing to share and those pieces that are for me alone. I don’t know how other people are going to react to what I have to say, so too often I don’t say it. And while at some points in my life this protective instinct probably served me well, I wonder now if it causes me to miss out on potential relationships and opportunities.
Over the past two years I’ve been trying to reorganize that internal space, letting myself be more open rather than keeping people away simply because I am unwilling or unable to let them in. It’s proven to be much harder than expected, and I still don’t think I’ve found the right balance (but really, what college student has found balance?). And maybe, again, that’s where this blog comes into play. These posts are going to be hideously boring if I’m too protective of my words, but there are things that the internet doesn’t need to know. My posts are another chance to explore the voice that I’m showing the world, and I’m going to need to hit the “publish” button in order to be heard. I’m not sure what iteration of self will end up emerging through this blog; I just hope her voice will be genuine and true.
Image credit: Kate Bernheimer and Nicoletta Ceccoli, “The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum”