I am Hank Hughes, and hopefully, that is the last time I will feel the need to lie to you.
You see, I recently figured out why I was such a shitty author. It’s because I was afraid to be vulnerable. Instead of sharing what was in my heart, I chose to write about politics, satirical pop culture puff pieces, and even some erotica. Stuff that would manufacture attention but never expose my soul to any real criticism. The romance stuff was pretty hot, and the satire bits got a few laughs, but ultimately everything I wrote left me feeling empty and dissatisfied. So, I just stopped writing.
The biggest (perceived) hurdle to living my most authentic life was the fear that I would hurt other people. How could I talk about being sexually abused as a child when my parents still don’t know what that monster did to me? It would devastate them. How could I reflect on the stupid decisions I made in life without retraumatizing all the people I hurt along the way? Then there was the purely selfish part of me that was just afraid of being judged. What if people didn’t like the real me? Would my children think less of me if they knew how often I used to think about killing myself? Would I get fired if my boss found out I routinely use massive amounts of illegal psychedelic substances to help heal my soul? It just seemed easier to lie to myself and others, and the dissonance almost destroyed me.
Then I remembered a scene in The Dark Knight Rises where Batman is helping officer John Blake (who will later become Robin) fight off some bad guys. Batman suggests if he is going to battle the forces of evil, he should consider wearing a mask. The young Robin quickly rejects his sage advice because he is not afraid of anyone seeing his face. Then Batman tells him “The mask is not for you. It’s to protect the people you care about.”
That is when I decided the simplest way to be my authentic self was not to be me at all. So, I created Hank Hughes and started over with a completely anonymous digital persona with no ties to my real name or face. Now I have no excuse to not be myself.
To be clear, Hank is not an alter ego. He is just the mask I choose to wear to protect the people I care about. Everything I share on this blog will be my truth and will come from my heart. It will be raw, messy, funny, scary, uncomfortable, and it will probably still suck, but that doesn’t matter.
The irony is, underneath the Hank mask is probably the most authentic version of me that has ever existed, and I already feel inspired to write again. Maybe one day I will feel comfortable revealing my true identity, but this feels like an acceptable compromise. Until then, I will remain…Hank Hughes the Hesitant Hippie.