I recently created a new email address, specifically to display on my Medium profile. I figured it would be an easier way to contact me if anyone ever needed to reach me, or maybe hire me to write something for them.
But for the most part, as you can imagine, it’s been a quick way to get a lot of spam. And I mean, a lot of spam.
Since creating this new email, I’ve received at least seven urgent messages in my inbox begging me to share my bank account information so they can deposit 100 million dollars into it — pronto.
It sounds great and all, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing 100 million dollars in my lifetime, and definitely not from a stranger asking me to “help them help me.”
I’ve gotten used to the spam. Whenever I get around to it, I just mass delete and block the sender’s addresses. I don’t mind doing it because I like having a direct email address that can connect me with anyone who reads my Medium work.
Now, as a woman writer, I’m aware of the dangers of making myself that much more accessible to strangers online.
Yes, it scares me to think of all the ways it could go wrong. I’m writing online about my personal life for a living, and after doing it for over a year now, I know I need to be smart and safe. I’ll never give out personal information (or bank account numbers, not even if they promise to make 100 million dollars richer), and I know which red flags to look out for when interacting with people online.
But I like keeping that email address there because, as I said, I like to feel that much more connected to anyone who may read my work.
Just last week, I received a few emails that weren’t spam.
They were real messages, written by different people who had come across my Medium profile. They wrote to let me know what the story they read meant to them. Their messages absolutely touched my heart, and I felt happy that I had created this new way of getting in touch.
I think it meant even more to me because, in the past, I’ve read articles online that I’ve been absolutely moved by, and I wanted so badly to send a message to the author and let them know what their words meant to me. But after scouring the website where their work was posted, I couldn’t find a way to contact them.
It was probably for safety reasons, which is completely justifiable. We have to be smart as we navigate the internet. But I did wish in these cases that I could find an email or author website, heck, even the link to their twitter, just so I could reach out and thank them for making a difference in my day, my week, sometimes my life.
One of the messages I received last week was from a woman who talked to me about her toxic work environment after reading my piece on my sexual assault. I must admit, I felt a great deal of pressure on making sure I said the right thing to her and directing her to the correct resources. Handling sexual harassment in the workplace is not a lighthearted topic. But I gave her as much advice as I could and let her know that no matter what she did, she was brave for even coming forward in anonymity to someone she didn’t know, just for the sake of having someone to talk to about it.
Another one of the messages I received was from someone who had read my relationship piece, “My Partner is Twice My Age”. She and I exchanged messages back and forth about what it’s like dating someone significantly older than us, and I felt such a deep appreciation that I could speak to someone who knew exactly what it’s like to be in my shoes. It was such an amazing conversation, and I hope we stay in touch.
Although I have no idea who sits on the other side of this email, their words make me feel less alone.
I felt seen after receiving these messages, almost as if my new anonymous pen pals and I have known each other for a long time. It felt special, and I was happy to be engaged in conversation with people who have shared similar experiences to my own.
And isn’t that why we write about ourselves, after all? To connect with others who we may have never had a chance to connect with, had it not been for our writing?
For all the personal essay writers out there, we know why we do it and why we continue to pour our hearts out to the infinite abyss that is the internet. We do it because we don’t know how to stop. And we don’t want to. We will write and write and write until our last breaths.
For some of us, writing is a glimpse of hope, an escape from toxic relationships, a break from financial worries that chip away at us day by day. Writing about our personal lives is a way for us to connect with other souls who share similar upbringings, who have also battled addiction, or broken free from an abusive partner.
Writing about ourselves and bonding with other writers and readers in an instant is a blessing that we wouldn’t otherwise have if it weren’t for the internet. I’m happy to make myself instantly accessible to any reader who wants to have a chat because I’m blessed to share myself with others.
As I’ve written before, when we share our pain, we can help others heal.
By writing, we are creating a dialogue, an opening for individuals from different worlds to connect and for a brief moment in time, feel as if they were sitting right next to each other, bonding over life, and enjoying each other’s company.
We are so lucky to have the writing community online, and I’m lucky to have each and every person who takes time out of their day to read my work. The email address I have posted is there for anyone who wants to talk, connect, or collaborate. But please, don’t send me a generic email about gifting me 100 million dollars. If you’re gonna mess with me, at least make it original.
Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas, NV. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from NAU and her master’s degree in family and human development from ASU. In 2018, she left her career in mental health to pursue a career in writing. She is currently working on her debut novel and a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium to read more of her work.
Image courtesy of Anna Nekrashevich.