In my cupboard live about thirty notebooks, journals and binders, all different books of some description. I’m typing this piece on my blog, which showcases stuff that’s been compulsory in my classes and other things I’m proud of, or want to explore. This stuff will become, if it hasn’t already, the window an employer will gaze through, probably sternly, to understand me before establishing a decision to hire me, or let me go.
In a practical sense, the words I choose to drag out of my cupboard and patiently copy onto my computer screen ought to be stories that present me in a positive, confident spotlight, or some sort of clever analysis from my university days. Authenticity argues against this; my blog is a projection of my voice, my experience, my stories. Right now, I choose to write authentically, albeit with trepidation, what I choose on my blog and try not to worry about what an employer will think. There’s nothing on my blog they wouldn’t discover within a few months of working with me, or that I wouldn’t share if I were asked and that person was genuinely listening. I wrote The Antagonist was a Good Man; so much of this content could be extracted by an employer and used to paint a negative picture of me. Broken home, violent family, unfocused, struggling – who’d want somebody like that working in their organisation? After discussing the implications of this paradigm at length in class, I concluded that I am somewhat indifferent to this. If an employer wishes to use my stories against me, they’re not the kind of person I’d want to work for. Authenticity is something to be treasured and aspired to.
Kris Christou wrote that employers should recognise vulnerability as a strength and value authenticity:
“Vulnerability shows a deeper form of strength and I have a high respect for anyone who is willingly vulnerable. So why should someone be punished by an employer for writing personally, in public, or being themselves online when it is apart of who they are and conveys their values?” (I’m Authentic. Fire Me)
Public writing is murky terrain. That’s something I assumed to be a temporary ideology; to fill in the ethical gaps until I discovered the answer – but I never did find a solution. So I’ll stick to the murky terrain imagery for now. As the use of online data mining continues, and the internet is used for feats such as hiring, it will only become a larger question of ethics and become correspondingly more complicated, for me and those I write about.
I came across the notion of writing a bad guy – but bad guys don’t exist in life, they exist in a context. One story. When you’re writing about real people who have done bad things, ethical boundaries are exceedingly blurred. To present them as good, or hide their misgivings would be doing an injustice to the story, and the other characters. But openly writing about bad times has huge implications for that person and their life outside that story. Again, this is a question I have had to leave for the time being. I make an effort to write my characters reasonably anonymously, excluding people’s names and any identifiable information. It’s not foolproof though. It’s a risk I have taken, one which made me extremely anxious and emotional for almost one month. It’s really rocky terrain, but the only alternative is to keep stories of domestic violence, of rape and of other hardships silent, in their dusty pile in our cupboards. And that’s not an answer I will settle for.