Collected Book Quotes: Surpassing Certainty — What My Twenties Taught Me

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Janet Mock: Surpassing Certainty - What My Twenties Taught Me Book Cover

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And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party…. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 12 (Originated by Audre Lorde)

The truth is a whip when wielded by a malicious mouth, lashing you into obedience and confinement, a stinging reminder that despite your best efforts, you are still captive to others.
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 37

Forced disclosure always shook me, leaving me in a frightening space where my body served as proof of my realness. The need to prove myself valid was never-ending in its plea to affirm, connect, deny, and erase. I aspired daily to be like Toni Morrison’s Sula, a woman who shuns the demands placed on her by her watchful community, a woman who lacks ego, a woman OK in her otherness. She feels no pressure to verify herself. Her only aim is to be consistent, not with the world or those around her, but with herself.

“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 83 to 97

There are only so many vigils, so many murals, so many pleas for justice before we must succumb to the fact that our culture is intent on us not existing.
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 111

[…] no one had made me feel so wanted and necessary. It was the first time I felt I could be enough for someone.
— “Part One/ Chapter 3.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me


He was kind enough, attractive enough, smart enough, but he never moved me in the way that made me feel obligated to him, that pressured me to be vulnerable. Our exchanges were limited to the kind you’d have with a great boyfriend but not necessarily a great love.
—           “Part 2/ Chapter 10.” Surpassing Certainty


I never realized that what I needed was a means to express myself. Hearing myself enabled me to heal myself. For so much of my life, I believed that my silence would protect me, that by keeping my circle small, by holding my truth close, by being cautious of others, I would be able to remain safe. But all it did was isolate me and leave me with delusions. I imagined that the people who cared about me would no longer love me if I spoke my truth. But I had to be open and honest with myself, and that began with telling myself the truth.
— “Part 2/ Chapter 14.” Surpassing Certainty


The first time we fall, we are new to that experience. Nothing can quite compare to it, because you’ll never be that young, that open, and that willing. But when you’ve loved and lost, when you’re forced to grow and move on, let go and love again, you become cautious. You learn to protect yourself, to be on guard. You are never as available. Or that could just be me. I wasn’t comfortable sharing myself with people. I let people in with discretion. It took time for me to open myself up.
—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


This slight shift from ‘I do not have time’ to ‘I can make time for myself’ was the first stage to building a space for writing in my life.

 —           “Part 2/ Chapter 14.” Surpassing Certainty

“My twenties represented a time when I had no other obligation than to figure out who I was. I took the time I needed to just be—to learn how to advocate for myself before becoming an advocate for others. I was accountable to myself. It was a time for me to process the experiences that had shaped me and to be bold enough to seek new ones. It was a time for me to make mistakes and learn from them. It was a time for me to seek my voice, my purpose, and my place in the world. My twenties taught me to create and uphold much-needed boundaries, to take hold and possession of my body, and to stake a claim on my life. My twenties also taught me to improvise and to loosen up. Boundaries are vital, but at times I could be unmoving about these self-imposed restrictions, and that often prevented me from going where I truly wanted, from knowing others as I wanted to be known, from loving and being loved in the way I desired. My twenties prepared me to be seen fully—in my own eyes, in the eyes of the people I know and love, and in the eyes of the public I’ve invited into my life to know me. More than anything, it was my act of being in process during those messy, fun, and formative years—all the decisions and mishaps, all the highs and lows—that brought me to yet another dark room. This time, though, I was free, overwhelmingly secure in who I was and certain that she was—and would be—enough.”

—           “Afterword.” Surpassing Certainty


We couldn’t make forever, but forever isn’t love’s sole ambition. The goal is to be impacted, to be changed forever.

—           “Part 2/ Chapter 15.” Surpassing Certainty

The Rest

I hated parties, and I loathed crowds. My easy smile, gregarious nature, and love of the camera deceives many into believing that I am a social person, an extrovert. I’m good with people. I genuinely like people. But I’m also a great pretender who tolerated the company of others.

—           “Afterword.” Surpassing Certainty


It was strangely freeing to be alone, to not be obligated to anyone but myself. I didn’t have to do. I didn’t have to speak. I merely had to be.

—           “Part 2/ Chapter 15.” Surpassing Certainty


[…] love is not simple. It’s messy. Love forces you to face yourself and grow up.

—           “Part 2/ Chapter 15.” Surpassing Certainty

 


I am not fishing for compliments. I promise. I know I am cute, but this is as good as it is going to get. I am at the peak of my beauty.

—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


Pushing Thirty forces you to take stock.

—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


There was this constant pressure to prove myself, but the moment I did as I was told, “leaned in,” asked for what I was worth, or showed confidence, I was labeled a diva. Yet if I didn’t excel, I would be overlooked.
—“Part 2/Chapter 12” Surpassing Certainty


The way he held my eyes sobered me up for a few brief seconds. I gained enough clarity to realize that he saw me. He was not searching for answers. He knew. I did not know what he knew, but I felt seen. It was an intense, intimate, and surprising exchange.
—           “Part 2/ Chapter 10.” Surpassing Certainty


Pretending felt safest. I believed it was the only way I could make it. So I stripped myself of backstory and connection and flattened myself, distilled myself, made myself smaller and easier to contain and digest. I pretended that color, class, gender, and all the intersections of my identity and experience that othered me did not exist. And the funny thing was that my classmates, roommates, and neighbors were pleased to pretend, too. It made it easier on all of us to believe a post-racial, post-feminist, post-oppression fantasy, especially in a well-intentioned liberal New York City.
— “Part 2/ Chapter 9.” Surpassing Certainty

Bearing witness, rather than seeking answers, filled me.
— “Part 2/ Chapter 9.” Surpassing Certainty

I was built to rely on myself and didn’t know how to ask for help or recognize that I could ask for help.
— “Part 2/ Chapter 9.” Surpassing Certainty

I yearned to be accepted on merit, on my work. I didn’t want to be a charity case, someone who was let in because she had a compelling story. I didn’t want to be someone who was brought in at the service of diversity alone, seen merely as a token.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 8.″ Surpassing Certainty

I suffered from imposter’s syndrome, not truly believing I was as smart as my grades, not as shiny as the awards I was given.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 8.″ Surpassing Certainty

I was my best in words—clear and secure in what I felt, what I believed, who I was.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 7.″ Surpassing Certainty

I wanted to be heard, but I also wanted someone, anyone, to hurt as much as I was hurting. I aimed to control him because I did not have control over anything else.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 7.″ Surpassing Certainty

We have continuity in our bodies, which hold experiences that never leave us, experiences our bodies conceal so we can keep going. They hold tightly to them—until we have confidence to trust our bodies again, to loosen their grasp.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 7.″ Surpassing Certainty

I missed being with people whom I shared continuity. But I think we all crave those spaces, the ones where shared history acts as a thread holding us accountable to our former selves and to one another.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 6.″ Surpassing Certainty

The prelude to sex was always more fun than actual penetration.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 6.″ Surpassing Certainty

I wished I could reach for next-level spiritual goals, like being ‘able to be alone, to find it nourishing—not just a waiting.
— “Part 1/ Chapter 6.″ Surpassing Certainty


Sex was not for sale; intimacy was.
— “Part One/ Chapter 1.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 406


I was still shy with my body then, especially in the company of other women. I felt that I didn’t measure up, and this failure on my part made me feel illegitimate.
— “Part One/ Chapter 1.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 293


Our faces were new, just-discovered territories we were eager to explore.
— Chapter 3 (Location 66) – “Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me” by Janet Mock


[…] Envy seeks to destroy.
—Intro (Location 66) – “Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me” by Janet Mock


“For years, I got mine by remaining silent and blending in. Now I’ve finally reached a place where silence is no longer an option for me. My survival depends on my ability to speak truth to power, not just for myself, but for us. I’m committed to getting ours. It requires me to relay how I struggled with living, dreaming, loving, fucking, being seen, and simply being in my body, in this world. This is a universal experience.”
— Intro (Location 123) – “Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me” by Janet Mock


Clubs are companions for those alone and awake. They fulfilled my desire to be desired and satiated my itch for a man’s body against mine—close, strong, and steady.
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 23

Privacy wasn’t often granted to a girl like me who had spent years standing out by merely being. It was the price I paid for living my truth.
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 23 – 37

He made me feel chosen—the reason I had traded the comfort of my couch for the club. Sure, I wanted to be social, but ultimately, I wanted someone to say, ‘Yes you. I want you.’
“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 37

I dangled myself like a charm, luring people close enough to push them away when things got deep. I vacillated between revealing and concealing myself. I preferred to be seen and admired yet unknown. Keeping just enough distance was the sweet spot, an intimacy disorder that allowed me to be present but far away. I let them in, my flesh being the means of exchange, but I never let them stay.

I trusted no one. I disappeared into myself. This left me alone with untruths that kept me company: ‘It’s too dangerous for them to see you. Keep it close. Seal it tight. No one would want you if they truly knew you.’

“Intro.” Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me – Location 97
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