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The Ocean of Morality

For the Identity Challenge

By Stephanie HoogstadPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - December 2023
The Ocean of Morality
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

I am lost, drowning

In a sea of gray morals

Help! I cannot breathe

I don’t know what I am doing. I haven’t known what I’ve been doing for quite some time. It seems that since 2016, at least, I have been swimming in an ocean of uncertainty. Up is down, the sky isn’t quite so blue, and right and wrong are nothing but mazes of gray shadows that no one can navigate properly. I don’t know who I am, I barely know what I stand for, and I feel like nothing more than a broken puzzle of likes, interests, and disdains that don’t necessarily fit together well.

And it all began when my heroes started to fall.

Stars falling nightly

Angels so far from their grace

Heroes lost to all

You could say that 2016 was the year that started the longest reign of shooting stars in modern history; celebrities just keep opening their mouths and falling farther and farther from grace. The more of them that mess up, the more holes that I find in myself.

It sounds silly, I know, to have an identity crisis because a bunch of celebrities decided to expose themselves as assholes. They’re just people, after all—people who have nothing to do with me, really—and people reveal themselves to be assholes all the time. To me, though, these weren’t just any celebrities or any people; these were the people who had helped me to calibrate my moral compass growing up. They taught me what was right and wrong, how to treat people, how to open my heart to others. Aside from my parents, they had the most influence on the person that I had become through the art that they created, be it books, movies, or TV shows. So, to have the likes of Roseanne Barr and J.K. Rowling start saying things that directly contradict the morals that they helped me to create really struck a nerve with me.

Who was I, after all, if the foundation that I had built myself upon was cracking?

The fault in our stars?

I see just fault in myself

My moral black holes

The more holes that I saw in my heroes, the more holes that I saw in myself. I started to question the person that I was if so many of my role models contradicted the very morals that I claimed to get from them—tolerance, acceptance, openness. Could I truly be such an open-minded, tolerant person if my models for these traits turned out to not really have them?

Then my writing came into question. It was just one person telling me that one story was ableist, but it was enough to wedge itself in my emotional armor and crack it like glass. Perhaps if the timing had been different, if I had not already been questioning myself, I would not have been so hard on myself or would not have taken one person’s opinion so seriously, but I did, and that doubt has not fully released its hold on me to this day.

A writer who writes

Without passion, is she

A writer at all?

That doubt has dug itself further into my psyche than I had ever imagined it would. It has caused me to doubt myself as a writer. This doubt has been compounded by a lack of passion for my freelance projects, particularly my ghostwriting, and a lack of time to be able to work on my personal projects. I no longer feel like a writer, just someone who writes. This part of my identity—the biggest part of my identity, arguably—has all but disappeared.

Little by little, though, I am reclaiming this identity. In part thanks to Vocal and the encouragement that I feel to just write on here, no matter what I am writing about, I am learning to be a writer again.

I am learning to be me again.

It’s true, I have failed

But I have succeeded, too

I am but human

I am still searching for who I am, as a writer and as a person. Even at thirty years old, I am sorting through my morals and what matters most to me. Yet isn’t that how life is supposed to be, forever growing, forever becoming the people that we are meant to be? We might lose ourselves along the way, but so long as we eventually find our way back, it’s all part of the journey of being human.

I am a flower

Forever growing, changing—

In eternal bloom


About the Creator

Stephanie Hoogstad

With a BA in English and MSc in Creative Writing, writing is my life. I have edited and ghost written for years with some published stories and poems of my own.

Learn more about me:

Support my writing: Patreon

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Comments (5)

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  • The Dani Writer3 months ago

    Wow, this is radically different content and perspective. I'd never really considered this until reading your story. Thank you for sharing your perceptions and congratulations on the top story!

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Hats off to your work! Keep it going—congrats!

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    Excellent entry. Stephanie. I loved the honesty of tripping over stepping stones. It resonates with a lot of us. And that last Haiku was 🔥😍.

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    Forever growing. And sometimes having to re-examine ourselves is needed for that. Was it ablist? I think many of us try hard to be inclusive, open minded people, but we can't see what we can't see. I try to raise my kids to value diversity, but I look at how I see some of what my parents say and wonder what they will call me out on one day. I hope I will welcome it, but I have no doubt it will shake me. As you say, we keep growing.

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    I encourage you to keep going. It won't always be easy, but it's worth it in the end. You are a unique and valuable person, and you deserve to be happy.

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