In another house he sits
And pretends he still has blood
(An excerpt from a poem I don’t quite understand. Even though I wrote it).
I left a note for myself in a novel last year. Today I found it.
I was re-exploring a profound text I first read ten months ago and I found a note I wrote to myself in the margins. There was a thing I wanted to forget; I was beyond desperate to do so. But (I broke my own rules), I had a photograph of moment related to that thing. I hated it but couldn’t bear to forget, so I tore it up into a million little pieces, and slotted them all back into their sleeve, face down.
If there is life on another planet, a live thing might be viewing my life before that picture was taken. Or after, but before I destroyed it. Or, just after everything. Our world is too small to realise the significance of time and distance.
John Green is a curious man. In Turtles All the Way Down, he talks about light-years and time. Time doesn’t really exist, but we can divide it into intervals.
It’s finally the mid-session break (I gently believe that placing this break after week ten in a thirteen week semester breaks the rules of the word “mid”, but the strangeness of university administration is not the focus of this post) and I’m quietly reflecting – which I really don’t have time to do.
I’ve stopped today because this semester, my world has been fast.
Sometimes online dictionaries can be insightful. Other times, you need to look at open source platforms to determine actual word identities:
I didn’t intend to include such a long screenshot from Urban Dictionary, but I like this definition. The first paragraph is maybe how students would define themselves and one another (not me – I don’t like anything about alcohol). The second is something I would expect a certain cohort of university academics, or administration, to write.
That’s one thing the world gets wrong: yes, Urban Dictionary is seen as problematic (like Wikipedia) because anyone can edit it (even though there are still gatekeepers, so this is not strictly true), but this is its greatest strength. I am bemused that people think a bunch of entitled white guy gatekeepers controlling the output of a website makes it more reliable than a democratic information sharing system. But I’m digressing.
Being a student isn’t what I thought it would be. I’m literally smack bang on the path I dreamed of when I was in high school. And it’s so imperative I keep reminding myself of this. As soon as I reach my dream, I’m being stalked by an archer whose cleverly-aimed arrows are pinning me down with expectations and before long I am buried in so much stress and confusion about where I need to be, I’ve forgotten I’m living the dream of high school Claire.
Back to the speed of life. I’m working three jobs – none of which I seem to be quite good enough at. I am studying three subjects, one of which I probably won’t pass. I’m negotiating my time between each commitment, probably disappointing a bunch of stakeholders in my working life – but that isn’t really avoidable. It’s not necessarily difficult for me now to negotiate changing class timetables across my jobs. Although I’ve had trouble with a past employer, all of my managers now are happy to accommodate these changes. Not all of the university is; even in 2018 it’s an expectation from some people, with enough power to make things difficult, that a university student isn’t an active protagonist in any other story of employment, or life.
It’s discouraging. I may be lucky with my employers, but I know many other students who aren’t. Being caught in the toxic cord in between a university that insists on making itself the priority in your life, and a business that sees you as a transforming resource, isn’t advertised on the pamphlet in your mail box with a picture of a group of smiling twenty-somethings on the lawn. It isn’t mentioned in the job ad promising a warm, supportive workplace environment. It is difficult to make it through a semester with diminishing support from all ends.
I have barely written on this blog for a while; I’ve mostly been sneaking around the internet with disposable usernames on busy platforms where identity is displaced from the stories it belongs to, into some thick void. I’m still thinking and participating, just not right here, nor with my name. But I want that to change.
A Past-Tense Writer
I’ve lost the ability to call myself “a writer”. A writer is someone who writes and, for a huge part of this year, I hardly did this for a number of reasons. Writing as a safe outlet was taken from me. I also realised that my use of writing as an outlet is not always particularly healthy; the experiences in my life that pushed me into writing were not the good ones. So just maybe, this break happened for a reason, and today I write because I want to, not because I need to. I’m working on shifting this identity into a professional and recreational one, because writing isn’t always good therapy.
I’m still stuck on thoughts of public writing. I’ve written private stories on this blog, and while I’ve left them here, I’m still unsure if they belong. The long-time, constant questioning of whether my stories belong here might also have contributed to my written silence for much of this year. I came across this chunk of word vomit on the issue, which I typed in August last year:
About employers being able to trace our social media . . . and blogs. In terms of my blog and MY STORY (which is capitalised because it’s fucking important, even if no one wants to hear it), which ironically is going to cost me in the long run . . . in the workplace; employers will have access to that story. Does this mean they will be less likely to hire me? Are they entitled to make a decision based on that? I’d like to think I can handle myself in public but maybe that’s not the truth and maybe as I move further into adulthood these issues will affect me more, I don’t know. Maybe they’re entitled to think those things and tear my resume in half. (28th August 2017)
All that remains of my ‘writing’ identity are a few sporadic spirals of creative words in my uni notebooks, and a folder on my desktop brimming with word documents detailing bad days in class, work or at uni, where I was stuck with nothing but my computer to process spiralling thoughts.
In a word document called “poem” (not my most creative venture), live a village of couplets and words that kind of sound nice together, but definitely do not rhyme. Amongst tales of spiders who dance in October and a girl living on another star who might see a ghost coming, I found another line, an observation that sits by itself, that almost sounds like an ending to something – so I’ll leave it here:
I’m quietly watching the world piece itself together in ways I never foresaw.
Featured image: Patrisha via Favim