“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took the remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin
Recently, I’ve sought advice from a few friends over how I should go about saying what’s on my mind. I figure that since I’m a women’s studies major, it’s especially important that I do this. But how to go about it?
There’s a lot of empowering language out there about “being yourself” and “going against the grain.” But lived experience is much different than what you find in the movies.
As a feminist, I think it’s extremely important that I speak up, and I created this blog intending to do exactly that. But I have yet to post anything that really challenges the status quo. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends who are less critical of me than I am of myself. One pointed out that my recent childfree post was quite brave. But I wrote it because, as a twenty-three year-old, I feel as though no one really listens to me when I voice my opinion on that particular issue. My “biological clock” isn’t going to run out anytime soon, so no one’s really pressuring me into having kids. At this point, people are just like, “Oh, whatever, you’re twenty-three. You’ll change your mind. You’ve got time.”
And so I don’t feel like it was too much of a risk for me to write that; I wasn’t actively fighting against anything or anyone. There are so many more subjects that I want, nay, need to tackle. And, as Anais Nin points out above, there comes a point where it’s harder to keep quiet than it is to speak up. I’ve been teetering on that edge for a while; it’s getting really uncomfortable.
What’s weird to me is that despite my insecurities, I have this reputation as being pretty outspoken. And, knowing that I’ve kept quiet about a lot of things that get my ire up, I’ve always wondered what I did to earn that label.
Last night, though, I stumbled upon an old video of me (filmed the summer before my senior year of high school) competing in a poetry slam. Watching it, I thought to myself, “Damn. I was a brave writer.” My poem describes two people who enter into a marriage, each expecting or wanting certain things to happen. In the end, though, they just wind up doing exactly what society expects them to do as a married couple, because it’s easier. But that’s not what either of them had hoped for when they got married. It’s a critique of how limiting institutions can be.
I’ve always maintained that my poetry wasn’t political, that I only discovered feminism once I got to college, and that my lives as poet and feminist have never really intersected. But after I watched the video and re-read the printed version of the poem, I realized that I’ve been wrong to say that.
The difference between then and now is that as a poet, I just said whatever the hell I thought because I knew I could hide behind the idea of “poetic license.” Whenever anyone asked if one of my poems was about them, I’d say, “Well, it was partly inspired by your experience, but I embellished it in order to write a more compelling story. Don’t be offended.”
But although I was seldom willing to admit it, my poems were 100% honest. That’s exactly why I wrote more poetry than I did fiction. If it hadn’t been true, it wouldn’t have been such an effective outlet for me.
I think I’m having such a hard time articulating things now because with this particular medium of writing, I no longer have anything to hide behind. I can’t pretend that it isn’t real.
Maybe I finally stopped writing poetry because I got tired of hiding. And maybe I’m having a really difficult time right now because I realized that coming out of hiding is a lot harder than movies (which, unlike real life, have a script) make it look.
But I’m here, and I’m trying. This probably means that the first few times I attempt to speak my mind this way, I will probably tactlessly post something that’ll offend the shit out of people I care deeply about. Becoming a good poet took a lot of practice, a lot of revision. I think I’ve been afraid of jumping into this because I’m aware that the risks are higher for me as a feminist than they were as a poet. But it still needs to be done. I would have gone crazy without poetry, and I’m going to go crazy if I don’t find a way to say what’s on my mind now.
I could have scribbled this down privately by way of sorting out my thoughts before I tackle the issues at hand. But I figure it’s more human to include the “bloopers,” the process of getting there. That’s the kind of dirt that interests people, anyway. And the whole point of what I want to do is kill the idea that anyone has to do anything a certain way, and reveal that life is actually much more complicated (and interesting!) than what’s written into any kind of script.