So I am going to begin my first post with a depressing cliche: “I learned the truth at seventeen; that love was meant for beauty queens” (Janis Ian, At Seventeen).
Why begin this blog with a 1970s pop song that is heavy with the special brand of angst best known to teenage girls? Because, deep down, we all are battling our child selves…look at me, Mum, do you like my painting, Dad…you don’t answer because you are battling the hell inherent with caring for another child with a deadly illness? Well, that is OK, that is understandable…and my painting isn’t that good really, not to show to a professional illustrator…
Here, you can see my anxieties about why, a writer of almost twenty years, has never shared a blog with the world. I tried social media and it was for beauty queens – the overt attention whores with flocks of friends, family and admirers. I was never that girl and have plaintively begged the world for the wrong kind of attention all my life. Yeah, I am an over-sharer…in reality and everywhere else…and just recently, I have accepted this. As a writer, whether I was crafting a jingle for a milking technology company or writing an old man’s biography, I always shared myself between the lines. And as one who has kept a journal since 11, I know the release of sharing what wells inside. Only now do I realise that my feelings of alienation are not strange, individual or pathological.
My venture into social science and philosophy gave me formal, respectable qualifications – not like my art school diplomas and writing degree that both employers and social norms scorned. From this, new opportunities emerged. My grades were rewarded with entry into Honours and first class Honours with entry into a PhD program with wonderful colleagues to assist me in creating an academic self. I felt authentic, fulfilled, enriched with life…but somehow, I was missing an inexplicable piece. I have found it. It was my own acceptance of my enormous and unbridled creativity. Since I was twenty, I suppressed it to become more employable, more practical, more of an adult…and this is what underlies many issues I continue to face in my life.
The exploration of creative social research methods, like Geertz’s ‘thick description’, auto-ethnography and other approaches are only beginning to gain mainstream respectability with the academy. However, my own acceptance of such methods has just been found. Supervisors and colleagues identified repression in my initial attempts at thesis outlines and plans. Like a patient with a crippling – yet undiagnosed – disease, I sought their feedback hungrily. What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with me? Did I deserve my position in the academy? It felt so familiar, like my continual attempts to impress my parents and my other desperate attention seeking behaviors…
My fears that I did not fit in with the intellectually beautiful echoed my lifelong anxieties and exacerbated my obsessiveness. If I only worked harder! If I only was louder, more audacious! It is only within the last months that I found the dark frightening road that veers towards self-acceptance. It was with the assistance of some very special colleagues that I found the directions to this place and also, the important advice that nothing humans can do can be perfect. Life is cavernous, challenging, amazing, daunting, maudlin, fantastic and rich with contradictions. I can be both an existentialist who seizes life and pursues gaudy dreams…and a nihilist who sees only empty landscapes and dark motivations….
It does not make sense.
But like the academic journey and the profession I hope to enter, it is not meant to.
Thank-you for sharing my thoughts…I would be honored to hear your reflections in the comments section.