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why I write

October 10, 2011

Lately I’ve been reading about post-colonialism, structural inequalities, fears of invasion by alien hordes, and other topics related to belonging, nativism, and hybridism.

I’m seeking to understand how anyone decides that they belong to a certain place, a certain community. And then how anyone voices their experience, so that it is heard and becomes part of a wider discourse.

I mainly use my blog to examine issues or experiences that trouble me, so I can puzzle out why, and then figure out if I can do something differently. Even if the issue or experience is unlikely to recur, I still find it useful to look at the situation from multiple angles, so that hopefully my understanding is widened. I know how I remember it, but if I look through a different lens, I often pick up on details I missed before, details that might be crucial to reinterpreting things.

My blog has been a way to write memoirs, on the fly.

I don’t prize consistency, nor do I strive to make sure all my (past) observations and conclusions agree with whatever I think and feel today. When I re-read older posts, I can see how my thoughts and ideas and philosophy have evolved over time. To me, that’s a good thing.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers, or even any answers. I just want to find good questions to ask. And my criteria for determining a ‘good’ question changes over time, as my circumstances change.

+++

Recently I was contacted by an ex-friend who expressed an interest in rekindling our friendship. Our original relationship began in middle school and persisted through high school, but we lost touch after graduation. Some years later, we reconnected briefly, twice, but no friendship resulted. I was frankly surprised to hear from this person again, because it seemed clear to me that whatever brought us together 30 years ago no longer existed. Still, I bore zie no ill will, so I ruminated for a couple days about how to kindly decline hir invitation. Hir response, though, was quite antagonistic. Zie apparently has a flawless memory about all of our youthful adventures together, and so when I write about my own past in a way that zie doesn’t approve of, it must be because I’m a liar and a bad person.

What I found most interesting about this exchange was that this person’s interest in me seems to begin and end with the person I last was c. 1980. No matter how many ways I tried explaining that I’m not that person anymore, and that all of the major milestones that have happened in my life occurred after zie and I were no longer friends, zie never seemed to understand what I was (and wasn’t) saying.

Reading Postcolonialism: A Guide for the Perplexed by Pramod Nayar last night, gave me a different perspective on what might be going on.

“[Bharati] Mukherjee captures an important aspect of diaspora consciousness: the nostalgia for a lost world. … These representations of the immigrant suggest a strong nostalgic sensibility, where the sense of home refuses to go away even after years of ‘exile’. Such immigrants of course see displacement almost exclusively as exile, and carry idealized versions and visions of their home with them.” (pp. 165, 167)

My ex-friend lives far away from where we grew up, where hir family still lives. Like many adults everywhere, zie has had trouble finding people to develop deep friendships with, the kind zie remembers so fondly from adolescence.

Zie’s laments reminded me of what I read of ‘diasporan consciousness’. Maybe none of this is about me, but only about hir homesickness, or feeling like zie doesn’t truly belong anywhere.

And then I realized that, both times when I was living in Indiana, I consciously felt like I was living ‘in exile’. The first stint in Indiana, the ‘home country’ I longed for was Chicagoland. Then we moved there, where we stayed for 1-1/2 years. And I was miserable. So the second stint in Indiana, I still felt like I didn’t belong there, but I was also displaced from Chicago. Could I then be ‘homesick’ for some place I’d never been? Actually I tended to long for upstate New York, where I’d lived for 10 weeks as a newlywed. Spouse got a job offer that would have returned us to upstate New York, but it fell through. The next job offer got us to Maryland. And it was in Maryland that I first connected to my landbase, and realized I was ‘in exile’ no more.

Had I reconnected with my ex-friend while I was unhappy in Indiana, it might have been possible to rekindle a relationship. But I think it would have still foundered once I realized my ‘home’ was Maryland, not Chicagoland.

+++

I write to better understand myself, others, and the world around us. I write to discover overlooked connections between me and others. I write to share my experiences.

I write because I’m a writer.

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