Voices

Dec. 27th, 2009 04:55 pm
arguchik: (Default)
[personal profile] arguchik
Sometimes it seems to me as if my life has been--and probably will continue to be--a series of adventures in losing and finding my own voice. Voices. I know from looking back at my writing from past periods when I felt in touch with my voice, that the voice with which I spoke and wrote then is not the same voice with which I write and speak now. Past voices, such as I can connect with them now, anyway, through a backward-looking lens tinged with either rose or blue or green or purple filters despite my best intentions toward objectivity--though I still recognize a continuity that I mean when I say "myself," they seem a little strange to me now, alien. I feel a little baffled whenever I contemplate this phenomenon, but it also makes sense, and it makes sense that I would feel baffled by it despite it making sense.

I'm not sure I can explain. Writing and speaking have always been challenging for me, and the older I get the deeper the challenge seems to cut. And yet, to write and to speak are the only challenges I have ever really felt compelled to take up. It's just that meaning twists back on itself, it slips away from me and refuses to get through. I don't mean to fetishize an Enlightenment subject that must think and speak in order to be; nor do I mean to fetishize Derrida's deconstruction of that subject; nor any of the philosophy in between or after, feminist, marxist, antiracist, etc. I feel it all acutely, a thousand cuts in the paper on which I try to write, places where the ink veers unpredictably and says things I never meant to say. It's a wonder I don't simply pack it all in and retreat to safer ground. Who am I to speak? Who am I to write? What does this middle class, middle aged, divorced, unreproductive, white chick have to say that's worth listening to in this world? I am an essentialist and a determinist despite my vehement critiques of those standpoints, as if my ideas, to be put into legitimate words, must be grounded in a biological body and being that has been marked only by particular aspects of history. When it comes to myself, these ideas apply; but I will fight to the death to keep them from applying to others. It's the white man's burden all over again--spare me! Another cut to the paper, send the ink off onto another tangent, refuse this meaning.

So it's not really a process of losing and finding my voice, it's a process of seeking legitimacy for my voice, permission to speak, reassurance that I can say something worth listening to. But I have never been one to take easy roads. I can't simply say what others tell me to say, can't parrot pre-approved messages, can't stick to the party line (unless it rings true to me). This is what finally got me into trouble when I worked for the Union. I had to say the same things every day, and...while they were things that I believed in, they weren't the whole truth. On the job I saw other things, and had questions that I wasn't allowed to ask; criticisms I wasn't allowed to voice. I came to resent the scriptedness of the endeavor. I wasn't allowed to have real conversations with people, I had to stay on message. While I could--and still can--see the reason for that, I despised actually having to do it. Toward the end of my tenure in that job, I felt a bone-deep dread every workday morning. But who was I to question? Who was I to object, to drag my feet? The conflict silenced me, sent me into a tailspin of stress and anxiety, and ultimately led to me abandoning the job altogether, along with everything and everyone connected to it. I chose to do that. I felt that I had no choice; but it was a devastating loss, on many levels, primarily because it was reciprocal: they abandoned me, too. Oddly, my academic voice abandoned me along with those other things.

I guess it's not so odd. I have always had trouble compartmentalizing my various activities; not "trouble" in the sense that I regard it as a worthwhile thing that I am inept at, but rather in the sense that I don't get why it's necessary, and can't convince myself that it's worth doing, despite the fact that everyone around me seems to think so. As such, I have always considered my teaching, my political work, my creative work, and my academic work to be deeply connected and mutually reinforcing. I carry the same "self" through all of them, and I have always needed all of them in order to have any of them, and in order to have a "self." The pieces that I consider to be my strongest, best academic work were written at times when I was also grappling with deeply personal issues that bled into the work, sometimes very explicitly, informing it and informed by it. I have felt most committed, and have given the most of myself, to political work that resonates with my intellectual interests and personal reflections. I have been the best teacher during those times when I have been passionately involved in intellectual and political work. Etc. I could go on and on, but what I can't do is to trace it back to a beginning point, to a place where I could say with certainty, "this is what started it; this is the original thing, the prime decision, the first moment." They have "always already" been connected for me. I need them to be able to be connected.

I'll be clear and direct: my dissertation is giving me fits precisely because it's not connected in this way. I don't feel like I can put myself into it, thus I don't feel like it taps into whatever it is that I mean when I say "my voice." I feel acutely that this should be possible, if only I could find the right way to go about it; if only I got the proper authorizations, signatures, and approvals; if only I found the proper connections between theory, object of study, and critical practice that also connected into me, somehow. Both "out there" and "in here." That's what I desire, but as soon as I write it, speak it, I feel an impulse to wave my hand in the air and make it disappear, cut more slashes into the paper to carry the ink elsewhere. I recognize this desire: it is humanist, it is Cartesian, it is neoliberal (isn't it?), and it has been critiqued and deconstructed and historicized and yet still it persists. Recalcitrant. Resonant. Annoying.

The problem is that I want to speak and to write, without speaking and writing that, or without it being what I recognize it to be. I want to be able to transform it, somehow, to turn it into something else, something less problematic, something with different roots, different rhizomatic connections, different connotations and implications. I feel this desire deeply and personally, simultaneously and within the same circuits as I feel intellectually frustrated by its unspeakability, and yet still optimistic, somehow, at its insistence to be spoken.

What is left to say, what can be said, and by whom? Who can know? I don't know where this will lead, but I am going to follow it for awhile. It's a case of, "say this or say nothing." Still a choice, then. I will do my best not to get down on myself for choosing the former, or for choosing to do it here, which seems as good a place as any.

Date: 2009-12-31 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leporidae.livejournal.com
In the past few years, I've discovered that I rarely do anything unless motivated by strong emotion. Happily, most of my current actions are based on positive emotions.

Date: 2010-01-01 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristinking.livejournal.com
This essay is wonderful work. A lot of it is all too familiar to me, and some is not. I've been grappling with a lot of the same things, and I have found my own (partial) solutions, along with more and more questions. Shoot me a line by email if you'd like to have a conversation. Here is a shorthand beginning -

- "What does this middle class, middle aged, divorced, unreproductive, white chick have to say that's worth listening to in this world?" - Been reading Gloria Anzaldua, and she asked the same question - what authority does she have to speak as a Chicana / disabled woman / gay woman?

- I personally found that I needed to center on something - an emotion, or a purpose,

- I personally found that I could not speak without a specific someone to speak to. And what I say always depends on my perception of my reader.

- Compartmentalizing - how familiar!

- I realized that I'm never going to be in charge of where my writing goes.

- I realized it's always going to be problematic.

- What is left to say, what can be said, and by whom? Everything that was said before can be said again anew; anything can be said but the question is what should be said - what is crying out to be said; and we all can and must speak. And the deeper we go into our subject, the more it will come around to what is crying out to be said.

Luck & love,
Kristin

checking in

Date: 2010-01-18 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristinking.livejournal.com
Hi, wondering if you're still on LJ or if you have moved over to Facebook, & how things are going. If you're still on LJ, I'd like to friend you. Take care!

Re: checking in

Date: 2010-01-19 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arguchik.livejournal.com
Hi--I am here, just not very often. I do tend to post and read more on Facebook lately, but I also have been writing more in my analog journal. I'll go friend you now....

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