Friday, April 01, 2011

It's so unnerving to get glimpses into how another person might perceive you and realize that it differs so greatly from how you perceive yourself. It's like the moment when you hear a recording of your voice or see video footage of yourself and realize there's a big gap between the reality of yourself in the world and the you that exists in your own mind and body. Self awareness is displacing. And if it's attended by judgment then that's just never comfortable. It's downright depressing. There's a reason people repeat the platitude that "what other people think of you is none of your business." We all know how difficult it is to shake the worst things anyone has had to say about us, and how easy to just stew in them, and let them dictate how we view ourselves, completely ignoring or forgetting every compliment we've been paid, every kindness we've been shown. Shame is so fucking powerful.

I can be such a terrible student. It's so frustrating to know that caring about material deeply does nothing to yield insight about it, and no one wakes up one day with the ability to write clearly and insightfully about things outside of themselves. It takes many steps to produce something really readable, that's why stylistic formalities exist, not just to frustrate the writer but to make things more legible for the dear reader.

I know I need to give things more "air time," and context when it comes to any kind of visual or cultural analysis. I must face facts that I'm not only not getting anything down on paper because there might be just one more book out there that I should maybe read before I sit down to write that's really going to prove to be that final illuminating puzzle piece I need to get me to enlightenment and understanding, but really that I'm so terrified that what's going to come out will be unclear and that I truly just have nothing to say and that I just don't have the necessary faculties and background to get through all of these projects successfully, that I avoid even trying to write at all costs.

There's so much to account for that I don't know what to focus on any of the time. I need to have more awareness about what is impacting my thinking, too, and be careful about my behavior as a result of whatever I'm allowing to influence me.

I wrote a paper recently, and I didn't know it was terrible, but when I re-read it later it of course dawned on me that it was in fact terrible . My argument was unclear, my punctuation was a mess, it wasn't up to snuff by any particular measure. I thought I was saying something complicated, but I wasn't really saying much of anything at all. It was, rightfully, graded quite harshly.

I was dwelling on this for a couple of days, and in that time, also reading about Derrida, and thinking about the fragmentary writing of Gertrude Stein and how much closer I think it gets to expressing something true than a very polished piece of writing ever does, and having thoughts like "I hate sentences!" and generally just being a cliche of an angsty, depressed college student, when I went to a class where the professor was giving a lecture on the rudiments of good essay writing. I was feeling melancholy and self loathing and I started asking him questions in class about, like, what good a thesis does anyway when we consider that objective truth is impossible and a thesis is this assertion of illusion as truth  that you're asking your reader to buy and that seems unfair, and language is made up of signs that are part of a network of signs and isn't it better to assert that you are going to interrogate an idea or a network of ideas but not argue that something is true because that would be anathema to everything we've been discussing about the construction of meaning? My thinking about it was muddled, and still is, but I have problems with the whole framework that all essay writing should be making an argument. That seems silly and narrow. Anyway, if it sounds like I was being really annoying and inarticulate, than I've at least done a good job here of accurately rendering the scene. I can't believe I was being the archetype of the weird, antagonistic person  in class. I was that student everyone hates because she's off topic and self absorbed and is wasting the class and the professor's time.

Like anyone who becomes that figure, I wasn't doing it on purpose. I didn't even realize I was doing it. In that moment, I couldn't step outside myself, or whatever I was saying I erroneously  believed to actually be contributing to the class, not detracting from it. But self awareness came to me later, and I shudder to think how I was perceived in that moment, just as I shudder to think how all of the terrible writing I've done that I thought was great was betraying me as ignorant when I didn't realize it was. And now I shudder to consider that was one moment where I didn't realize what I was doing but had insight into it later and felt appropriate remorse and shame, but, how many moments have gone by where I thought I was doing the right thing with absolutely no perspective about how wrong it was? It doesn't do any good to dwell on the mistakes that have gone by I suppose. They can't really be remedied now. But I don't want to go about life completely unaware how ridiculous I'm being, how much people sitting around me are giving me the "judging you" face and I don't even realize it.