A personal turn

I started a blog with the intent of using writing to find a sense of purpose and direction–or rather, to hang on to my academic identity–while taking a break from formal study. That obviously did not go as planned. I realized, as my post-undergrad gap year progressed, that academic aspects of my life were not what needed attention. Literary commentary is a task I enjoy, but for now, there was more important work at hand: examining my personal values and desires outside of intellectualism.

Now, writing can have just as much of a role in personal discovery as in professional development, but I’ve never been particularly comfortable doing personal writing for public consumption. So instead of writing more blog posts, I journaled. In the months since graduation, I’ve filled hundreds of pages with the musings and ramblings that I suddenly have time for. And in so doing, I’ve learned things about myself and what I want, things that I hope to share here. This blog is taking a personal turn.

Of course, all that introspection has its downsides. I have at times dissected my emotions to the point where they didn’t feel real anymore, or worked myself into an unwarranted frenzy of anxiety. I’ve read obsessively on aspects of my identity that I’m trying to figure out. But this has all been necessary work.

I told myself when this “year off” began that I would use the time to learn to be alone again. To be not only separated from my friends, but without the constant hum of busyness that allows me to avoid my own thoughts while in school. I believe I am learning to live with myself, in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I know much more about what I want from work, from relationships, and from my daily life. I’m by no means perfectly happy, and I’ve wasted plenty of time, but each day I’m making progress in figuring out how to live my life–and how to write about it.

On writing and obsession

I find it ironic that, for all my talk of experience embodied in literature, my thoughts often seem to elude expression. Why do I so frequently feel that I cannot write what I’m thinking? Perhaps because, remaining unsaid, an idea exist only in its potential form. The nebulous is always, in a sense, beautiful; the sharply defined is open to criticism. Or maybe I’m simply acknowledging the struggle we all have to match internal to external–and to find words that feel like our own when it seems it’s all been said.

In my more grandiose moments, I liken this struggle to the strivings of Faustus or Frankenstein. The obsession with understanding and creation that goes into writing of any kind, and especially the personal and/or creative, seems to me to spring from the same impulse of which those two characters are extreme examples. We all wish for mastery, sometimes to the point of (self-)destruction. It’s easy to see the lure of such deep investment; it simplifies and gives a sense of purpose.

Contrary to the evidence of my infrequent writing on this blog, I have found myself obsessively absorbed in certain projects, especially my undergraduate thesis on Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. And in the words of Supernatural‘s Dean Winchester, it felt pure. (For the record, Dean was referring to Purgatory, which may be indicative of my belief that a certain amount of masochism is inherent in intense devotion to any project.) In those times of deeply engaged research and writing, I felt justified in shedding other concerns–like Frankenstein, “I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection [or inadequacy, anxiety, etc.] until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed.” Of course, it was never quite that easy–life has a way of asserting itself, and even “impersonal” writing inevitably becomes very personal indeed if you keep at it long enough. What happens when I acknowledge that I am both writing to get away from myself and writing as myself?