I have been spending the last week working on my practicum for work/school. I had initially leaned towards doing a research project on adult basic education. I’ve been teaching a class of three 19-21 year olds every Wednesday for a few weeks now. I like the work. I find it meaningful, and it suits me well. I think that may be the first time I have ever written those two sentences in my entire life. To give the reader context for that statement, I will be thirty-five in three months.
I’d like to think that my kids (I call them my kids, because they are still basically teenagers.) like me. I tell jokes with them, and I swear in class. Sometimes they tell me that they think a reading we’re working through in the text book is boring. I sympathize with them. I can see the frustration on their faces. The reading isn’t challenging. Maybe they feel like it insults their intelligence. Maybe just want to be somewhere else. I don’t take it personally. I just do my best to try and remember what it was like to be 19 and have that feeling like your whole life was just somewhere else. I remember that feeling so well. Maybe I remember it so well because it has persistently followed me since I was fourteen years old and stuck in a rust belt town in rural Pennsylvania.
I wrote a draft of a paper about my kids and I scrapped it. I wrote a second one and scrapped that too. I think I just couldn’t actually translate my enjoyment of working with my kids to paper.
I think it’s because it’s just that. Enjoyment. I’m so lucky for that, that my work is something I enjoy. I’m aware of that.
I found myself abruptly switching topics to writing as therapy, something I fall deeply into. I wanted to talk about writing as a means to heal, and work through our old traumas and horrors. I related my own story as a childhood sexual assault survivor. I talked about how a “trusted adult” encouraged me to write stories about my abusers where I was a victor, not a victim.
There is my first lie of the night. Referring to my mother as a “trusted adult” gives me a hearty chuckle. Of course, that part of the story is true. My mother actually encouraged me to write those stories. She gave me a black and white composition notebook to just that. I wrote those stories for a few weeks and then gave up on it as winter gave way to spring and I began to feel more calm in my ten year old body.
Of course, I left out the parts where my mother grew tired of my crying and my nightmares around a year or so after disclosing my abuse to her. I left out the part where after a move to a new state far away from my abusers she told me one night when I was eleven that it was “time to get over it.”. I left out the part where as adult, my abuse has been written out of the history of our lives. I left out the part where my mother attributes my bottomless anger and depression to the early death of my father.
I feel dishonest as a writer. I can’t just turn in a practicum to my colleagues where I say: “Yep, I was molested. My mom sucks too. Whatever. Long live nihilism.”
Even further into my practicum, my lies get deeper. I talk about writing as a means to heal. I talk about the power of the written word to transform our lives. I talk about it like writing has saved me. Maybe it has. Right now, I’m not so sure. I feel like the same fucked up kid I always did, even three months shy of my thirty-fifth birthday. I talk about writing as a force for positive personal change like I can ever concentrate on it for more than ten minutes at a time.
I talk about writing like it’s actually brought significant light to the darkness that lives in me. I talk about writing like it has brought any sense of functionality to my life. Maybe it has. Maybe it’s harder to see right now. It’s getting late here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s been dark for goddamn hours now.
I don’t know. It’s all the same words. It’s all the same stories; the ones I’ve told myself year after year about spending most days feeling like the living dead, or about trying to shape nihilism into a life. They are everything I know but goddamn it, if I’m not tired. Maybe I should shut up and take my own fucking advice.
I’ve spent years writing, filling up journals that I never share with anyone, writing blogs, zines, whatever else I can think of. I pour my heart and soul into staining pages with ink, and still feel empty, and empty handed at the end of the day. I don’t know what to show for it. I’ve got a zine that I constantly let out of print, because the shit is so filled with pain that it’s almost embarrassing. What did my bestie say when she was proofreading it for me?
“God, your honesty is almost uncomfortable sometimes.”
It’s true. Except right now I feel like I’m lying like I’m healed, or don’t have some vicious shadows crawling around my head and heart. Twenty years of writing it all the fuck down hasn’t changed that. Maybe it never will. I’m not gonna stop filling up notebook after notebook with black ink until maybe one day I’ll wake up one day and feel like the shadows have shifted a bit.
Tonight though, I’m a liar. I write like I’m healed. I write like I trust any of my feelings. Tonight it’s like most nights I feel like I’m stuck in a room where the January wind is howling outside my window and I’m fourteen years old and hopeless, and it’s 3:23 AM forever. Fuck this. I’m not even going to proofread this shit.
Edit: I lied again. I totally proofread this an hour after I posted it. Ha fucking ha.