I have been giddy about the amount of writing that I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been especially excited about the parallel increase in my reading, walking, listening to music, social activity, and attendance at political events. I’m kind of just feeling great in general these days, and it’s so refreshing.
I have felt a little bit weird, however, because I was writing a post every day and the last two days I didn’t write anything. In part this is because I’m working on a critical review of AK Thompson’s book, Black Bloc, White Riot; but it’s also just because I wanted to take a break for a few days and see how it felt.
Nevertheless, I have a lot of things that I’m working on for this week and next:
-The review of Black Bloc, White Riot (which will also touch a lot on the question of violence in political struggle)
-A piece reflecting my current relationship to ablism in my personal life and movement work (prompted by a nice, loving poke from a friend of mine about the stark absence of discussions of ablism in my writing)
-An update on my real life video game, a discussion of my cool new rewards system, and my anticipated “endgame”
-A return to my piece on Presence, Power, and Popular Education (once again thanks to AK Thompson’s book)
-A reflective letter to myself on the event of my 30th birthday (this Sunday!)
I doubt I’ll get all of these done, and I also expect some spontaneous writing, but it helps me to set my aspirations out there in public, particularly because I’m now using this site pretty consciously to slowly prepare myself to write for publication.
But this discussion of my posts brings me to something I want to write about briefly here: the personal damage that growing up as a straight-A student and in gifted programs did to me.
It was really hard to go two days this week without writing anything for this blog. I had committed myself to write a post a day–even though I think such a goal is probably not even healthy or useful anyway–and when I couldn’t keep up with that I got caught in the same downward spiral I always get caught in: if I can’t do it flawlessly from day one, then it’s not meant for me and I should quit.
This is something that I’ve had within me since at least 3rd grade. It’s something I internalized from being put in a gifted program at that age, and then all of the praise that I received since. I came to believe really deeply that a truly talented and intelligent person 1) does everything right on the first try, and 2) doesn’t ever ask anyone for help.
This is what caused me to cry right in the student lounge of my high school when I got my only A- (which I later got changed through extra work). It’s what’s caused me to walk away from every single writing project I’ve ever started after the first draft…because the idea of it needing changes was a sign to me that it wasn’t worth publishing in the first place. It’s what keeps me hoarding all of my ideas for years because I never think they’re ready to share.
While obviously being treated like I was smart and being encouraged and thrown resources has done wonders for me since childhood, and it gave me all of the key opportunities that have led me to my life now, I still need to acknowledge this damage. The damage is real, and it’s profound. It pops up sometimes in the weirdest places of my life. It’s definitely a part of my cycles of depression. It’s also an underlying cause of the anti-social elements of my personality that I discussed a couple of days ago; not just that I was taught a kind of arrogance, but I was also taught to not show my full self because of the flaws it might uncover. Further, it completely colors all of my family dynamics.
Since high school I’ve tried to break this internalization apart: in all of the times I dropped out of school…my GED, the 4-5 times I dropped out of college, the choosing of low-paying jobs that focused on social justice, etc. I tried to believe that I was over it, but I definitely am not. This blog has actually helped a lot, and my job, relationships, and organizing have also taught me a ton (because I’ve needed to learn to stay present and learn lessons from mistakes in all of those areas, without purity and self-flagellation). But there is still work to do. And preparing myself more intentionally to try publishing my writing is going to be a big step.
So in the end I’m really glad that I could go two days without writing and then come back today (I almost gave up, to be honest). I need to better learn the skill of making mistakes in my intellectual work, in sharing incomplete thoughts, in hearing and then responding to feedback, etc.
I’m so glad I haven’t given up. I feel myself on the verge of really beautiful growth that’s been a long time in waiting. I don’t want my internalized needs for purity and personal perfection to sabotage these possibilities. This time, I want to grow in messiness.