02 April 2011

irreconcilable differences

While sitting through yet another shift at the library, my mind wandered to thought about plurality. More specifically, I began to think about the plurality of identities in a single person.

As an added layer of complexity, imagine the word “plural” spoken with a Swedish accent. Because I always do.

Strangely enough, writing makes me think about things. Weird, right? Since I posted about it, I can’t help but think about my reluctance to classify things. First, I thought about how stereotypically douchey it sounds when people say they “hate labels.” No wonder other generations are frustrated with mine.

But, as I am a product of a time and place, is it inevitable that some ideologies, no matter how vapid, will be transferred to my consciousness. I suppose the best thing for me to do at this point is recognize that self-obsession, and try to begin to understand the logic (if there is any) behind it.

I mentioned that there is a distinctly American philosophy that everyone is special, and categorization takes away from that uniqueness. Standardization glosses over the nuances that make people who they are. I still stand by that statement. But to pinpoint the precise problem, I think that it is important to think about what makes a person unique.

This is where the plurality kicks in. I think that much of my generation’s aversion to labeling comes from an inability to reconcile, or even recognize, the multiple identities that reside in a single person. Plurality, in my experience anyways, comes from fragmentation, and I often wonder how in-depth I should go to explain this fragmentation in a way that doesn’t seem quite so labored.

In the true fashion of my generation, I am going to use myself as an area of study. It is the most accessible subject, and I daresay I understand myself more than I understand other people.

Also, being who I am, I am going to analyze this fragmentation with respect to my writing.

I have neglected posting for the past few days. It’s hard to articulate why exactly. The closest word I can think of to express my feelings is inadequacy.

At the manifest level, I mean it in the most literal sense of the word. I find myself wanting to write, but not believing in my execution. Maybe my inspiration isn’t strong enough. Maybe I don’t have the emotional sophistication to walk the fine line between angsty bitching and sardonic observation when writing about real issues. Maybe it was idealistic of me to think that writing every day would somehow contribute to my betterment.

Whatever the truth may be, I have five or six documents open on my laptop, each in some state of incompletion. I physically cannot bring myself to finish, so I begin another with the hope that the next one will fare better. I guess I didn’t realize how invested I am in this project until I found myself unable to participate.

But the inadequacy stems from a deeper place. I was talking to a friend of mine, and he asked whether my writing changes when I know that someone in particular is going to read it.

I hadn’t put that much thought into it (surprising, coming from the girl who overthinks everything, I know). But he did bring up a valid point. It does change. There are certain things that I cannot, will not, share with certain people, and once the subject is broadcast for public consumption, there is no way I can control who reads it.

If you were wondering where the notion of plurality becomes relevant again, it’s here.

I suppose the reason plurality has been so heavily on my mind has much to do with my background. Both of my parents immigrated to America, so calling myself American feels weird, like I am disregarding history. Racial identity, too, is a nightmare. I’m not purely one race, I’m not technically biracial, and I have semantic issues with the term “hapa” because it implies halving, and my racial divide is not split down the middle. If forced to choose, I will consider myself Asian, but it will probably always feel like a lie. It is precisely because of these reasons that I have never really aligned myself with any racial identification groups at any of my schools.

But this fragmentation materializes when it comes to my writing. As I previously mentioned, my voice changes depending on my intended audience. I keep parts of myself distinct and only call upon certain elements when appropriate. I suppose this is true of everyone. And I understand that it is a problem. But it has never been so apparent as it is now, as I sit here in front of my laptop, trying to articulate my thoughts without losing anyone.

There’s no way I can talk about romance here. Nor religion. Nor race (minus what I already have, but I felt like a concrete example was necessary). I just can’t.

Maybe someday I will break these rules. I wonder if, in the future, I will be able to write freely. But I cannot. Not right now. My inability to reconcile the fragmented parts of myself prevents that freedom. For now, I’ll settle with censoring myself. Even though it feels like I’m lying a little bit each day.

But then I started to think even more about censorship. The very act of writing, regardless of intent, inevitably involves censorship. A writer’s brain is a censor. I choose my words very carefully. Despite the frequency with which there are typographical errors in my work, I swear I edit. I cannot escape.

Then I started thinking about free will in general and subsequently bummed myself out. Maybe I should stick with lighter topics for now. Since I can’t reconcile my fragmented identity, I can work within the space I have created for myself, gradually expanding until my whole mess of self fits. And I will get there. Eventually.


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