Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A struggle for meaning

It must have been the fourth or fifth time: I enthusiastically sought a place at a university, only to remember how little of institutional life actually agrees with me upon receiving an offer. 'Why did I want to study a language for a hefty price when I can continue doing so on my own, for free? The only thing I lack is more motivation.' 'Yes, I could study French in addition to my beloved español, but that would do nothing to diminish my surging sense that I should have been learning Swedish (which isn't offered) all along.' 'Even if I focus overwhelmingly on Spanish, I still have to suffer the ideologically right-wing flavour of the general Arts elective selection.' 'Tell me why did I sign up just to drop out before the term starts again?' 

And so it goes. I'm disappointed in myself. I bought into the idea that a degree would increase my sense of self-worth on a superficial level, neglecting the inconvenient deeper understanding that my eccentric philosophies do not mesh well with USyd or UNSW. (I've studied at both in the past.)

Maybe I'm throwing myself at the wrong things. It's easy to underestimate Duolingo. In reality, the free website and app have been crucial to my current successes. I can actually hold an uncomplicated conversation with Spaniards now. My experiences with speaking Spanish to native speakers are not too dissimilar to this journalist's German-speaking journey. Oh, the thrill -- not just of understanding my taxi driver, but -- of being understood. I wish I could have stayed longer - I only started talking to strangers in my last week or so. Nothing could have prepared me for the natural high of constructing sentences in my new language. It was a part of me that had been waiting to emerge, but needed the right moment. I want to practice again, so I'll see if I can go to Argentina, Chile or Spain soon.

This is actually the thing I'm currently most enthusiastic about right now: travel, language acquisition and use, and possible fluency. I thought I'd best focus on that, since this post had its roots in depressive musings about all the free time I have and how I could be applying myself a lot more.

So then, my challenge is to embrace the Spanish-learning journey and let it transform me. Put more effort into it. Such effort will pay off. I can take it to the next level, baby. Step by step, there's no level of proficiency I can't attain. It does require some redirection:

I set myself a challenge for 2018, to learn Swedish, but maybe I should stick with Spanish until I become quite fluent in that. That way I can enjoy a greater, more meaningful sense of progress. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Emotional intelligence trumps detached intellectualising every time

A few weeks ago I unfriended an acquaintance who was bugging me on Facebook. Superficially, she shared the same values - she was feminist, antiracist, left-wing and stood up for disability rights. But I had come to feel that I was being constantly negated in tone, through her patronising 'information dissemination' my way. I decided I had had enough, explained that I needed sensitivity, not facts, and got the unsurprisingly tone-deaf response which led to the unfriending.
Miss K was trying to connect through detached intellectualising, which had the emotional resonance of unending 'improvements' on my status updates. I have a flow. I like it when people work with the emotions that inform my flow, creating a harmonious social exchange. I work on the friendships which make me feel good, which has served me well in the past and continues to do so today. Miss K's comments were making me lightly doubt myself, instead of steadying myself through the social act of sharing statuses. In the end, the continued obliviousness to my emotional needs reached the point where I wasn't willing to put up with it any longer. And that is sad. Sad, because this person was very intelligent and helped me strengthen some of my points as an ally. As with everyone, there was good as well as bad. I did not give up on our communication without some regret. But, looking back, I'm confident I made the right decision.

I've been thinking about the social cohesion that ideologies such as religion foster. There was a Guardian article about how much more existentially at rest were people who subscribed to the dominant Christian spirituality of their time, be it in medieval times, or even now. As an atheist, I swim against the unconscious tide. I resist Christmas celebrations, sure, but more than that, I resist shame over my sexual drive. I resist theologically based misogyny. I resist the US-driven sense of righteousness which filters down into Australian culture. Why be 'good' when you can be 'fabulous'?

And all this resistance leads to constant questioning, which leads to doubting aspects of my deeply ingrained psyche, which leads to difficult emotional states. No, I'm not saying I wish I were like everyone else, but rather, it would be easier if my society were a more supportive one. Like Sweden, where atheism *is* the norm. *Sigh* If only.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Los sueños de Sevilla

I've been having romantic dreams about genius girls, getting through the hard times together. In real life, I am struggling to feel connected on the road, where company is both plentiful and hard to find.
Seville is like a giant red ribbon which tickles my noise and demands my attention whenever I fling myself at the city centre.
I also find myself beguiled by whatever mysteries in terms of countries I might conjure for myself in the near future. I am here, and I also feed off the cognitive awareness of many places in which I'm not, both known and unknown. It serves to highlight this current jewel in my Spanish tiara. Jewellery metaphors are apt: I made the acquaintance of a French shop seller today, and purchased 3€ pendants for myself and a few others. The stall was smack in the middle of the Festival of Nations, which included wooden Buddha statues the sizes of chairs, dream catchers of any size you can imagine, and Belgian waffle burgers (one of which I consumed and found a little small). 
I need to come back to Spain in order to see the following: 
Salamanca
Toledo
Segovia
Bilbao
That's two weeks' worth of sights already, I expect.
And I will never ever get enough of Barcelona.
I also find myself dreaming about Southeast Asia and Latin America. Homestays, anyone?


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Feminist Poem #1

Something happens to me
When I chance upon that street
The arrival of conviction
That I'm right to move my feet
To rhythms old, made new again
Previously disparate experiences meet

I'm the agent, look no further
Self-assurance has been found
With each step, a brand new hunter
Operates discreetly on the ground

But where to now, as
The end swiftly looms
I must bottle up the essence
Before my blood begins to boil

Locked into feminine grooves
A choice we make that's easier made
When we turn to patriarchy for protection
The willingness to open herself up
To criticism, no matter the occasion
Automatic self-hatred, it comes with the territory
Until you turn it on its head
Speak without hesitation
Expect no interruption
Assertion is the scheme
Under which you operate, till
They turn away, uninterested
Knowing that you don't cave
Knowing you're not in it to be disrupted
Sometimes aghast at the boldness of your defence
Sometimes already not listening
You're better off without them
Increase the volume on your shout
Bask in a self-love that's showing
And won't be contained - it's out!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Untitled Prose Post #1

Starting a post without a title is sometimes necessary for a stream of consciousness to form. I'm listening to Swedish radio and thankful for the interconnectedness of the world, whereby I can choose which cultural frequency to be on. Sure, I can't understand the words, but I can be inspired by confident female laughter, a strong sense of assertion, and a heightened sense of female authority emanating from my laptop.
I'm thinking about why I find it so hard to articulate my sexual needs. This is a hypothetical personal query, since I am not dating or sleeping with anyone. I can pinpoint specific absences of being taught agency in regards to sex throughout my life, starting from the family perspective and continuing on through sex education, conversations with peers, and messages from the media... I'd like to build on whatever sense of agency I do have, which may not feel like much sometimes (especially if I'm comparing myself to my progressive social circles). I'm afraid of getting punished, I guess. But by whom? Anyone I invite into intimacy would be someone I trust not to use my sexuality against me.
I was listening to Britney Spears' 'Hold It Against Me', and while Britney is pretty much the postfeminist posterchild, there's a plea there for something that's often on the gender equality agenda. So often, women are shamed for communicating sexual interest, let alone a 'plan of action'. I, for one, long to take a page out of Lady Gaga's book and 'not give a fuck' about misogyny, but I'm afraid of being raped again, or beaten, or even killed. Perhaps I fear the force inside me, instinctively acting in more cowardly ways so I can evade the worst of the backlash. I feel like there are two "me's"; one is learning all the ways she can possibly be empowered in private, and another is systematically watering it all down. When I started spending most of the night awake, I felt more connected to my furtive sense of emotional growth, and it's for this reason I loved it. But I need to be part of the world. It has things to offer me that I can't find by myself. Even if sometimes all I want is to be left alone.

When you're (for a lack of a better word) not neurotypical like me, writing is intense. I find comfort in the turbulence of my own mind, owning it and packaging it up for the world (or thirty persons) to read. Turbulent mental patterns are part and parcel of being a 'woke' human in 2017... but so are peace and delight (though the latter may not be as frequently present). I've articulated here many thoughts I couldn't bring to you before - there's always a fear about writing about sex and whatever other controversial subjects I naturally gravitate towards. I hope you'll contribute to the narratives of the people in your life by creating something similarly honest, brave, wild and free. I love you. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Untitled Poem #1

Sometimes I feel like a winner
Sometimes I feel like a loser
Ah, but in search for such categories
I lose out on the complexity

I neglect the victory behind the latest descent
How I'm wound up with elation and torment
And while I can't claim to feel more positive emotions than bad
I've got some kind of balance, compensation for the sad

Search for me and you'll find me elusive
I'm never more compelled to change
Than when I aim for unequivocal emotion

The solace of certainty
Quickly reveals itself
To be anything but

Transience may make for niche reading
But it's the sense I keep returning to
The state I can't write my way out of




I doubt you're reading this, so

I doubt you're reading this, so
I have permission to break away
From your cross-continental pull
The gravity you represented
Made you someone I resented
And the longing for an anchor has to stop

Why is it so hard to stake my claim
Or even recover my instincts
My creed
Once writ large?

I fear they'll never understand
That my high ideals are just a shadow
Of the faith I know is possible

What passes for the sensible
Was counterintuitive for so long
They've tried to blunten my sensitivities
But I'm still holding on

Motivated anew
I'll be the traitor if I must
Seeking life-affirming motion
Little left for me here

Still I must haunt these streets
The end is not yet in sight
To this commitment to a beginning
That can only be known in the moment of its occurance