#WhyIWrite – Survivors and Monsters

It’s been a hell of a week, but one that seems to be ending on a happy note. Our school’s WASC visit went well, and I’m happy it’s Friday.

I’ve been fairly quiet on social media, simply because I’ve felt bone-tired most of the week. It’s that time of year where both the students and teachers are crawling through to Thanksgiving break, just doing our best to find the moments for joy and laughter when the gloomy clouds of the October/November Doldrums break.

I did catch the #WhyIWrite tag (which José Vilson wrote about eloquently from the perspective of an educator). I know I have that piece sitting somewhere inside me, but I’m not in a space where I can dig it out.

It did make me think of two reasons, though.

The first is that writing, in many ways, is an act of survival. Like lots of people (especially, let’s be real, women of color), I have overlooked, ignored, or been unable to recognize a number of different, small traumas in order to live in white dominant culture. Speech changed, clothing changed, body image shifted. Writing has helped me parse through some of those mixed feelings on paper. It helps me find the space to be angry, be confusedraise my voice and also make a safe-haven for it that can be reflected on. Without being able to put those things in one space– to cut, copy, paste, realign and find new ways to put it out there– I don’t know that I’d be able to deal with it.

The second reason, though, is to turn the mirror back on myself. Given the above existence, my own penchant for drama would make it easy for me to always see myself as the victim, the heroine, the protagonist of the story.

The problem is, life doesn’t work that way, and I’m not always the heroine. The white space of a blank page can be unforgiving and pushes me to ask questions of myself I may not normally pose. When I write, it forces me to turn back to a situation and ask, “What happened here?” At times, I come as the reflective survivor, returning to an emotional place to work through it and eventually heal.

Sometimes, though, I am returning to the scene of the crime.

I am not perfect, and when I ask, “What happened here?” I am often forced to reconcile my own shortcomings. I am made to see the places when I have hurt others, silenced voices, or simply been a less-than-stellar human being.

If writing is rewriting, then writing is also the opportunity to hit rewind and play, again and again, on the memories we have and the stories we tell. It is easy to read a situation the first time and see ourselves as the noble dragon slayer, overcoming and persevering through a tough moment.

Occasionally, we realize that we were not the slayer, but that some part of us is the creature to be slayed. We understand that it is not our job to play victim or heroine to someone else’s monster, but that sometimes, we realize that we are the monster instead.

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