lhexa ([personal profile] lhexa) wrote2010-11-13 08:20 pm

Abandoning a project

A couple of years ago I realized that I was using this journal to write myself, and made that endeavor an explicit project. [1] That was a mistake, and I am abandoning the project. I'm not abandoning the aspiration of creating myself through my writing, which will remain, but rather the ambition of doing so in a systematic manner.

Two realizations spurred this decision. First, for a few years now I have rarely been able to find my words. I thought this was just a side effect of a difficult, crisis-ridden graduate school career. No doubt that played a part in the loss, but now I think it is also a result of misunderstanding the circumstances in which I could find words... I saw that in using them I was creating, and assumed thereby that I was in control of that creation. Second, the degree to which I can shape myself is more limited than I had thought. I recently made a huge change in my life, switching the advisor I work under in graduate school to one much more suited to my interests, abilities, and temperament. This change came only after I was pushed to an emotional extreme, dug in my heels, and thought to myself, "I will not adapt."

I had misinterpreted the success of the previous periods of my life as matters of successful adaptation. I started out high school skipping classes profusely and receiving multiple suspensions, and ended it a top student who could redesign his classes on request, at last taking twenty AP tests over two weeks. [2] I started out college a socially inept, mediocre student who did not actually know how to study, and (after a thorough breakdown) ended it taking and acing eight classes per semester while also keeping a healthy social life. When my first few years of graduate school were also rough, I figured that, while I was slow to adapt, I eventually did so more fully than most, and simply had to wait for the adaptation. Yet the single act I've done so far to best improve my life in graduate school was a matter of refusing to adapt, a matter of changing my circumstances rather than changing myself.

Refusing to adapt requires a major change in the way that I think about myself. In particular, I don't know to what extent I can write myself, what I can and cannot give form via words. Looking at the way my project was structured reveals that I planned too much, that I assumed an endless plasticity in myself... it was as though I had undertook not only to create myself as a piece of writing, but also to create the language in which I would be written. But I can't do the latter. At best, I can learn that language in which I can be written, [3] but I have to take it as something beyond my control.

Not that I have much left to do in place of the project. I dislike talking about the mundane details of my life, a dislike which won't soon fade. I do like talking about, reconstructing, significant events from my past (you can see a few of these reconstructions immediately below), so there will be some of those. Occasionally there are segments of conversations with friends that I find worth sharing, and I'll continue to do that as well. This is a good practice, as I suspect that the language I'll need to write myself is exactly the language in which I can converse with my friends. Also, over the next few days I will comb the files of the abandoned project and post the worthwhile fragments. Beyond that, I'll be at a loss, without a clear idea of what to write, except that it should no longer be systematic, and that (following the previous post) I don't need to hold it to quite such high standards.

In the spirit of greater conversation, I'll ask those of you who made it this far: do you recommend anyone on Dreamwidth for me to add to my reading list? I have been a bit slow in expanding my social circle here.

[1] "Writing myself" isn't so much a metaphor as a system of metaphors, like my "ecosystem picture" from a few entries down. Ask and I'll point you to relevant entries, but I don't want to explain this concept in detail right now.

[2] And I made the top score on twelve, failing only one, winning all sorts of silly awards as a result. This is, oddly, the first time I have told this fact to friends... there's no way to say it without bragging, and I am ashamed of bragging. But I would rather be ashamed than keep secrets.

[3] Which is English, yes, though not all English. But a good writer never stops learning the language in which he writes.