I wrote a paper last year regarding how discourse is a prevailing force in the creation of identity. To this day, it is still one of my favorite papers—not because it’s good (though it is, I think), but because it’s the first time I ever really identified with an assignment. It was the first time I really started to get myself. In the introduction to this paper, I compared discourse to Crayola crayons: “Discourse can be thought of like a box of Crayola crayons. Crayola continuously invents unique new colors, such as inchworm and fuzzy wuzzy. When we see a color that we don’t know, we assign the color to a lesser category in our mind and reject it because we have no prior knowledge of that color. Without prior knowledge of an experience, or, in this case, a crayon, the experience remains unnatural and not part of our identity. Once we have seen the crayon and the name on its label, we are then able to know what color to assign it. Without this assignment of a name, the color does not exist as a category. This is how discourse functions, bringing us the necessary experiences to shape us into individuals; we give an item power when we name it because we give it existence. The discourses or experiences that people have and the things that they learn are what make them the people that they eventually become, just like seeing a crayon with a unique name and then associating that name with a color. Power and knowledge are gained from discourse, and people would be completely different beings without it. Thoughts, exchanges of ideas, and conversations are unavoidable and affect how people view the things in their every day lives. Discourse is what forms a person’s individual identity.”
See, I get this paper; I get discourse. I get it, because there are so many different things that are part of my identity—and they’re not all good. As a matter of fact, most of them aren’t. But without all of these different threads, the different experiences that I’ve had, I would not be the person I am right now. I would not be where I am. I would not know the things I know. I would not have the power that I have.
I have named experiences within my life that I should never have had to name, that no one should have to name. But I have survived them. And I’m stronger for them. The thing about discourse is that I know my strength, and I firmly believe that this is because of what I have endured in my life. I am strong, and when new things come up I can conquer them because I have named things much more difficult. I have been shaped into someone who is awesome, and so much more tough than I give myself credit for.
I’ve been bothered by something for the past few days. I’m getting ready to graduate, and I met with my advisor to sign up for courses for my final semester. I only need three more classes to graduate (four to receive financial aid), and I really wanted one of those classes to be Shakespeare. Not only is our college’s Shakespeare course taught by my advisor (who is awesome), it’s also Shakespeare.
“Not marble, not the gilded monument / Of prince, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; / But you shall shine more bright in these contents / Than unswept stone, besmear’d with skittish time.” (Shakespeare, 55th Sonnet)
Beautiful writing. Enough said. If you don’t appreciate it, you’ve been living under a rock. The course is hard—lots of reading, lots of paper writing, lots of discussion. But my course load next semester was finally going to be low enough in terms of both workload and scheduling that I could make it work. Until my advisor informed of what would make up a large part of the discussion: rape, abuse, violence. Some of it as a comedy. And I knew then. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the course. I wouldn’t be able to sit through that, but I wouldn’t be able to walk out of class that often. I wouldn’t be able to be able to maintain a decent grade. I wouldn’t be able to emotionally take care of myself. This was something I wanted, for a myriad of reasons, and I had to let it go for my own wellbeing. I had to sign up for something else instead.
I beat myself up for it, for a while. That I wasn’t good enough. That I was triggered so easily. That I was still letting people hurt me; that I was always letting people hurt me. That I would never be okay. I focused on the bad aspects of the situation, that I am not okay, that I will never be okay, that I couldn’t sign up for the class. But I can see it now. I can see that I was so focused on that that I missed the good thing; I had recognized a need in myself. I had made a good decision in terms of taking care of myself, but I gave myself no credit for that. I forgot that sometimes, strength comes in just letting yourself be. Sometimes it feels like I will never really be okay; sometimes I forget that it’s okay to not be okay all the time. It doesn’t mean that I’m not good enough. It just means that I’m doing the best I can.
I was having a text messaging conversation with one of the best writers I know recently, and I told her that she needed to go out and get famous so that I could “know her.” She responded, “Wait—that’s what I’m expecting of you.” Her statement really surprised me, that someone who can write so incredibly would infer that I will someday be more than I am now. I don’t see life in statements of my goodness, but rather in areas where I have failed and lost. But the funny thing is, I am a good writer. I hear this all the time. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for me to see. I am good at this. I am good at many things, because I have survived many things. I am strong because I am still here, because I know the power that I have.
Without all of the threads, without every single piece, without everything I have named…I would not be good at many things. I would not be strong. I would not be anything at all.