I didn’t want to waste my last column on writing something sappy. With so many important issues in the world, I find it slightly irresponsible to solely muse on the self or to simply get deep. My goal for this column has been to provide my opinion on pertinent topics in a compelling, informed way. I want my voice to ring clear, loud and effective.
But as I scrolled through The Michigan Daily’s website for a lunchtime read, I found myself drawn to the reflective pieces that many of my peers had written in honor of the ending year or just contemplations on life. As nostalgia overcame me, I felt inspired to reflect on my own life and freshman year, so I sat down to write. I soon came to realize that writing passionately about a topic and writing passionately about yourself are two very different, contradictory things — even for a self-proclaimed narcissist.
Writing has always been my outlet. Since I was a kid, I would use my writing skills to persuade, move and entertain people. For example, I saved a lot of money on buying presents by writing songs or poems for my parents’ birthdays. In high school, I joined poetry club, the school newspaper and the literary magazine. I was constantly thinking, talking and writing, but always with careful calculation. I would agonize over words — tinkering and toying with language until I was sure I wanted to expose my work to an audience. I never let my words stand alone. I always stated a disclaimer before a reading. And I never, ever, wrote explicitly about myself — only characters with similar features.
A lesson I’ve learned in college is that vulnerability usually comes with hurt. To show real emotion, to allow yourself that honesty, will lead to pain. However, it is what comes in the fallout that is beautiful. There is a common conception that through suffering one produces the best art, and I can’t argue with that. I am grateful for my life and how smooth it has been for me, but my proudest creative works don’t come from a sunny summer afternoon or the smell of birthday cake, they come from a hospital waiting room or the floor of a public bathroom.
My freshman year has been contradictory— a combination of both exploding joy and forceful sadness. I often experienced isolation and togetherness within the same day. I felt impassioned in one class and resigned in another. I balanced finding myself with finding someone for me. In this constant limbo, I struggled to gain footing, and I seldom didn’t stumble. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I realized that by stifling these feelings, by masking their intensity, I was doing a disservice to myself as a writer and human being.
I have always feared expressing my emotions liberally, without the guise of character or fiction. Because of this, not only did my writing suffer, but so did my relationships. I lacked the vulnerability to bear my soul to the world because of fear of judgment, inferiority and rejection, and in turn, I faced miscommunications, missed chances and made mistakes.
So recently, in the name of my newfound “college maturity,” I started being more emotionally honest, and what I have discovered is that if what you write or say is what you feel, regardless of quality, it will touch someone. We are all disordered spirits, yearning for validation while craving solace. We all feel hurt with the same intensity as we feel love. And yet, we shy away from expressing the depth of the everyday — the commonplace.
On the exterior, our daily lives follow the same simple pattern: We wake up, we go to work or school and go to bed. It is the moments within this simple pattern that fulfill us as humans — and it takes words to illuminate this truth. Writing provides us with the soul of existence. Life in words is a shared glance in a dark room, the hum of bass in your favorite song and the first snowfall of April. Life in words is touching someone you love, the pumping of legs on a bike and the smell of pine trees on a Sunday morning walk. But life in words is also a drunken argument, an IV in your left wrist and a Frank Ocean album on repeat.
Art and writing, in particular, remind us of the intensity of simplicity. I have been guilty of spending my life in phases of boredom or just going through the motions. My writing and my life have been predictable, organized and neat. It took me 18 years and a few bouts of pain to finally realize the beauty in existence, both from hurt and happiness. And as I finish off what ended up being a sappy column, I’m nervous for its reception. To quell that anxiety? I think I’ll go write a poem.