Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Letter

Everyone has a particular childhood story that is recited in every possible occasion, one that makes the listeners laugh and the parents proud. 

"Little C. used to be the leader of the pack in kindergarten, she had everyone on her fingers," "We couldn't get Little M. out of the water when other babies used to be scared of it, he was such an ardent swimmer," "All the girls had a crush on Little E., he was that charming," "Little A. once sternly argued in class that love was a good thing, and got smacked by her primary school teacher," "Little B. was such a responsible child, she learned to go to the potty all by herself when she was but one." 

As you grow up, these stories are told so many times that you can't stand to hear them any longer. They're insufferable once you come to the realization that they're not so special after all - that everyone must've had a fight to protect their sibling, was a master of mischief, or a bibliomaniac with limited vocabulary. 

But you see, even when they are all cliche, telling these stories is always a win-win situation. The audience is amused, parents can boast, and you can use them as an icebreaker in almost every social setting even if you seriously lack smalltalk skills. Their commonness is justified because they are functional, as tiny funny insights that offer a perspective on your life.

I have a funny childhood specialty too. I used to talk to the animal prints on my bedsheets in a make-up language. "Not talking to herself at all, mind you," my mother always emphasizes, intent on demarcating her creative child from a mad one, as if there exists a real difference between the two at that age. "I used to watch her from afar," she says, pulling an exaggerated expression of awe, "it was as if she had all these exciting things in her mind that she could only share with her bedsheets."

This is the basic story. Thanks to what I call the 'over-constructive anamnesis' sickness on my mother's side, we had already acquired a rich repertoire of various versions by the time I reached puberty. 

I'm telling all this because I think it might offer a perspective about this com-puh-letely self-centered, somehow personal yet still distant, hopefully entertaining but admittedly useless exercise in writing that has materialized in this blog. And come to think about it, it is a funny angle to look at things as they are now: Imagine me sitting at a desk, typing away on a bedsheet, trying to communicate my thoughts to teddy bear prints!

I really don't think that blogging (of this specific genre) can have a purpose: like a journal or a scrapbook, you keep it because you have things to say, draw, jot down, be amused about, covet, or merely take note of. And although doing such things isn't a complete waste of time, it does feel funny when you make them public. Constantly weird.

This is a place to relax and let the words go. It's not serious, not properly edited, and certainly not an art of any kind. It's rather a recognizably gender-specific, a faintly elitist fantasy-world that Westerners prefer to call a "personal hobby." Since it's a bit awkward to let your personal thoughts and things go public, as if the public cares, I think I'm compelled to offer a justification here. In fact, I'll tell you a short story about it.

For the past few years, I'd been ailed with the inability to write. Awful, awful writer's block, ever since I started college and found myself in another city. It certainly does wonders for the psyche of a post-adolescent Eng-Lit junkie whose definition of herself was "an author-in-the-making." Frustration abound. I scribbled things occasionally, but nothing much came out from these hands that had kept journals for more than 10 years. It's true, I used to write every single day, and did not tire of it. 

At this stage in my life, when I cannot utter a single sentence without making sure it's properly cited, I cannot even begin to understand how I managed to think of so much stuff to write about.

(Or how I managed to live my life instead of trying to put it on paper, for that matter.)

Somewhere up in a closet in Istanbul, there's a big box containing my journals, letters, photos, drawings, newspaper clippings & what not. Desperate for inspiration in my blocked state, I attempted to go through them a few years ago. The experience of going back in time to my adolescent mind was too uncanny, too uncomfortable than I'd like to admit, however. I'd expected it to be a nostalgic moment, with lots of sympathisch "aaah"s and "ooh"s, but no. I was a complete outsider, looking at the petty musings of a 15-year-old. I just didn't care any more. What was all this stuff, why was I still keeping them, hiding them? What good are they if they do not matter even to me? 

This puzzled me for a looong time: Am I trying to literally bury the past? Do I dwell on the possibility that some day someone might read the journals, look at the scrapbooks?

Riding on a bus at night, I'm often overcome by a sudden rush of paranoia. I imagine, maybe a bit too vividly, that there will be an accident and I will die right there on the road. It's not a fear of death really, but a strange, irresistible curiosity about death. After all, the experience of death itself is the only one that we can't live long enough to tell others about. How would I feel it, how will I stand up to it - the amazing realization that this is your last moment, your last thought, your last breath. It's utterly perplexing to think of.

Whenever I imagined my own death on a bus, I remembered that abandoned box neatly tucked away in a closet somewhere. What would be people's reactions if they found it? Now that I don't write any more, wouldn't the journals be too misleading, perhaps gone sour? 

In one particular death-imagining episode, I finally had an epiphany (a very very rare gem in my life, it's not common for me to make up my damn mind about something.) It was quite a simple idea: The audience didn't matter when I was writing the journals, it surely wouldn't matter afterwards. I just wanted to write something and keep it, that was the purpose. 

Wherever I got the impression that I would evolve into a novel-machine by the age of 25, I don't know. It certainly feels great that I'm finally over the author complex, and can enjoy a fine piece of fiction without feeling the venom of envy in my veins. Or scribble around without a care in the world for how it might be received by the dreary "literary circles" one day.

I thought I could never do the "flow" again - you know, the flowing feeling when the text goes on so rhythmically that the individual words, sentences and the syntax seem to disappear? I thought I'd lost that. It seems that I only lost the correct medium, and then the internet people developed the perfect tool and rescued me from a lifetime of frustration. (Allah gostermesin.)

In a way, they enabled me to keep talking to the prints on my bedsheets, albeit in a more advanced manner.

So - I think that as long as it "flows," my self-centered scrapbook/journal-hybrid blog justifies itself. Hope you enjoy it occasionally as much as I do.

PS: The curse is upon me. I may have just turned into one of those wretched people who write about writing and think it's interesting. (I have excuses, though.)

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