1,000 Followers Later, I’m Still Thinking about T.S Eliot

Once again I find myself stepping off a plane, sipping on some Starbucks, and blundering into an unforeseen blogging landmark…1,000 followers. !!!!.  !!!!!!!!!.

Not since the Freshly Pressed incident of May 2013 have I felt so drawn to reflect on a journey that I only really intended to be a journal- a more technologically savvy version of talking to myself. Well, to reflect and to dance victoriously in public.

Reflection, victorious dancing, and nostalgia are my favorite triumvirate. So naturally, my first response after reading through the notifications was to scroll back to my very first post and re-read my fumblingly enthusiastic ode to blogging and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I made a lot of references and felt really smart when I wrote it. Lol. I expect one day, I’ll look back at this post and laugh with equal fervor and embarrassment, but I’ll go ahead and write it anyways. And just for good measure and for your own amusement, here’s the original post of this blog:

At the risk of stating the obvious, I absolutely love this poem- I wrote out each stanza in a different color and hung them on my wall last year with forbidden double-sticky tape. I paid twenty  one dollars and seventy five cents worth of dorm room damages for this poem.

After months of ignoring suggestions to create a blog, I find myself faced with the same overwhelming question: what in the world do I have to say? It may not seem like much at first glance, but take it from a person who freezes in horror when the ice breaker of choice is “tell us something interesting about yourself,” the overwhelming doesn’t begin to cover it…so I’ll add daunting, intimidating, and formidable into the mix. Perhaps it’s the “interesting” that ties my tongue. After someone who says “A dolphin once saved my life,” the only thing I have to offer is “I love Italian food.” Fact. I doubt a mere chronicle of the mundane details of life would be “interesting.” How many cups of coffee I had last night (4), the number of pages of reading I did for my classes (336), or the number of life forms in my apartment right now (6- me, three other roomates, a betafish named Gatsby, and a flapjack plant named…you guessed it, Flapjack) are not topics of earth-shattering, mind-blowing importance. I can actually feel you falling asleep as you read this.

So…what’s my point? I’m so glad you asked- thanks for pulling me back from the edge of that other tangent I was about to embark upon!

My point is, this blog is one way of answering Prufrock’s overwhelming question. Even if my humble musings on life and literature don’t ever disturb the universe, IT IS WORTH IT AFTER ALL. I, for one, dare to eat a peach, and I don’t care to cut this matter of living off with a smile- I dare to do something as utterly insignificant and predictable as adding another blog to the millions of others dangling like satelittes out there in cyperspace. Like many other college students out there, human voices have awakened me and I’m simply trying not to drown.

DANGLING LIKE SATELITTES OUT THERE IN CYPERSPACE. *CRINGE* Let us all cringe and move on…

The I that re-read these words this evening is an entirely different I than the one who wrote them on that August morning almost two years ago, a morning so remarkably nondescript that I opened my browser and created a WordPress account simply for the sheer, impulsive joy of doing something. As a general rule, whenever I do something impulsive, I always have a T.S Eliot quote ready to back me up. It’s a great emergency exit from personal responsibility (just kidding…sort of)!! I also plan to blame T.S Eliot for any terrible similes I may make in the future- I haven’t quite worked out the logic, but I think it’s a solid plan.

Yes, 1,000 followers later, I’m still thinking about T.S Eliot. But never in the same way twice. How could I, when a small infinity of details, experiences, thoughts, conversations, passing glances at billboards and articles and strangers have wedged themselves between the words then and now?

So much and so little has changed. For one thing, I mourned the passing of Flapjack III long ago, before I decided purchasing any more plants might be ethically equated with pronouncing a death sentence upon the poor succulents. Although I’m happy to report that my Gatsby at least seems indestructible and his dream as incorruptible as ever (that of getting fed every morning, I imagine), the strange small world around him has changed. And the fabric of my mind, with its shifting spectrum of chameleon colors, keeps changing with it.

But the words of J. Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song, like many literary staples of my coming of age library binging, hold a special power over my thoughts and my actions. They contain a small piece of past memory that cannot be erased by the frantic shredding of old diary pages- they hold an imprint of my fleeting multiplicity of selves between their lines, and when I measure their meaning now, I must inevitably compare it against my old interpretations and assumptions and the experiences that informed them. They’re the proverbial pencil marks on the doorframe charting my growth. They’re the time capsule I always open when I need to remember what it was like to live back then. And they’re the thoughts and memories too terrifyingly intimate to confess even to myself on paper. To me, the shifting impressions that these cherished poems and stories evoke are the only truly reliable records of the life I’ve lived and the dreams I’ve dreamed… The rest- photographs, journals, letters- are too easy to edit, accidentally delete or conveniently lose, even with our consistent obsession with documenting our every thought.Or perhaps more accurately, documenting the thoughts and the moments that we carefully select to share with the general public for our own peculiar branding of self-presentation.

Even this blog, as rambling and random as it often is, is the product of much self-scrutiny and careful self-editing. Nearly forty posts later, there are hundreds of finished posts that found their inevitable end in the virtual trashbin. It’s wonderfully freeing to blindly follow any available skein of thought as you write, knowing no matter how unfathomably personal or terribly worded it ends up being, there’s always a nifty shortcut to oblivion right in the sidebar. With the evidence destroyed, the thoughts thought, and the conclusions clumsily and temporarily drawn, I’ve paved the way towards more articulate, more cleverly masked variations on the same theme. In other words, I’m free to compose something comparatively free from the red light of emotion that Virginia Woolf vehemently derides and comparatively closer to knowing what truths I believe. I can write slightly less constrained by personal grievance and uncertainty. And by writing about myself, I can begin to write less about myself in whatever other projects I undertake and more about the world I’ve come to know through that narrow gaze.

When I set out to write this blog, I probably grinned a self-satisfied grin at my shallow sweeping mention of drowning in human voices, when all I really meant was I was drowning in the lack of one myself. I’ve found it’s difficult to truly listen to others over the sound of your own silent screaming. It’s something that you only realize in the jarring moment when it ceases, and you find the world pouring in to fill the sudden absence. You become more attuned to other voices around you crying out to be heard, being so familiar with that frequency yourself. You cease to drown in the tidal pool of your own troubles and traumas and drown instead in the deep ocean of several thousands just like them. This is what I read when I read about awakenings now.

I don’t regret the screaming, but I do regret the silence. That’s what truly deafened me, and I suppose I can mark it down as just another paradox that only through beginning to speak, even if at first I only whispered to myself, could I begin to hear others. But the real difference, the true paradox with all these new-found voices is I no longer fear drowning. I no longer try to fight it. It seems a strange salvation, another variation of out of the frying pan and into the fire: out of the tidal pool and into a churning expanse of unfathomable depth. But if the choice lies between drowning alone and drowning alongside others, I choose the latter.

I have chosen the latter and it’s changed a great deal about my life, whether it be the contents of my facebook and blog posts or my decision to remain in Atlanta this summer as an intern at the Center for Women and the Respect Program. In the past two years, I’ve made two drastic decisions about the way I spend my time- to spend it writing, reading, and applying the stories I love and to spend it advocating for survivors of sexual violence- both of which make significant and frequent use of the importance of having a voice. And one might say I’ve made those decisions because I’ve changed the way I read and apply a handful of words penned by a bespectacled Englishman of the early modernist period. Really, that seems like the most natural and logical thing in the world to me.

Because words that get under our skin, whether we write them or read them, always find a way to bleed into our lives, and one might also say this blog, both as you see it now and as the sum of all that never quite found its way to the surface of it, plays a significant role in some of the decisions that I’m most proud of. It has provided me with a different perspective on the word “voice,” one that allows me to claim a part of the word as my own, and it has provided the key to discovering many other voices that support, inspire, and deeply effect me. It is a very great privilege and a great awakening to drown in these voices. It has been a great awakening to drown in my own, to follow the threads of old reflections and old words and to reach new conclusions. As extraordinary or overwrought as it may seem, the new conclusion I’ve reached from all these wandering reflections is that this blog has made so many tangible and intangible realities possible for me. And if 1,001 other people, only 2 of which I’ve ever met in my life (I checked), have found something intriguing, entertaining, or relevant enough about it to sign up for the duration, I can only say I’m both honored and completely flabbergasted. Thank you!

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