Belated lessons and new questions.
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Oh, hey there world. It’s nice to see you, too.
It’s been over ten days since I last wrote – which is, in relative terms, such a long time that I was starting to become mildly concerned. But you see, I was being hyper-aware of not forcing myself to write, particularly after having written this recent piece (skip to the second half). Instead I’ve been waiting until it… just happened.
Trust me, I tried to write over the past ten days. It’s not like nothing has happened. Lots has happened, actually. My drafts have ranged from Eleanor Roosevelt to lying, dating to racism, feminism to vegetarianism, career progression to ethical trade. Naturally. My mind has been teeming, but my fingers have been spilling all over the ivory keys of the piano, rather than onto this, their usual, keyboard.
So, here we are after ten days.
I haven’t actually got any idea where this post is going, by the way. Which is somewhat exciting. Living on the edge.
I’ve noticed a shift over the past few years, but most acutely over the past few months.
In many ways I personified the “goody two-shoes” stereotype as a kid and a teenager. Sure, I was sometimes a mean older sister who was selfish and threw temper tantrums, but on the whole I was a Good Girl. I was the kid who loved nothing more than receiving her teacher’s approval. The kid who didn’t ever receive a detention or bludge school. The 13 year old who actively chose to hang out with the lovely yet “less cool”, conservative girls. The teenager who didn’t go to dances at the local boys’ school – not from a lack of a desire, but due to paralysing fear. The teenager who preferred to go to youth group rather than pursue the older boys, Bicardi Breezer in hand. Trust me, I could go on, but I’m going to spare myself any more cringes.
Looking back, I guess I understood the (power) structures which bound my life and I only ever worked within them. I barely even contemplated rebelling – well, not in any traditional sense of “rebellion”.
And, look, there’s nothing wrong with that; it may not have been a crazy, wild teenage experience, but it was authentic for me at that stage of my life.
There is, however, one huge issue with my younger self: she accepted everything that those in authority told her was the truth.
I lapped it up. I believed everything. I guess I was incredibly trusting and, in relative terms, I had no independent thoughts. My thoughts were always someone else’s.
Is this normal? (NB: Not a rhetorical question. I actually have no idea. Was everyone else like this and I’m just sitting here thinking I’m vaguely unique, but actually we’ve all been through this?)
Either way, I guess it all started changing when I came to the realisation at 19 that, in some ways, I was living a lie.
See, up until that point I had always identified as a Christian – the type that, insensitively told my boyfriend at the time that, actually, he wasn’t a real Christian. God, I was charming. If that former boyfriend is reading this, I’m sorry; I was such a twat.
Anyway. I was a Christian. It was what I had grown up with; it was what I had been told from a very young age was the truth. And look, my parents’ intentions were and are good – of that I have no doubt.
But then I came to realise that I had never actually stopped and thought any of it through; I had always just taken what others had taught me to be the only truth and the only way of seeing the world.
I had never stopped to intellectually, methodically work through the belief system which I was
meant to be trying sharing with others for myself. (Scary, I know.) I had never questioned it. I had never questioned anything.
And so began the peeling away of layers – not because I did or do have any issues with those things – including the Christian faith (well, actually I do have some issues with that) – but because I realised that if I’m going to bother to believe in something then I want to do both myself and others the service of taking it seriously. And taking something like a belief system seriously, I would argue, requires thinking it through – thoroughly – and asking questions. Why invest your life in something which you’re not sure, at your core, that you understand or believe in?
I’ve become acutely aware of this again over the past few months. It all began with my psychology lecturer charging us to “question everything”. In many ways, it was just a throw away line in a junior lecture, fruitlessly hoping to resonate with hundreds of first year ears. Sitting in the second last row of the crowded lecture theatre sat this slightly jaded fifth year student. There was no grand initial impact, but something began to simmer under the surface.
A few weeks later I started noticing things – thoughts, to be more precise. Little additions at the end of a paragraph. Little post-it notes at the end of a sentence.
Is that actually true?
What evidence is there?
Does this actually matter?
Do you really think so?
But how about…?
Tell me more.
That which was never part of my nature has suddenly flooded my cerebral cortices (making up for the past two decades, no doubt). What was absent has quickly become inherent. And I love it. I am finally getting to grips with those “critical thinking” and “analysis” things that my various teachers have been talking about for years. I think I am finally thinking about new things in new ways. Whatever it is, it’s surprisingly exciting and exhilarating.
You took your time, Alex. True.
I certainly don’t have the answers, but at least I have begun posing some questions… right?