"Part of getting older is owning the facets of your identity that frighten you the most." - Jessica Valenti
2010 has been a year of transition, of change. I transferred schools and finally gave myself the opportunity to explore interests of mine other than poetry (which, until a year or so ago, was the one thing I was totally comfortable with and felt 100% confident about). This year I learned to be patient. For once, I did not expect to come out on top. And let's get real for a second: I hit rock bottom (perhaps more times than I made known).
I made one hell of a mess. This mess looked much like the one I made when I was nine and just starting to familiarize myself with poetry (I'm referring to the stage where I spent all of my time writing crappy limericks). What's different now is that I'm not nine. I'm twenty-two. And crappy limericks aren't so cute anymore when you're trying to convince people to start treating you like an adult.
Anyone who knows me knows that identify as a feminist. And I have since my senior year of high school. Back then, my green-haired friend Stephanie and I spent all our time spouting off in AP Lit class, thinking we were total badasses.
But the more I explore the zillion layers of feminism, the more I realize that it isn't easy. It takes effort the same way honing my poetry did.
And man, poetry and me go way back. I attended the annual Controlled Burn Seminar every summer for years. I studied at Interlochen. At SVSU, I majored in creative writing. I competed in poetry slams (one of which was held at the Grand Hotel on Macinac Island). I worked as editor-in-chief of two art/literary journals (Looking Glass in high school, Cardinal Sins in college). And I had my work published in a couple of national undergraduate literary journals.
I lived and breathed poetry. But it took a lot of time to cover that much ground. And it wasn't even one solid thing. At nine, I wrote limericks. At fourteen, I wrote couplets and quatrains. By sixteen, I had moved on to free verse. By nineteen, that free verse was better polished. A never-ending process. Endless change and (I like to think) a great deal of growth.
And so even though I've identified as a feminist for three or four years now, I still feel like I'm in the crappy limerick stage of it--the stage where I litter my Facebook Wall with angry shit and walk around with Audre Lorde quotes pinned to my tote bag. But don't really know where I fit in in the midst of it all.
I just finished reading a book called _Click_, which is a collection of essays written about "that moment" when its contributors knew they were feminists. Feministing editor Courtney Martin wrote, "It makes me sad now to think that much of my first feminist searching was born out of such desperation. I wish I had come to feminism celebratory or even outraged. Instead, I came like so many...on my knees, confused, heartbroken" (90).
I've never thought of it like that. (Strange image to couple with feminism, yes?) But the same is probably true for me. Even though I've considered myself a feminist for years now, I had to experience a couple of things that hit a little too close to home before I could realize that it's more than believing in equality--it's also acting on that belief.
And that's some tough shit.
And so I've finally moved past desperate and heartbroken (anyone who knew me a year ago knows what that looked like). Now I'm pissed. Pissed and frustrated because there's so much out there to be done and I don't even know where to start, or how to start. Because I'm still just learning to trust myself and my voice.
You know, limericks.
But despite my inability to trust myself, people have told me for years that it's obvious to them that I'm a feminist. Well, duh. I scream it. But like I said: I've got angry shit all over my Facebook Wall, and Audre Lorde quotes on my tote bag. Lots of noise. (Eloquent noise, but still.) I hide behind all that noise. Where the fuck is my own voice in all of that?
So to me, growing as a feminist is a lot like writing poetry. As a poet, I subscribed to the idea of "saying as much as possible in very few words." A lot of the women I admire don't even have to go on raging, long-winded tirades for me to understand that they mean business. I can just see it in their actions--in the way they live their lives.
I want to reach that point, whatever that means for me. I know that these interests of mine aren't mutually exclusive. I could just write feminist poetry and call it good. That is, in and of itself, a form of activism. But right now, that isn't fulfilling enough for me.
I'll admit that I don't really know what the hell I'm going to do to satisfy this need. But I'm going to find it and live it. If it brings me back to poetry, awesome. If not, I'll keep moving on to whatever's next. I've taken one huge step away from my comfort zone. I can take a few more.
I'm pretty excited to see what 2011 has in store for me.
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