Aug. 17th, 2013

dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
Over the last several years, I have increasingly come to appreciate the value of plain speaking, in all areas of human interaction.

I think there are a number of reasons for this. One has certainly been my growing impatience with the kind of obscurantist religious language with which I grew up and the recognition that once you strip away the fancy phrasing from an article of faith, there's not much actual content left. A bit later, having dipped my toes into the hallowed waters of academia, it occurred to me that maybe the postmodernists are wrong and there actually aren't any ideas that are so complex and convoluted that they require expression in kind. There is good academic writing and very, very bad academic writing - the latter generally leaves the hapless student far more confused than she was before doing the reading. Again, once you've hacked and slashed your way through all the superfluous verbiage, postmodern theory seems remarkably content-free.

And it's not just the intellectual life that benefits from a spot of linguistic spring-cleaning. Being able to speak openly and plainly when sharing your feelings and opinions with others is a truly wonderful thing, and there are times when the sheer elegance of simple, straightforward language produces a deep emotional satisfaction.

However, these are pleasures I have only recently begun to appreciate to their full extent. For it must be said - plainly - that recognising the importance of clear, direct communication and actually being good at it myself are unfortunately not the same.

Why should this be so? Why has it been so hard, for most of my life, to own my opinions and feelings and to speak my mind openly in simple, uncompromising English words?

Again, I can think of a number of reasons. I spent a great deal of my childhood and adolescence believing that it was actually morally wrong to hold certain ideas and opinions, that feeling the 'wrong' way about something was sinful and made me a bad person. Speaking out about such feelings would, it seemed to me, somehow cement them in a way that merely having them on the inside did not. Not to mention the fact that speaking your mind could get you in trouble or draw unwanted attention - and that didn't seem worth it if my opinions weren't right anyway. It took a complete mental meltdown into clinical depression in my late teens before I could bring myself to simply state my feelings bluntly, and then it was an act of sheer desperation.

A bit later on, I fell in with what I now recognise to have been a toxic circle of acquaintance. One of the things that was poisoned during this period of my life was my approach to interpersonal communication - especially when it came to interacting with potential (and actual) lovers. The thing was, if you really liked someone, it was never a good idea to admit it. To do so would be perceived as a weakness or a flaw, especially if the said someone did not reciprocate your feelings. Every admission had to be heavily qualified, just in case.

On the intellectual front, the somewhat tortured prose I tended to produce when writing essays was generally rewarded with distinctions or better - perhaps because of the insidious influence of postmodernism in the humanities. Spinning out sentence after jargon-laden sentence was a great way to disguise the fact that I didn't often know very well what I was talking about - and the positive reinforcement I received from my professors only encouraged more of the same.

Then, somewhere along the line, things changed for me.

I'm not sure when or precisely how it happened, but I couldn't help but notice that failing to speak my mind and express myself clearly and simply was like living in a cage - and having noticed it, I had to do something about it. Why not let people know what I think and feel? Isn't that how you take the measure of a person?

Maybe I just grew the confidence to realise that I could afford to lose friends; to think that, actually, it's better to know that people like you for who you really are, not for the facade you project; that it's better to say nothing than to drivel on aimlessly if you actually have nothing to say; and that it's better to take a chance and tell someone that you find them irresistible, than to stay silent and miss out on what might be the best thing to ever happen to you.

It hasn't been as easy to make the change as it's been to write the words to describe it. But I know that what I write now is authentic, that this is my real voice. I'm not faking it anymore.

And I will never go back.

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dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
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