Originally published on November 23, 2013 on The Human Experience.
In no particular order, I am a woman, a daughter, a student, a feminist, a nerd, a talker, a thinker, a lover, an ex-lover, a friend, an anglophile, a sort-of gamer, a kid at heart, an only child, a Randolph-Macon Woman’s College alumna, a theatre-lover, an ex-theatre tech, a firm believer in the joy of snail mail, a listener, a Neil Gaiman fan, an obsessive reader of graphic novels and webcomics, and a PhD student. And yet, I believe I am nothing. I am the human experience.
I adore my friends. I cherish my family. I can’t imagine a world without my mother. Sometimes, at night especially, I feel my heart pushing against my ribcage, ready to burst: the world is wrong. Society is wrong. The privileged systems that govern our lives are wrong. And I, as a heteronormative white woman, am complicit in the damage these systems do to those around me. I have to fix this busted, deeply prejudiced society and I don’t know how. My only solution is to pour out my heart – my love and my compassion – to anyone who needs it. I honestly hoped that if I did this, then I could ignore how little love and compassion I allow myself.
At the time of writing this I am dealing with a significant loss. Someone I love decided they no longer loved me and it feels like there is a howling void in my chest where my heart should be. I recognize my strength in that I can embrace my grief and know I will eventually heal, but I am not there yet. Instead, I am stuck in a place where I understand their departure is for the best, but remembering their smile or their smell or their eyes or the way they would sometimes slip into their native Norfolk accent, well it hurts. This pain informs my words. In a month or two it will be less acute and less significant, but I will be a different version of myself by then, and I want to embrace this iteration first. She needs to be understood and she needs to be loved. I need to love her.
In a world without labels and preconceived notions, I would openly stand up and yell out my pain. I would ask for a hug so I did not need to feel strong. I would consistently practice forgiveness. I would forgive myself and I would not be afraid to ask forgiveness from others. Vulnerability is not part of everyday discourse, we must always remain “fine”, “happy”, or “great!” so we are not a burden to our friends, our family, or our neighbours. I think we need to discuss such things. I understand the need for privacy, but grief should not be shameful. Expressing grief and easing grief should be used to foster empathy, something I believe many people sorely lack. Through vulnerability and empathy we find compassion, we find the drive to heal each other’s aches. We connect. We are not test subjects or amorphous, abstract groups. We are not some distant, alien “other”. We are made human: compelled to heal each other’s aches and fears.
I practice self-erasure, consciously and unconsciously. I constantly compare myself to my friends and find thousands of ways I fall short. I don’t have a life-partner, I don’t have a stable career, I’m not self-motivated, I have no faith in my work, I lost my talent for creative writing, I talk too much and too loudly, I am not quick (physically or mentally), and I am not intelligent. I’m probably fat and I’m definitely lazy. I am emotionally immature and easily duped. Any attempt I make to negate this torrent of abuse – to embrace my flaws and rejoice in my talents – is met with anxiety. Embracing my flaws means I will lose my drive to improve. Rejoicing in my gifts feels arrogant and self-centred. Both leave me feeling desperately exposed.
I am 26 and I feel cheated because some programming in my head tells me I should be married. If I am not married, or at least settled by 30 there is something wrong with me. If my head is a computer, this idea is a virus I can’t delete. Experience tells me a woman can be dazzling and valuable regardless of her romantic status, but cultural expectations tell me that notion is wrong. On my own I am nothing, it is only with someone that I have value. It is only with someone that I deserve love. Wrong. Starting today I will love myself. I will enjoy this love whether I am single or committed to someone else. This love must be constant, or how else am I to thrive? Nevertheless, these thoughts terrify me.
I believe in humankind’s constant reach for the Divine. I grew up Catholic and I still can’t shake my faith. While I disagree with its precepts, my religion taught me compassion and activism, peace and art. The sonorous hush of an empty stage and the solemn peace of a quiet cathedral are one in the same to me: eternal, evanescent, singular, and perfect. This is the reason I became a theatre technician and later a scholar. I still miss being a techie.
I adore geeks and geek culture. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series taught me as much about religion, gods, and myth as any lecture or homily. When I run to catch a bus, I pretend I am chasing after the Doctor. I mark my loss of innocence by the discovery that Robin Williams, the man who gave life to the Genie from Aladdin, swore. I snort graphic novels like a junkie and am still haunted by Craig Thompson’s Blankets years after I first read it. I love comic books but I don’t read enough of them. I call myself a “gamer-groupie” because I love watching my friends play video games but rarely play them myself. I have played both Portal games and the first two Bioshock games. I am grinning from ear to ear as I type this. I love novelty socks.
My name is Lauren. I have called myself Marie, Maria, Alyssa, Alecto, Morgan, and Morgana because I am always trying to find a new identity and run from the one I have now. I won’t run anymore. Easy to say now, but maybe I am finally ready to commit.
I am busted, I am whole. I am hurting, I am healing. I am flawed, I am freaking incredible. I am trapped, I am free. I am the human experience.
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