Free Writing: Homogenised, Unheard & Invisible.

I’m not sure what I’m going to blog about this week.

Sometimes, the only way to figure out what to write is to start writing. This is the stuff writers’ workshops are made of – “free writing”, they call it. It’s where you unleash all your hidden thoughts onto paper, often surprising yourself with what comes out, writing about topics that you hadn’t even noticed were lying dormant, deep in your subconscious.

Of course, after the free writing process you end up with a whole heap of crap that you’d never want to show anyone, from which you can probably – if you’re lucky – pluck something from, expand upon, and transform into something somewhat readable.

For me, I’m almost always writing something or other in my head. Impatient words interrupt me during the day, tapping me on the shoulder when I’m trying to knock a few jobs off the to-do list. I don’t mind, I quite like the interruption. What’s far more annoying is when they aren’t there – more so because they don’t leave completely, they tease me by “almost” disappearing. There’s a nagging feeling of a story that wants to be told, yet it’s too lazy to form itself into words, sentences and paragraphs, and it’s all just beyond my reach.

This feeling always takes me back to when I was a kid.

My childhood was fine – but I do much prefer being an adult. As a kid, I remember feeling frustrated that no-one saw me. I was sure that on the inside, there wasn’t much difference between me and the adults, and that I had valid thoughts which mattered and I should be able to share, but I usually didn’t. It was more than just shyness that held me back, it was also that often, I didn’t have the right words to express myself. Even when I did have the vocabulary, the words sounded too big for me – just a little kid – and I felt foolish using them. So, I’d either hide my words or trip over them, and they’d lose their effectiveness.

As a kid, I felt like I was seen as some sort of feeble, unknowing and inconvenient half-human. Not worthy of my own identity or ideas, one of the masses, another snotty nose in a checked dress and black lace-up shoes. Homogenised, unheard and invisible. Free to be whoever I wanted to be, as long as I did what I was expected to do, said what I was expected to say, and did so quietly.

At school, it took me a while to discover that doing well required the ability to rote learn someone else’s ideas and regurgitate them on cue. Wonderful facets of the world were pulled to pieces to suit a syllabus, so that all meaning and magic was lost. (Maths and science, for example, work far better together.) What’s more, it’s rare as a child that you are genuinely encouraged to come up with your own ideas. If you are, they must agree to someone else’s theory of what qualifies as “good” or “bad”. Curiosity in general is fairly useless, because it really doesn’t fit within the system.

I learnt that to get the best marks, I had to stop trying to learn, understand and explore. My main focus became figuring out exactly what answers the teachers wanted based on the marking guide, so I could provide what they were looking for as clearly and simply as possible. It worked at uni too, and made the typically difficult subjects like law and economics require much less thought, because this technique became almost like a formula, mathematical.

The older I get the more I enjoy and appreciate life and the freedom that comes with being an adult. I no longer buy into rules of who I’m meant to be or how I’m meant to live. I no longer attempt to convince people that I’m worthy of their time, or my own space, or my own identity like I once did. Best of all, I no longer learn between strictly drawn lines – I explore topics I’m interested in and let them take me down rabbit holes, to wherever they lead. How on earth could learning ever be fun without the complete freedom to explore what interests you?

And now for this week’s blog…

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