It’s funny looking back – early this year I told myself, I’d officially experiment with drama-writing here at blogphilic. At that time, without realizing it, I was chugging so many entries related to Jdramas and Kdramas that I thought, why not? Then summer happened and Real Life took center stage. Dramas fell by the wayside and almost six months later, I’ve yet to really pick up the interest to drama-watch again. Sometimes I worry if I’ve simply lost interest, other times I wonder if it’s really what it’s supposed to be: a prolonged slump. Like with everything else, I don’t know what’s what anymore. I’ve been an emotional yo-yo; this week’s my better one. In the 1.5 months I’ve been here, I haven’t picked up anything new.
The truth is, I’m scared. I’m scared to be so invested again in a fictional world filled with fictional characters. I’m afraid and unwilling to give up precious hours and emotions to characters, settings and stories which will own me for a particular time frame – then abandon me. I’m struggling so much in Real Life at the moment that I can’t afford to lose focus so perhaps in truth, more than anything, I’m very simply… afraid of losing myself in the addiction and excitement.
Not when myself is a question mark in itself.
Like with all things, I’ve come to accept it for what it is; my white flag’s been raised for God knows how long now. I’m no longer obsessed about talking about the not-watching, nor am I peer pressured by the saturated drama blogosphere and in fact, I’m indifferent towards current and upcoming dramas. I admit that sometimes I do watch random scenes of a show – I swear if picking random YouTube videos to watch is a talent, then it’s a skill I totally own – but up until now, nothing sticks. In short, nothing interests me and I’ve given up trying to reason, fight or dwell.
I love Betsy’s earlier take and advice about my predicament because it rings true – simple, but true. Dramas will always be there; when I’m ready to pick them up again, I suspect there’ll be genuine gleefulness and delight.
In the meantime, I’ve spent my downtime – apart from investing ridiculous amount of time and especially, emotions on my WINNER boys – attending writing and reading talks. In the past 1.5 months, I’ve attended about six talks featuring published, sometimes prominent, writers and poets across the nation. Stanford really attracts the most wonderful, dynamic and reputable speakers be it in the STEM field, of which I’m formally a member of, and arts & sciences, of which I’m a member of in spirit. The irony is that I’d decided to enroll here to get a master of sciences in environmental engineering, with the hopes of gaining knowledge in my field of interest, but in this first month I’ve been here, it honestly feels like I’m really in actuality, on a journey of self-discovery with regards to my writer self.
The first talk I sat in was historian/New Yorker columnist/writer Jill Lepore – she is fantastic by the way, both as a speaker and writer; I highly recommend you to sit in her lectures or featured talks if an opportunity arises – in Week 2 of the quarter. The adjustment phase was especially rough then and I was an emotional wreck.
I’d decided to attend completely on a whim and found a seat in the middle of the auditorium with a clear view of the stage. She was there to give a talk on Jane Franklin’s spectacles and opened her presentation by reading an excerpt from her book. Five minutes into the talk, I was in tears. During her presentation, tears continued to fall silently down my cheeks; I just couldn’t stop them. She spoke about Jane Franklin’s lot in life – the era she was born in which restricted her from educational opportunities, for one. Her family’s dire state, for another. Where Ben Franklin, her brother, had left home and everything associated to it behind and built a name, identity, reputation and more of himself – Jane held the fort. Because… she was a girl, a woman, a sister. She did so because it was very simply, the right thing to do but to a degree, it was as if she stayed behind so that her one-half kindred soul, Ben Franklin, didn’t have to.
Here I am, in one of the best institution in the world, and all I seem to do is internally question what the hell am I doing here – the whys and hows endless. I left the talk brimming with emotions and a changed perspective.
I’ve since sat in a number of highly varied talks, mostly touching upon gender and culture. Last week, I sat in two bizarre talks – interesting in their own merits, but affirmed to me that social scientists and artists I suspect, will never fail to amuse the straight-laced engineer in me. The first talk was a book club which discussed JR Ackerley‘s posthumous memoir, My Father and Myself. Much to my surprise, the panelist read aloud a passage in the book which described, in true Ackerley fashion, tonally matter-of-fact and in-detailed … a blowjob scene. The audience nodded their heads in fascination and more discussions then ensued while I sat at the corner trying to hide my surprise; honestly, I had to make sure my mouth wasn’t agape the entire time.
The next night, I sat in another talk by a Stanford professor specializing in sexuality, Celine Shimizu on feminist porn, specifically focusing upon the (lack of) Asian-American participation. The talk opened with a 5-minute video which featured shirtless and half-naked Asian men photos as posted in a gay dating website, the irony being that while their pseudonyms were sexually daring – 99% of them had their faces blurred or cut off.
The Asian stereotype? The Asian insecurity? The Asian prejudice? Food for thought.
I tried not to squirm uncomfortably as the photos continued to roll before my eyes, before okay – I gave up. I darted my eyes away until it ended but as usual, the rest of the crowd seemed utterly fascinated and taken. Amazingly – purely from a scholarly point of view. given the nature of the follow-up questions. The audience and speaker casually and dare I put it, intellectually and entertainingly discussed sex, porn and related topics openly and with such ease. It was an insightful talk in more ways than one, no doubt.
Just tonight, I sat in a poetry reading and writing session by famed feminist Beat poet, Diane di Prima. She’s such a sassy woman, even in her 80’s or so now and the closing poem she read to end the talk was powerful. “The only war that matters is the war against the imagination,” the single statement she repeated, over and over.
The truth is, I am nowhere near these great writers, poets, educators and literary enthusiasts. Honestly, I’m really only a writer over here in this space – it’s the only thing I really do when it comes to writing, so to speak, apart from living and breathing the rhythm and melody of words. By the end of the talk as I bike back home – something I’m proud of that I do when I attend these talks; my cowardly biker-self actually makes the effort to bike to the events, even at nighttime – a question lingers and persists.
What is it exactly about writing to me, that has me so taken by it?
Since when, how, why – the question starts taking different forms, none of which I’ve answers to. The irony.
All I know is what I feel.
When I sit in these talks where words, languages, books and passion for writing are celebrated in their many shapes and forms, this is what I honest-to-God feel: my heart breaks, repairs, sings and lifts in one sweeping, magical moment. I’ve embarrassingly and openly shed tears in a number of them, squirmed uncomfortably in equally as many but thus far, each time I bike back home with a million thoughts on my mind in response to everything I’d just listened to and observed, I always feel a teeny, weeny bit more alive.
It’s lonely here, I admit it. I am a lonely soul, lonelier at the moment.
But as the rhythm of words come alive in a confined space for an hour in which I am a participant –
No words are necessary to explain, reason or deliberate over the borrowed sense of belonging.
I am a writer, too.