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In Which I Fracture My Narratives

July 16, 2015

I’m trying to blog more these days, even if it’s about nothing in particular. We’ll call it the Seinfeldian approach.

As I’ve continued to trudge away at my dissertation, I’ve been thinking back to the first time I had my mind completely blown by graduate school. This was pretty early on, some time around reading Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream (for me, it was one of those books that took a few tries). What sent me into some existential angst was the realization that there is no such thing as objectivity. There are narratives, and narratives, and more narratives. And my narratives aren’t your narratives, etc.

I then realized that if I became a cultural historian that these narratives could become my playground. I gleefully started pulling at threads and strands of cultural tapestries and social constructions…the articles on gender theory finally started making sense, and away I went.

Real life, of course, continually got in the way, in the form of my two lovely and rambunctious children. It also, more negatively, brought a lot of changes, and the halcyon path toward a historical utopia that I had so carefully planned out for myself fell apart. Things did not turn out the way I had hoped. What I didn’t realize is that this disappointment was going to take years to get over. I’m actually not sure I’m over it.

If there’s a technical term for this phenomenon, the closest I’ve ever found is used by Christine Hassler, who wrote a book on the subject called Expectation Hangover. I think it’s as good a term as any for how I’ve felt in recent years. I just hadn’t realized that I’ve been so busy being full of regret and beating myself up for not being perfect (and not writing), that it’s made me rather stuck.

I think we all have these stuck places. Mine seem to be any situation that I didn’t feel I handle perfectly, or people who don’t act the way that I think they should, or who don’t respond the way I hoped they would. Situations where I am so upset about how things didn’t turn out or didn’t do something for me that I decided to quit or stop trying. I’m sort of amazed at the places that I’m stuck. They don’t seem logical, or easily explainable. Hence the “stuckness,” I guess.

I’m not even sure about how becomes “un-stuck,” other than to realize that nothing’s permanent in a world of multiple narratives.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in an ultimate Truth. I just theorize that we tend not to see It most of the time. The implications of recognizing that all of us are in this together are too existentially disturbing. But I’ll go there if you will.

In other, more random thoughts:

I’m rather thrilled that Ida B. Wells is the Google doodle today.

I’ve discovered that the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes novels were actually ghostwritten. I am still enjoying the glorious eighties-ness of them, however. It takes me back to my childhood.

My house is starting to be infiltrated by Minions, down to the banana bubble bath in the bathroom. We also have some of the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, though, apparently, not the ones that swear.

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