Yet the rewards of the difficult life of honesty and dedication to the truth are more than commensurate with the demands. By virtue of the fact that their maps are continually being challenged, open people are continually growing people…..Finally, they are free to be. They are not burdened by any need to hide. They do not have to slink around in the shadows. They do not have to construct new lies to hide old ones. They need waste no effort covering tracks or maintaining disguises. (The Road Less Travelled, page 51)
And so it is that we reach day four of writing101 and the task is to write about loss and also, if we want, to make it the first in a three part post.
I didn’t have to think very hard about what sort of loss to write about, because it is something that has been on my mind for a while now.
What I did have to think about was whether I would sit down and turn my thoughts into a three piece post. Did I have the willingness to sit there and consciously convert what is a maelstrom of emotions into a coherent set of blog posts? After all, I don’t have too, there is no obligation, I’m free to choose.
The truth of that statement lead me to include the quote above, which is the book that I’m currently reading. It also lead me to the the ultimate theme of this piece – the gradual loss of my identity, dignity and self-esteem.
These are things that, when you have them in abundance, you do not hide. They inform your character, your personality and the way you interact with the world. When you are full of these things you are normally a confident, effervescent person.
But what about when you lose them, especially if previously you felt filled with these things? You probably don’t want to admit that you have lost them, especially because they are undoubtedly cornerstones of a healthy mind and body. You may get caught in the trap of thinking it isn’t masculine to admit that things are not what they used to be and that you feel shaken by this.
To acknowledge these sorts of things requires an introspective honesty that is vital and healthy, especially if anyone is ever to move past an unhealthy mental and intellectual point in which they are stuck. But knowing and doing, and especially expressing, are very different things, as I can well tell by the language I am using. This is indisputably about me, but I can feel my language lapsing into patterns that make it try and be more universal then personal. That will obviously change when I get onto specifics.
And before I get to specifics, it straight away occurred to me that, if I did fully take part in the day four challenge, then a three part post obviously lends itself to the natural structure of beginning, middle and end.
The question is then, what is the beginning? I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently, and I’ll just quickly add again that my thinking about my decline in dignity, self-respect and self-esteem has been ongoing in recent times and wasn’t a response to the writing101 prompt, although it did help me to hone in and focus on the issues I’m grappling with more clearly.
In thinking about what the beginning is, I’ve been trying to come up with a time line that not only makes sense to me, but that would make sense to anyone and the point that I’ve come to that perfectly illustrates a good starting place is this –
When I was younger -for the duration of primary school in fact – I had to go and live with my grandparents in Tilbury, which is in Essex. This was because my mother was ill.
My grandfather (Jamaican) and I were the only non-white people that lived on my street -my grandmother is Italian – and there was, from memory, less than a handful of non-white people in my entire primary school and two, including me, in my class. I’ll also say that I was too young to notice that I was different in terms of colour and it was never a problem and have really great memories from my time there.
There was though, one incident that sticks in my mind. At some point I developed a silly little crush on my mates sister. We lived in the same street and as it usually goes, it all came out and at the time it felt like a huge drama to all of us.
Anyway, one day the girl calls me into her front garden and informs me that she likes me but that her friends told her not to go out with me because, and I quote “You’re a nigger.”
Now the honest truth is that I laughed it off and said something like ‘well don’t then’. I clearly remember not being angry, annoyed or upset. I just went back to playing football with my mates (I’ll also say that she hung out with a completely different set of people and I never experienced that kind of thing from anyone else on the street, including the girls brother).
I also never told anyone. I honestly didn’t think it was worth my time and even then, as a young kid I just thought it was sad that someone wouldn’t do something they wanted because other people told them not to.
What also didn’t happen, was that it didn’t rock me in any way, shape or form.
Now, with hindsight and having thought long and hard to try and make sense of things, I truly understand why that was the case, and it wasn’t just because I was a young kid who maybe didn’t understand the weight of such words. The word ‘nigger’ is though, a very important piece of the puzzle.
But that, and everything else, will follow in parts two and three.