Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Express Yourself (cont.)

The other day I wrote about Malcolm X's experience as he learned to express himself in more than one way. In class, I ask students to write about a time when they had trouble expressing themselves; how did they deal with it?

Me, I was immediately taken back to my first day of fourth grade. Even though I was in the same house as the year before, I had a new bus route. I wasn't supposed to ride the 113 anymore. Unsure of what bus I was supposed to ride--and too shy to ask--I stood, paralyzed, until I was approached by the vice principal.

"Do you know which bus to ride?"

"The 117, I think."

She turned to another teacher: "Does that sound right?" She turned back to me and asked which bus I rode last year.

"The 113."

She ushered me onto the bus, number 113. I saw some familiar faces, but only a couple, and none of the kids who got off at the same stop or in the same neighborhood as me. I had never ridden a bus with all white people before.

I knew I was on the wrong bus, but I didn't know how to say it. Instead, I took my seat. The bus took an unfamiliar path, and I got off at the first stop and began walking.

My shyness never went away. Every day, words choke in my throat. I am unable to say exactly what I want to. Whether standing in front of a room full of students or being introduced to a group of would-be friends, I feel a disconnect between my thoughts and speech.

But I am still able to express myself. The words that don't come out of my mouth come pouring through my arms and fingertips and to the keyboard and onto the screen. With a push of a button, those words are sent across the United States, to Scotland, and to Kenya. I am able to share my thoughts and feelings with a much larger audience.

Simultaneously, a strange thing has happened: the more I write, the less of a disconnect I feel between what I think and what comes out of my mouth. The fear will never go away--in some ways, it drives me!--but saying what I want when I want is a good thing, in whatever medium it takes.


george rede said...

As painful as it is to read of your shyness back then, I celebrate the contemporary you. I, too, tend toward shyness and still consider myself an introvert, even though I've had to do my share of public speaking, sometimes in front of hundreds. I think there's something to the process of writing, however, that does narrow the gap between what you think and what comes out of your mouth. I look at your blog stats and expanding list of topics and I, for one, am grateful that you are writing more frequently, sharing your intelligence, your passions and politics, and even your insecurities, with a larger audience. You express yourself exceedingly well. Here's hoping that your fear diminishes while it continues to drive you.

Aki Mori said...

My favorite quality of blogging (i.e. expressing myself) via Google Blogger is that I have real time control over what gets transmitted. In other words, there's not a single entry that I haven't tweaked, refined, or clarified AFTER I initially hit the "Publish" button. We can't do that with spoken words, or with other forms of writing (like emails, greeting cards, message boards, etc.)

It's probably not advisable to develop a habit of NOT "getting things right the first time" but as long as I have the capability, I can't help but use it. (Besides, I considering blogging as a way to experiment with my writing anyway.)

August said...

It's funny - I do cringe when I think back of the fright I felt. I physically shook at the idea of a teacher calling on me in class. I stayed on the periphery more often than not. But that outsider status (as I perceived it) provided great gifts: I watched, I learned, and I empathized. Writing is not apart from living; the two go hand in hand. I do so love being able to think about and edit (tweak, refine, and clarify!) something before sending it off to the internets...

Thanks for reading and commenting - it means a lot to me!