I’m feeling homesick for the first time in my life. I was starting to think I didn’t have a home which is probably why I could never relate to people complaining about intense homesickness. Until very recently I started to consider Morgantown my home, humming Country Roads whenever the start of class approached. I even thought of South Korea my home for a brief moment two years ago, along with the people I met there and who that place allowed me to be. I only ever referred to Puerto Rico as home for practical purposes.
Last night in the shower I finally understood what I had been feeling this past couple of days. I was thinking of how I always feel like I’m half a step behind in conversations with my friends here. How no matter how good my English is back home my brain was wired for Spanish first. How I feel like I’m much quicker, wittier, vulgar, me, in Spanish. It was a desolating thought. How I will always be two seconds too late or have to work double as hard to keep up. You know, that usual minority slightly cliched sounding struggle that we don’t believe until we live it.
It made me think that perhaps I shouldn’t have left home. I’m not sure if I mean this time around, or at all to begin with. Maybe I left too soon. Maybe I should have waited to become a full person before hopping the puddle. Maybe I should have stayed this time. The distance and time away from the island allowed me to understand myself and who I am in terms of my culture, my home, and appreciate it, making it the right time to come back. Maybe it’s just the Olympics fever making me yearn to be there in the excitement and commotion. Maybe it’s the experiences I’ve had this summer, both home and abroad that’s making me view everything differently.
I’m now more painfully aware that I’m different. This morning in my creative writing class my hands were shaking from the anxiety of class participation. I don’t think I’ve experienced this level of it since asking my parents for permission to hang out with my friends in early high school. I didn’t know if my presence in this class, in this institution, is an act of resistance or assimilation. Yes, that other point of common discourse that plagues my kind and our very existence. While my classmates argued if entertaining the audience when writing is pandering, I’m trying to find the right moment to chime in that the very term pandering is to assume everyone writes for the same audience and to fulfill the expectations of anyone outside of it is to reduce your writing and give into the masses.
The reason I write is starkly different from the reason my classmates write, I believe. My writing is selfish and self-interested. When I write I write for myself first and foremost. For me, writing is akin to cleaning up a gash with alcohol or making a clean cut in order for it to heal properly. I think about myself first and what an audience would want second because I am not singular in this world and there are others who need the stories I needed once upon a time. You write for you and your audience will show up, not the other way around.
Last night while completing an assignment for this class I had a small crisis. The questions for the reading reminded me of a very specific and academic approach to creative writing that seems to be the universally “correct” way to be a writer and succeed in this field. Write every day (practice makes perfect), read everything (learn from the greats). I was heartbroken to see once again that these are the requirements to do the only thing that actually makes sense for me to do in life. These are not things I do, or quite frankly want to. Writing every day sounds emotionally exhausting and when they say read everything you know they mean Literature with a capital L that has systematically and historically excluded me and people like me.
I texted a friend my concerns about it and he said that writing is what you make of it. It seemed a little vague, but I suppose that that was the point. At my core, I’m well aware of the problems of Academia and my own struggles with it. Being here is being constantly vigilant of how this world is affecting who I am and how I see myself in this space that was not intended for me. In this heavy transitional phase at the beginning of the semester and in my sudden attack of homesickness it got the better of me. I needed that reminder that I dictate how I choose to express myself. I dictate how I see myself. I dictate what I want to be and how to achieve it. That Ivory Tower can often make us forget.