Monday, November 29, 2010

Who We Are

I've lived much of my life in an identity crisis. You know why? I'm nothing interesting. Note I didn't say I'm NOT interesting... in fact in actuality, I'm possibly a little TOO interesting (as in odd) but my group membership is... dare I say it... the norm... at least for all the places I've lived.

I am female (as are 55% of people... a percentage that only grows as the men die off at a faster rate)
I am white. (in the world, normal would be Asian, but as I live in the United States, and spent MOST of my years in Idaho (98% white—only exaggerating a little) and Oregon (90% white—I think that's pretty accurate)...
I grew up protestant (as most of my home town was)

We were poorish, but not starving.
We were small town but not rural.
I was awkward, but had friends, mostly hiding it (erm... hiding the awkwardness, not the friends).
Not bully nor bullied.
No particular talents to speak of (I might be able to write a little, but I was quiet about that)
I was smart, but not brilliant.

There is absolutely NOTHING to recommend me as interesting. I belong to no group that is exciting, outrageous, illegal, cultish, dangerous, exclusive, or secret. I am the kind of person who if I 'wrote what I know,” would put y'all to sleep.

At the same time... and from a totally different angle... I LOVE reading stories that lead me into another culture or experience.

So when my friend Lance posted this yesterday, I had to stop and pause. Be sure to watch the video (which I could figure out how to upload a video directly. humph). I know it's longish, but it is BEAUTIFULLY SAID and then I'll give some of my thoughts afterward...

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/11/28/shafak.powerful.stories/index.html?hpt=C2

On the one hand, this is PERMISSION to write stuff I DON'T know... stuff I make up. Stuff that isn't even PLAUSIBLE if I want... on the other hand, I have been soundly chastised for holding up the responsibility to OTHERS to be authentic representatives. If I'm not required to be a boring, white ex-protestant, then I need to rein in my expectations and just enjoy literature as literature.

At the same time, I LOVED that circle thing... we all really SHOULD get to know each other... The world would conspire to leave us in our own little circles, but we shouldn't content ourselves to stay that way. In our blogs and lives we SHOULD all be ourselves... break down the walls... honestly share what we are. And help each other keep our circles open.

Because the more people we know, the more we understand the diversity of people, no matter WHAT groups they belong to. There are brilliant, fabulous people in every corner of the world... sadly there are also baffling arses... Group membership does not determine this. Personality and experience do. I'm mostly a nurture gal, in the nature versus nurture debate, so I happen to think most phenomenal arses were MADE, but that's me... Our only obligation is to not judge any individual based on group membership and not to judge any group based on the individuals we happen to meet. Mix it up a little. Get to know a variety of folks. You'll see... people are people, and mostly we are just better off for knowing more of them.

Oh, and enjoy the FICTION for what it is... fiction. The writer is entitled to artistic license, in whatever form she chooses to take it.

Circle paintings were both done by my friend Kathy Croson, an artist out of the Seattle area who I went to high school with and happens to be fabulously friendly and fun in ADDITION to being talented.

29 comments:

N. R. Williams said...

I don't think you're ordinary at all. You have a brilliant sense of humor.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Ted Cross said...

I often get relatives or friends back in the states saying how unusual my life is, but I still feel like another average, ordinary person, just like you. For me, I don't think I will ever feel extraordinary unless I can accomplish something that can be remembered after I have died, such as have some books published that do pretty well.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Interesting article! I'll have to check out Shafak's book when it releases.

Getting to know a variety of people is harder for me because I'm not very interested in getting out of the house! But I meet a variety of people even during my errand-running...actually, these people seem to make a point of coming up and talking to me. :)

Old Kitty said...

I think you are most talented and most unique Ms Naked Tart!!! So you just go girl!!

The joy of art is how it releases and removes boundaries and creates all sorts of possibilities - it is the human mind in explosion - limitless, endless, borderless!

Thanks for the link, take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

Nancy-thank you so much! That's the insanity, i think *snort*

Ted-I think you live an AMAZING life, and a great one for really learning that people are people thing with all the travel and various cultural immersions...

Elizabeth-Yeah, in reality I don't get out that much, either, though working at a University I do have some real life exposure. But I do more of my mixing it up here.

Jenny-Thank you! And very well said on the joy of art and the connections it makes!

Jessica Bell said...

Watery Tart? Normal? ahahahaha! Er sorry, but how often do you come across an American that understands Australian humour? I think you're one of the weirdest people I've ever met. Saying that in a TOTALLY NICE way ;o)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is really deep for a Monday morning, Hart! And you are certainly not average. You have the gift of humor and aren't afraid to speak your mind.
Now my life's more than average - it's actually rather boring!

Shaharizan Perez said...

I found that video to be wonderfully insightful and powerful. I think I'll "borrow" Elif's line- "Write what you feel," when directing students to write creatively. I am one of those guilty of telling them to "Write what you know."

Great post!

Jan Morrison said...

Oh you are normal if normal is screamingly funny, if normal is naked world domination, if normal is writing seventeen novels at once! Yeah, you're normal alright. I love those paintings and will go look at the video in just a minute but I had to tell you that you're the kind of normal I like! Also, Bruce Cockburn wrote in one of his songs 'the trouble with normal is it always gets worse' I love that.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

that's one thing i like about blogging - it connects me to people outside of my comfy little circle, which is awesome.
Also, congrats on the NaNo win!

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica- *snicker* Yes, I've been wise enough to get myself edjumakated!

Alex-Deep? Did I go deep? Must have been the long weekend! Nice relaxing sleeping in...

Chary-yeah--that 'what you know' is a tricky thing, eh? I seem to write CHARACTERS I know (as in personalities that seem consistent, either because I've known people like them or they fit a psych profile) but situations I DON'T... I think there are a lot of ways of knowing...

Jan-teehee--yeah, I don't even aspire to normal anymore... I always wished for some fabulous intriguing background... wasn't happening, so I guess I take it forward with creating it myself.

Carol Kilgore said...

I totally agree about people and groups. I meet a fair share, although since I've been writing full time, I meet fewer of them because I'm out less. But the same rules still apply. Think how boring this world would be if everyone was a clone of one of us.

ciaraknight said...

Well stated. I've always had a passion for understanding other cultures. I've traveled all over Europe and China. Attended an international school. I agree, we should all branch out into the world. Great post.

Colene Murphy said...

Couldn't ever possibly imagine to call you ordinary. In fact you are extraordinary for being brought up up so "ordinary" and being the funny, kind, bubbly person you are!

LTM said...

love love love love love this post!!! Mostly b/c wow. We were *almost* the same person growing up. We were a little more upper middle class, but only b/c my dad was smart and promoted in his blue collar job at Exxon... (no college degree there).

And I was super introverted as a child and very bookish. And I think it's the *bookish* part that leads to the *writerish* part... which is basically what you said. Yes? :o) <3

Dawn said...

Amazing post!
Congrats, btw, on your NaNo win. I did not...sigh.

Hart Johnson said...

Sarah-you snuck in there! The blogging definitely helps. I love to travel, but have never really had the means...

Carol-it's true that the writing keeps us 'home more'--makes this lifeline in our computers more critical, eh?

Ciara-I'm so jealous! all your travel sounds fabulous, as does an international school.

Colene-teehee... I got the brain from Abby somebody...Abby Normal...--that is what your comment reminded me of! Thank you!

Leigh-my later childhood wasn't actually as poor, either--my dad just always cost more than he made, so until he died we were poor. Mom was a better money manager and we did okay. funny that our childhoods would be so similar!

Dawn-don't beat yourself up! Anything you wrote is better than nothing written, right?

Simon C. Larter said...

Sometimes I worry about my kids growing up in a suburb. I'd rather they were exposed to a wider range of cultures and backgrounds than you'd find at the local elementary school.

But then, my 5yo son has a crush on a pair of half-Mongolian twin girls, so perhaps I don't have to worry so much after all.... :)

Also, yes. What you said.

Cold As Heaven said...

Apparently you are pretty much like me; an almost average citizen, and maybe slightly more than average open-minded and liberal.

And on

"... not judge any individual based on group membership and not to judge any group based on the individuals ..."

there is only one thing to say: I completely agree >:)

Cold As Heaven

Holly Ruggiero said...

I don't believe there is anything as ordinary or usual.

The Golden Eagle said...

Normal, usual, ordinary . . . those are so generalized. No one's completely those things, all things taken into consideration. And you're definitely not average! You have a great sense of humor, for one. :)

Helena said...

You are WAY too funny and fascinating, to say nothing of compulsively naked, to be ordinary. But I know what ya mean about trying to know more people and a lot wider variety. Sometimes I feel downright starved for more people of all different types to come crowding into my life.

Hart Johnson said...

Simon--five year old lusting the twins, eh... apple not falling far from the tree then? teehee I'm fortunate my suburb is at least in a college town, so there is a fairly large international community.

CaH--it does seem we have a fair amount in common--but I'm Norsisima, you know, so that only makes sense!

Holly-good way of looking at it!

The Golden Eagle- it's true... I think that is the circle problem... we grow to think of ourselves as the norm... and that might just get ME in trouble! Thank you!

Helena-Naked is as ordinary as it comes! Every last one of us was born naked! It's always good to be on the look out for new sorts, ne?

Raquel Byrnes said...

You can turn a phrase and that's a rare gift for sure.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I think you're right on the Oregon stats. Maybe a few more Russians?

My life was certainly off-kilter, but sometimes when I talk to other authors in person, I realize that I'm just not that weird. LOL!

Hart Johnson said...

Raquel, thank you!!!

LDiane-Yeah, the Russians were just starting to flock to Portland about the time I left. And it IS strange to talk to other writers and find all these people LIKE US... And here I spent all these years hiding my freakish tendencies!

Helen Ginger said...

Even though I grew up in an environment much like yours, I would guess we're different because of the different life experiences we've had. What might seem boring in your life might very well be interesting to me. But you can't really write your life unless you're writing a memoir. Luckily, writers are blessed with imagination and the ability to research!

Lisa said...

I'm so glad you made Nano! Congratulations!

And for the record, I find you very interesting in lots of ways.

Adina West said...

Great post Hart. I love foreign languages, travel, and live in a very culturally diverse area in a multicultural city. I certainly believe that interconnectedness and keeping our circles open is the key to a more complete life.