“One writes out of one thing only — one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.” –James Baldwin
My two-month-old daughter is sleeping behind me. Every now and again, she makes a sound. A little squeak. It’s her way of telling me, Mom, I’m with you. This is now my experience. The mother to a daughter. People ask: Do you feel more fulfilled now that you’re a mother? I always answer very honestly. I do not. I was fulfilled before she entered my womb. I had a very clear idea of who I was and was going to be. The only thing that having her has done is make me more of who I wasn’t yet. My daughter has only added to my portions.
As an artist, the gift I’ve been given is the ability to write through my experiences. For twenty-nine years, I lived with rigid rules to my behavior and lifestyle. I read books, educated myself, and assumed I was growing as a person. And I was. But, there is a way to go through life hauntingly. Like a ghost on the outskirts watching the living with envy. That was me. I was always so afraid of everything. Of emotions. Of being out of control. I think having a child gives you courage you never knew existed.
That’s why I’m writing this blog. It’ll be the place where I’m free. I’m unmasking the elements that are me. It’s the unsilencing.
I did two amazing things this year. I had a baby and I completed my graduate program. Those are significant accomplishments. There were moments I didn’t think I could do either of those things. I was certain one would consume the other. They exist, however, as a twin celebration that I alone have to celebrate. Why is it that for as long as I’ve been gaining educational credentials, voices have said with no shame, “Who do you think you are? Do you think you’re better than me because you have a degree?” this on the day of my graduation, or “I know people that are smarter than you.” I was also told, “I”m so glad you had a baby. Now you’re normal.”
What do you do with that? How do you live peaceably beside those who don’t know how or want to acknowledge the unique thing that makes you exactly who you are?
You don’t. You find another path and hope that along the way somebody gets it. It would be nice to have that embrace, but the reality that I may never is there. I acknowledge and accept it. I am defining myself within my own framework and that is scary for others who can only define themselves through others’.
This is my path. My words. My abilities. The stories that will come through me. The connections there are to be had. I’m always hoping. I’m always waiting.
Until then, I hear my little girl sleeping.