Welcome to my reboot of my political/social analytical blog! After a few false starts on other platforms, a broken computer and some good old-fashioned writing fear, it’s time to try this blogging thing again and actually make it work! And to begin, I’ll post my old introduction talking about why I wanted to write and just why I think journals like this are an important part of activism in the modern world.
I’ve always hated these types of introductory posts. When confronted with the need to typify myself through interests and favourite items, I freeze. My automatic response is a rather pathetic, “Durrr… I like stuff” and somehow I do not think such an answer really conveys that I am an interesting person that you should care about.
So how is one supposed to sum up personality, taste and life experiences in little boxes? In person, I always tailor my introductions to who I am talking to, but with an online profile you have one shot to present yourself. What are my most important characteristics? Does anyone actually care that I collect stuffed cats and enjoy mango sorbet? Why exactly am I stressing about achieving the perfect online representation of myself?
A discussion on the exhibitionist/voyeuristic nature of today’s society, however, is not my goal with this particular post. I am, regardless of the difficulty, still attempting to write about who I am and why I am writing in order to give myself a grounding for why I want to publicly post my thoughts that I do not often share with those I do not know.
So who am I? I am a new graduate, coming out of a major Canadian university with a Bachelor of Arts degree. I have an honours major in Political Science, a minor in World Religions and a concentration in French as a Second Language. In non-academic terms this means that I am knowledgeable about a lot and an expert in nothing! During my undergrad, I maintained a rather large scope of focuses that I used to try and give my education a theme and this resulted in a favouring of studies which involved social justice and the politics of those forgotten by society. I devoured classes on feminism and gender studies, explored the intricate issue of sexuality, had a particularly close relationship with classism, both loved and hated a series of courses on Christianity, and battled with learning the French language. I even threw in some classes on biology, psychology, earth and planetary sciences and music. Furthermore, now that I have officially survived these four years of information overload, I’m about to embark on another four years to earn my law degrees (a JD and a LLL).
All of this, however, is simply about what I do academically and I am certainly more than that. I am a woman, a Canadian and an activist in many fields. I consider myself pan-sexual, monogamous and I am engaged to a man. I am a strict feminist. Many would call me a socialist. I am an oddball in the elite world of my Ivy League level university for I was born to a single mother who was a drug user. I lived in poverty. I know what it’s like to be on the edges of society. I am mentally disabled according to current medical standards. I suffer from anxiety and panic disorders, and as I grow older, depression has also been added to the list. I am an overachiever, a perfectionist and I push myself to my absolute physical and mental limits on a regular basis. I refuse to ever give up. I am relentless, persistent and usually quite the uptight stress case, yet I adore life and my personal philosophy is to live with as few regrets as possible.
I could go on listing things about myself that influence the way I think and respond to the world, but that would result in a rather unwieldy blog post. Regardless, the point that I wanted to make with such a lengthly paragraph was that identity is complicated. Every person in the world is constructed of a whole slew of traits, yet each individual aspect becomes important only in certain circumstances. We embody contradiction, but we function because we can box some of ourselves away when we do not need that particular characteristic. I, however, am tired of boxing so much of myself away. I’m tired of pretending to be less than I am because certain traits are not considered appropriate in the spheres in which I operate daily. I see no reason that this status quo should continue. This need to hide ourselves away in order to survive in society must end. This line of thinking is what started this blog.
Changing the world, therefore, became the theme of my little corner of the internet. When I was trying to think of an idea that could frame my writing, this was the first one that popped into my head and I rejected it outright for being pretentious and exaggerated. Here I am, however, writing under a headline saying those exact words and truly believing that changing the world is something I can accomplish with something as simple as an online journal.
To understand exactly why this makes sense to me, I need to tell a story from my final semester at university of a rather significant epiphany I had after turning in a paper. The paper was a ten page memo on a rather well-known healthcare commission in Canada. My task had been to review this four-hundred page document, comment on its recommendations and document what changes had occurred in the years since it had been published. In short, a very typical assignment anyone in the public service of any government would face. I managed to complete this entire assignment and get a good grade, yet I never read more than twenty-five pages of the commission (again, not an uncommon occurrence at the governmental level). It was after I left the office upon getting the paper stamped that I snapped. What exactly was I doing with my life, writing these papers that only my professor or TA would read with limits and constraints that made their very purpose almost futile? It was simply training me for a career doing the exact same thing, “reviewing” huge works that very few people actually legitimately researched or read thoroughly. All of the opinions that my fellow students and I wrote down with painstaking effort didn’t really amount to anything in the grand scheme of things. I was tired of working towards a goal of which I had no guarantee that it would ever result in any actual impact on the world.
Furthering my sudden burst of academic angst was my conclusion that bloggers made more of a difference in the world than I did. I have been an active reader of online journals for several years and, in fact, my personal world views and political stances have been directly shaped by the things that I have read by people simply writing down their thoughts for all to see, often without citations, academic formatting or jargon. These people, some with degrees, many without, were making a difference in the world, even if just a small one. My academic training is priceless to me, but the idea of using the way I had been trained to think in the vibrant, almost contraintless realm of the internet was a new, intriguing concept.
Thus began the sprouting of the beginnings of this blog in the back of my mind. I wanted to write about things I cared about and things that academia had left behind. In the world of a university undergrad, if you want to research something, it must have already been thought of before but many of my interests simply had not been taken up by the scholarly realm. I needed to branch out and discover a new method of discussion and communication.
In the final year of my undergrad, I had taken to being more and more outspoken. I challenged the common assumptions that were held in my field. I called other students out on what I thought was poor analysis or unsupported research. I tried to get away from simply saying, “Well, Author X said so, therefore it is correct”. I made it a goal to look at issues that had not been broadly studied and to voice these exclusions to whomever I could make listen. I used personal stories to back up my ideas.
And it all worked. This new frame of thinking and discussing might not have been conducive to keeping myself at the top of the class, but the few point slip was worth it to see people stop and actually critically think. It was worth it after I saw and felt the changes in myself. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was actually using my training for things that mattered and recognizing the true purpose of what academia was created for and what we should use it for: exploration of wherever curiosity may lead us as well as the continuous goal of helping to improve society.
When I say, therefore, that my goal with this blog is to change the world, I do not fear that such a statement is an exaggeration or an example of egoism. Discussing things helps me absorb and better critically assess the issues that I come across in my day to day life. If this blog does anything, it changes me and I am part of the world. I also hope that whoever may stumble across my ponderings is also inspired to think, to explore and to question. I hope that what I write challenges people, even if just one person, to revaluate their truths.
Changing the world does not require that one solve the problem of poverty or war single-handedly. Changing the world simply requires standing up and voicing one’s thoughts. It involves looking at society with a critical eye and never accepting what one sees as natural or necessary. It involves questioning, talking, thinking, screaming, crying, understanding, sharing, and loving. Changing the world begins with changing yourself and this is where I will start.