Today was a migraine day. I’ve had a headache since 8am this morning. Probably longer, I was just too asleep to feel that throbbing pressure in the front of my head.
Today, it hit me how much I’ve lost this year. There is time I cannot account for, memories I know I have but it doesn’t feel like I was actually there, life I’ve lived that feels like a blur. It’s like I’m waking up from a trance, where I had these experiences and interacted with all these people and I was just a shadow of myself and now I’m trying to figure out what was real and what will last. I know some of you know all too well what I'm talking about.
I took an acting class this weekend. It was so much fun. But it was hard. Harder than it used to be. I used to be able to look a script, a speech, a vocab list, you name it and have it memorized almost immediately. It wasn’t like that this weekend. It was me agonizing over lines, rehearsing in front of mirrors, writing and rewriting, speaking and re-speaking the words over and over again and still never getting the lines I was supposed to memorize quite right. That was hard. It was a wakeup call that got me thinking about how much I’ve missed without even realizing it.
It’s like I’ve been alive, technically, but half asleep, at times half dead, and while I’m profoundly grateful to be standing on two feet, out of the thick of it, alive and well, I am having to face the fact that my current me is a new me, broken in some ways and better in others. It’s weird, meeting a new version of yourself. It’s a fascinating learning experience. It makes life interesting. You get to meet a part of you that was always there but has been hidden behind a knack for memorizing and the daily rigor of athletic discipline. It’s not really a new me, I guess, it’s just that my brain works a little differently now. It might not be forever, but I’m glad I get to meet this part of me that was hidden beneath the life I was living. It’s created space for me to exist differently.
Sometimes, change is hard because it happens over time but you become aware of it in increments. It can be exciting and it can be terrifying and it can be sad.
But, you deserve to take up space. Just because you’ve changed doesn’t make you any less worthy. It doesn’t take away your right to show up and try your best. Let go of expectations and enjoy the struggle, the journey, the triumph of transformation.
For those of you that are interested in what I've been up to in the U.K. these past three weeks, my classmates and I have collaborated to create a website cataloging our field trips and academic studies. Learn more about Anglo-Saxon culture, history, and landscape here!
I am female.
I am a woman.
I am strong.
I always knew I’d need to protect my body.
I’ve always known that my body would be objectified.
It isn’t fair, but it is known.
I am blonde.
I would be called dumb.
I would never believe those words. I knew better than to that.
It is something I was prepared for.
I was brought up to believe that my mind is my greatest weapon.
I was raised in a place where girls and boys had equal opportunity to education.
I was told that I could study anything I wanted.
I felt like school was the most even playing field I had.
Even at recess, I was stronger than most of the boys. But, it wasn’t about that. We were children, we were people, we were built differently and each of us was unique, but I was woman, I was fierce, and I was capable. There were no men standing in my way.
And still, I often felt freest at school. Equal. The playing field was level.
“Never hit a girl.” But, there were no such rules concerning intellect. If you could do the work, master the learning, then the world was your oyster, no matter your gender.
A man’s brain is not stronger than a woman’s brain. I could do anything in the classroom that a boy could do. I was always the top of my class.
And so, when I got hit in the head, I never thought my brain would be marginalized by the iniquities of gender inequality.
Male and female brains are different, in fact. Not intellectually, but structurally.
Female concussions are understudied, undertreated, and more serious.
I felt the sting of being concussed and getting funny looks because volleyball players, girly sports, don’t have concussions. It’s not like football.
But we are female.
It’s like we’re not tough enough until we get hurt, and then we have to be tougher than any man would ever be asked to be.
We can bear children. Of course, we can tolerate pain.
So, when we get hit in the head, we are concussed, more concussed than a man would be, and yet, we are given less time to heal, a lethal dose of snide remarks and judgmental looks, and poorer treatment because we are not male.
We are told our greatest treasure is our brain.
And still, we are exploited.
Mind the gap.
When in the U.K., good coffee is hard to come by. Here is the first iteration of my Ode to Coffee inspired by our travels thus far.
Ode to Coffee
Pitcher&Piano, a church converted into a very aesthetically pleasing pub in Nottingham. 'Twas a great place for an afternoon of paper writing and research.
Castle ruins in Clun, England. We had a picnic amidst the memories of times past.
View from the hilltop upon which the ruins of Montgomery Castle sit in Montgomery, Wales. It looks out Eastward over the Welsh/English border.
We have reached (approximately) the half-way mark in our seminar, Lost in the Myths of Time. While learning about the landscape, language, and identity of the Anglo-Saxons, I’ve been struck by the depth of our discussions on borders and our constant attempts to define identity. It’s fascinating, really, how deeply place influences how we define ourselves, how language can shape our worldview and culture, and how landscape, location, and language can serve as barriers between entire people groups. Exclusion is often rooted in religion, sure, but I’d argue that landscape and language have even more comprehensive, subtle, and profound effects on how people view themselves, talk about themselves, define and treat ‘the other,’ and make sense of their roles in this crazy world. What is identity? What does it mean to live in the in-between? What is home? What is freedom?
This last question is something our seminar group discussed at length over a very British dinner of roast and potatoes. Consider Wales, for instance. It is a nation resentful of being marginalized and mistreated by the English, a people that feels in many ways displaced and oppressed despite being politically “free.” I’d argue that slavery is absolutely rampant in our modern world. We are afraid to recognize it for what it is. What is it about being human that makes us constantly justify our own iniquities? Why are we always trying to make ourselves feel like we are better than such-and-such and have every right to be angry at so-and-so? We are not free. We live in a broken world. Except through Christ, we are bound to this brokenness no matter how hard we try to forgive, be kind, forget prejudice. We are enslaved to ideologies. We are enslaved to our sense of rightness, to our opinions. We are enslaved by institutions, occupations, expectations. We are physically enslaved still, too. In no way do I wish to discount the terror of America’s history of perverse institutional slavery with these remarks, but merely recognize my own shortcomings and call attention to my own blindness in failing to fully value others.
I also want to draw attention to the fact that bodily slavery still exists in America (and other places) today. Sex trafficking is slavery. It is being bought and sold, being owned, being a product. And, I encourage each reader to pause for a moment and think of someone you know who is effectively owned by someone or something that you can recognize and to which you can easily give name. It may be a relationship, a job, a belief system, or an organization that owns this person you are imagining. It’s a bold claim to call this slavery, but I think it is. We do the very things we try not to do and submit to people or ideas or systems that hold some power over us. Slavery still exists. It is a by-product of sin, of a fallen world.
We are incredibly selfish creatures, often squashing others without even realizing it in order to further our own sense of security. It’s engrained in our human experience. And it is wrong. Traumatic. Terrifying. And yet, life can still be so so good. So sweet. So lovely. So beautiful. And it is this dualism that I have grappled with whilst on this trip. Nothing is perfect. Much is beautiful. Everything is complex and complicated and confusing, and yet, when we digest moments, slices of profound experience, flickers of glory, I know there is a God, I know that striving is worthwhile despite my failures, and that it is worth going on. We must not despair, but take the time to recognize that we are free in Christ, but sojourners in a world corrupt and tainted by selfishness and sin. And all this was stirred up over dessert and a discussion of Offa's Dyke.
“Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” –C.S. Lewis
*These are just my thoughts. I’m reading Mere Christianity right now and C.S. Lewis has a great section on free will if you’re interested in further reading.