I loved the PhD process – it felt like the best kind of holiday. But the post-doc slump was a limbo where potential only served to paralyze.
I spent three years labouring to construct new paths, only to dither at my own crossroads, punchdrunk and confused. Everyone knows you meet the devil at the crossroads if you hang around there too long.
The recent UK election results were a slap in the face though, weren’t they?
A wake-up. A call to arms.
I’d love to be mistaken, but I have a sense that I’m about to witness the dissolution of many things I hold dear to my homeland, my landscape, my reality.
So what can I do?
I can write. I’ve always written. I’ve never not been able to write.
But I have always taken it for granted.
After the PhD, I trained as an English teacher and have spent time volunteering in classrooms with teenagers and adults who are learning English. They are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Their stories are inspirational – how brave must you be to leave everything, and perhaps everyone you have loved and begin again in a new and distant unknown?
How inspiring when a thirty year old woman who has never had the opportunity to be literate in any language struggles through her first formal lesson, returning the following week having diligently conquered not only the manipulation of a pencil but all the letters of our Roman alphabet. How not to shed a tear watching her quietly and proudly score full marks in the spelling test?
So now I see the privilege and the power of writing. But how to use it?
I asked a professional writer I met lately. She told me, ‘You have to be selfish to be a writer. You start with competitions online; that’s how you get into it’.
I didn’t have to think about this much to know this is not my kind of practice.
Then I found myself working in a wonderful, integrated but temporary environment. It feels both entirely natural and starkly unusual to work in this little utopia, in this company of people that properly represent the diversity of our society. We are working on a piece about transformation.
It was when I was pouring tea and affirming – “Yes, yes. We must give voice’.
So that’s it then.
This is what I can do. So I will do it. I will gather stories and give witness.
I can use all my scholarship; the languages I have learned, the linguistics I have studied, my Social History degree. I can use the decades of translating and interpreting, the years spent lending my voice to others.
Isn’t this ‘translation art’, after all?
I can use all I learned at CeNTraL (the Centre for Narratives and Transformative Learning) from wonderful women like Jane Speedy, Susanne Gannon and Tami Spry; the Writing as Inquiry, the Narrative Interviewing, the Collective Biography, the Auto-ethnography.
I will wrangle with words until I am a wordwright. I will write, so the weight of the words may help right the imbalances in our homeland, our landscape, our reality.
Nana Froufrou does [w]righting.
So now I’m packing my pencil and heading out. It may take time to develop this practice, but I’ll keep you posted with notes and sketches and voices….
Copyright@2015 Kyra Pollitt