The first class of my graduate degree is a comprehensive study of sociology, ethnography, and the deeply personal exploration of autoethnography. The Director of the MLS recommended it as a good transitional class from my BFA, as it combines the creativity of storytelling with academic research and self-exploration [when generalized to cultural norms and perception]. I’m only two lectures in and I’ve already cried in front of my peers. Over the next three months, we’re going to dive into a lot of painful, personal topics – some I can empathize with, others I can only offer sympathy and attempted understanding. I bring to the table a lot of personal baggage:
- I’ve struggled with bulimia for a decade.
- I lost my father to cancer [caused by smoking] when I was 21.
- My parents divorced during my first year of college.
- My mother, whom I love and I am VERY proud of, came publicly out of the closet when I was 18. I’m extremely happy and supportive of her and I consider her partner (of eleven years!) to be a second mom.
- I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment (in my previous employment – blessed to say it has never occurred in my current job).
There are other issues in my past that I’m not at a point where I can address [or admit to them yet], but I can say this class is exploring all of the above and much, much more. As emotionally challenging as this class will be for me, there are peers in my class who’ve faced their own demons and painful pasts: child abuse, sexual assault, the death of siblings, single-parent households, foster care, orphanage. So many harrowing, life-changing tragedies… and yet they sit in the class, smiles on their faces and unbroken. It’s truly amazing what the human spirit can endure.
After learning about an acquaintance’s personal struggle through a friend – someone I had thought was built like a rock and felt no emotion whatsoever – I made the following statement:
I’m beginning to think no one is what they seem on the surface. Everyone is so complex and broken and flawed. We are all just a bunch of shattered pieces walking around, trying to hide our glue and hoping no one notices our seams.
Perhaps, for some of us, those seams aren’t what defines us. Perhaps the seams just make us stronger.
Optimistic for a good class on Wednesday,
~ Victoria Elizabeth
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