Current Events Don’t Take the Time to Rest on Your Laurels

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Oudaya, Rabat, Morocco. (2015) Personal photos.

Who am I if not a student?

I’ve been trying to tackle this question and derivations thereof since my stint in transcript-official scholarship ended. Where I felt energized to engage in content and share my perspective with a varied audience when I first took to blogging as a college student, I found that commentary to feel less credible, if not simply strained once seemingly divorced from academic associations.

The so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, coupled with my academic interests and eye to the region, threw me into an incredibly active online community where I felt well-placed to engage in content and disseminate it. I could provide color around commentary with relative nuance and had a wealth of peer-reviewed resources at my disposal to provide deeper insight, if not additional information for readers.

Following college, it was much harder for me to gauge where my credibility lied, in that I felt very isolated from those same academic circles in terms of not only me being an active participant, but physically as well. It was suddenly very challenging to provide so much as ‘analysis lite’ (Roxanne terminology exclusive) as I sat crossed-legged on a bed in my childhood bedroom. What teeth did that commentary have? It was as if I lost perspective of the following:

  • That virtual, social networks are a thing to be leveraged for these exact purposes.
  • An undergraduate degree program is no bellwether for active participation, let alone impact, in seemingly academic pursuits.
  • My ability to think about these subjects was not seemingly lost on me; however, my confidence level around it had taken a hit.

It took me awhile to rebuild confidence levels as I was forced to navigate the murkier waters of post-college reality. I was informed that picking up a phone to get an answer is still an incredibly efficient approach to completing projects, I could not crank out work into odd hours for the sake of infusing poetic license and indulging my penchant for florid theoreticals and second guessing, and I had to learn to care about important issues and current events per the free space on my calendar. I’m relatively exhausted of the “Twenty-Sum Things About Your Twenties” approach of designating these formative years (which years aren’t?) as a period of transition and soul-searching. I think if it has been a period of anything, for me at least, it has been an exercise in simple ‘adjustment.’

Recently, I have been able to take stock of advice given to me by a fellow blogger about a year or so back. He made the remark that part of finding what it is that I want to do would require me to flex those skills across a range of work environments and learn to see those skills play out in terms of their application as a opposed to a set job, role or organizational mission. It seems that I loss sight of the fact that skill sets are living, dynamic, implementable things across a range of situations and ‘life phases.’

I am still a student. I have learned an incredible amount in my working years. I require neither pretense nor pretext for commentary and participation. It all lies within the purpose.

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No doctor, detective or hospital chaplain is going to impart Merriam-Webster vetted terminology on you at a time like that. People in those lines of business–let alone those who have experienced such things directly–know that those events don’t knock, but suck the living breath out of you. The cold, immediate, sterile environment presses right into each of your bronchial tubes like steel rods. Breathlessness never felt so much like hope until you’ve experienced that.

It was October of 2006 and it was drizzling, chilly and raw, and as I was there slack-jawed and rubber-legged, suspended mid-terror, I finally had the pleasure of knowing what it was like to simultaneously want to escape from and burrow myself into my own bodily vessel. Existence never felt so optional. Weightlessness and granite-grade paralysis sat side-by-side and I chose weightlessness. Hence, my father escorted me on lifeless, hollow legs as we glided down the hall. My momentarily soulless body was treading down the hall on rolling ankles. My feet couldn’t hit flat on the ground.

One my greater fears is to one day write or photograph something of a person I know in reality, and it gives life to a version of them that is horrific.

I sometimes feel that photos and written descriptions of people are like shadow versions of the real thing. They are like artful impersonations that become continuously distorted as they run through the fingers of their audiences.

Upon fabrication and release, they take on a life and direction distinct of both the subject and its messenger (writer or photographer).

The shadow version tends dictate thereafter.

The past few days have been an emotional rollercoaster ride due to a few administrative barriers mostly beyond my control. I owe people for the help and support that I’ve received as I deal with this. However, the most appropriate way to end this hellacious weekend has been sitting in a near-deserted IHOP, eating breakfast for dinner for one, in the middle of an ice storm with only the bluest Chopin and Gershwin playing in the dining area. I’m not the world’s most positive person, but I just have to say that a dark sense of humor and appreciation for metaphor leaves me strangely appreciative of this episode.

‘Immortal’ Algerian Novelist Assia Djebar Dies, 78

Such a “Great” has departed.

Arabic Literature (in English)

Algerian novelist Assia Djebar — frequently mentioned as a Nobel Prize contender and one of the “immortals” of the Académie Française — has died in a hospital in Paris:

assiaAccording to Algerian state radio, Djebar — whose given name was Fatima Zohra Imalayène — will be buried in her native Cherchell, where she was born in 1936.

Djebar wrote novels and short-story collections striking for their wide historical sense and their fiercely female focus. They included: The Thirst, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, A Sister to Scheherazade, So Vast a Prison, Algerian White, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment and The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry. She also wrote poetry.

She moved to France to study at 18. There, began her life as a bearer of many “firsts” when she became the first Algerian woman to be admitted to the country’s top literary university, the Ecole Normale Superieure. She published her…

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I’m juggling so much right now, that I’m on the verge of dropping something. I pray to goodness that it’s something of lesser importance.

I’m juggling so much I can’t stop much to eat or sleep. I just keep juggling, hoping that someone will come along to catch a few things for me.

I have asked for people to come along, but people are awful scared where fast-moving, frightening objects are involved.