I have a dilemma. A moral quandary, if you will. I’m an English major, so you’d think I would be good with words, right?
The past few months, I have been anything but good with words.
Words have been my safe space for years. I would linger in the pages of “Beloved” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” feeling each printed word under my fingertips. The way that words fit together to form something greater than when they were alone was revolutionary.
I began to write, limited only by the bounds of the page, allowing more and more words to bounce around inside my brain.
The words on the page can tell you my love of diving through manuscripts, inking margins carefully, spending my days surrounded by endless words. They can show you my passion for poetry – modern and medieval – watching their flow.
But words, however life-changing, have their limits.
They can’t show you how I feel when a peer pushes themselves to create something they didn’t think was possible. They can’t tell you why I love words or show you the hours my father spent with me in his leather chair, teaching me to love “The Wee Free Men”, reading to me after hours in front of a screen. They can’t show you how I feel when a student lights up when reading – it finally clicks, and they start to share my love of words. That is something that no amount of words can accurately describe.
The words won’t tell you that my father died last year, or that for the first time in my life, I didn’t have words to explain what was going on in my head, nor did I want to. Words became something I was afraid of. I drowned in words each night, struggling to funnel them onto the page through the instrument I had so long loved.
As an English major, how could I have a crisis of faith with the one thing that I’ve relied on?
Words and I have a rocky relationship.
I try to speak my mind or write what I’m thinking, but it becomes emptier than the leather chair that looms in the living room. I’ll be in the middle of reading an article and a wave of words crashes into me; an idea I once would have been able to condense slips away just as fast as it came. Worst of all is when it’s just the two of us, where I try not to let myself be overwhelmed by the echoes and words of the people I loved.
Trying to repair my relationship with words has been eventful.
It’s like meeting an old friend that you don’t quite know how to talk to but can still hold a conversation with. I write so much for my professors, but not for myself. Those words I give them have to be perfect, have to match a rubric and have to get me a good grade. I force myself to write a little bit each day, to try and cultivate the love I felt when I was younger, but it’s not that simple.
I hate to disappoint you, but this letter has an unsatisfying conclusion. I still am not good at words by any measure of the term, but I am working on loving the words I do create. They don’t have to be perfect – hell, they don’t even have to be good. But they do have to be, and that means that I have to, at the very least, string them together.
Emily Bassett (she/her) is the campus news editor for The Front in spring of 2022. She is a third-year, majoring in medieval literature with minors in communication studies and education & social justice. Her writing interests include focusing on education issues and building community relationships. She likes discussions about grammar, deep dives into Old English literature, and baking in her free time. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com