Suppression of Expression
English is my only language, and though it’s been essential in every day of my life, I’ve far from mastered how to use it. I’ve never considered myself a good communicator, whether it be on paper or in verbal speech. I tend to be a somewhat private person, afraid of being truly vulnerable in the way that successful writing and storytelling requires. I don’t freely share my innermost thoughts and feelings with people, and rarely do so even with my closest friends; however personal writing asks me to not only orally divulge this information, but also put it in print where it can be seen by anyone. The fact that I tend to subconsciously avoid revealing my pure emotion in writing suppresses the development of my literacy.
I remember having a journal when I was younger that was locked with a code word and voice recognition protection. If that wasn’t enough, everything I wrote in the journal was in invisible ink that required a special light in order to read it. Whenever I felt the need to put words on paper, I still made sure that nobody else would ever be able to see them. I wasn’t hiding anything specifically, but I couldn’t bring myself to write openly if there was a chance that someone other than me would read it. Naturally, a lot of my time spent writing in journals occurred in the comfort and privacy of my bedroom. My room was my safe space that I could retreat to when I wanted to be alone after a long day. I could grab my journal from its secret hiding place behind my dresser in the corner of the room, and then lay on my bed and let thoughts flow onto the paper without any pressure or interruptions.
In contrast with my primarily private lifestyle, I’ve been surrounded by excellent communicators all throughout my life. I’ve had friends who would love to write long letters to me with fun stories of their daily lives, thoughts, and feelings which seemed to flow effortlessly from their heads. I envied them. When I sat down to write a letter in response, I overthought everything and couldn’t get myself to put my words on the page. I’d end up telling myself that whatever it was was not important or relevant enough to share and therefore didn’t need to be written. I’ve seen my mother spend hours conversing with people on the phone, never running out of things to say. I, on the other hand, could find myself at a loss for words in everyday conversation simply because I refrain from sharing more information than what is absolutely necessary, keeping the majority of my thoughts to myself, just like I do when it comes to writing.
The development of my written literacy over time could be seen through my personal journals rather than through writing assignments because these private journals are the only place where I write whatever I’m thinking or feeling. Just as I did when I was younger, I enjoy keeping a record of my current life to look back upon. Even though time is much more limited in my present life, I take a couple minutes each night to reflect about my day in a five year memory book that was given to me as a high school graduation gift. Similar to my very secret childhood journal, I keep this small book to myself stored away in the drawer of my nightstand. In what has been almost two years, I have yet to skip a day of writing in it. Sometimes life is a blur, and it can take a moment to process all of the events that occurred, even just during one day. Writing allows a chance to reflect upon and record highlights, low points, and epiphanies, or let out excitement, anger, or sadness. I’ve been told that I’m always smiling, and I am generally a happy person, but during the days when that is not the case, I find that I keep my emotions bottled up, only to be let out in the privacy of my own room in the form of writing.
Letting other people read my writing is, in a way, letting them into a portion of my life, something I find daunting. Meeting and opening up to new people is one of my greatest challenges; but last year, when I was about to start college and live on my own for the first time in a completely new city, I knew that my hesitance when meeting new people would hinder me throughout college and in my future. I told myself I needed to use the big life change ahead of me to face my fear, so I decided to submerge myself into a very social environment, one I was not used to. I joined a sorority. It was the best decision of my college career not only because of the friendships I’ve made, but also because it gave me the opportunity to meet and learn to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds with numerous different interests. My literacy through verbal communication improved during this time because I made the deliberate choice to open up to people, and compared to a campus full of strangers, my sorority provided a smaller, friendlier environment in which to do so. One moment in particular where this was apparent was in a conversation with a member shortly after I joined. I could tell she was completely free of judgment and genuinely interested in what I had to say rather than pursuing simple small talk just for the sake of talking to avoid awkward silences. I felt comfortable and at home within this community which made it easier to grow and practice conveying myself more openly through language.
I believe I appreciate eloquent speakers and writers more so because I am not one. They have the courage to express themselves freely, and have mastered the art of varying their methods of communication depending on the situation or individual they are speaking with. Though my daily journals have contributed to the development of my literacy in terms of practicing writing skills, the extent of my literacy that I share with others directly corresponds with the level of vulnerability I’m willing to give in every situation. While I may not feel the need to divulge my thoughts all of the time, I realize that the purpose of language is connection, and that it would be a lonely world without human interaction.