One of the things I’ve been insecure about for a long time is not belonging entirely to any world. I’m Chinese-American but I know next to nothing about my Chinese culture, heritage, language; I’m an English major who reads on the outskirts of academia, less interested in cerebral constructs than heady emotional power; I’m a movie enthusiast who hasn’t seen all too many movies–
I don’t feel like just something; I feel like something with a footnote that reads: sorta.
I’m aware that I let my emotions get carried away sometimes; when I meditate on what exactly what my emotions are and where they come from, it becomes clear to me that I need to snap out of it and put things in perspective. In other words, most of my insecurities thrive when I’m superficial and compare myself to others’ appearances. When I talk to these people and get to know their intricate interiority, I learn that most of them feel the same way I do. And when I express my insecurities to other people, I learn more often than not that I haven’t been projecting them in my conduct. This irony of unwitting perpetuation of a security that I seek in others because I “lack” it is a cycle I’ve been trying to break. Not by telling myself that it’s all going to be OK, because that’s just deceitful and nonconstructive! Rather, I try to be real with myself, distinguish between the pros and the cons that both always exist for every insecurity, even though I instinctively focus on the cons.
For example, I sometimes wish that I were more well-versed in either movies or books. Somehow I assume that if I were I’d feel more comfortable in a single niche rather than half-comfortable in two. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that both movies and books–Film and Literature–feed off of each other for me, in the basic sense that both are driven by narratives (they have at their respective cores our pattern-making/pattern-seeking impulse), but also in that my (fiction) writing aspires to be visual. When I write I often prefer to have a “shot list” or even a screenplay of the story before fleshing it out into prose. In a screenplay you can’t love the sound of your own voice too much–the medium is unsuited for poets or those who want to craft lyrical sentences. Instead, you just have to lay it all out without too many descriptions or tangents. Writing in this way is also good for me because my writing tends to situate itself into the minds of the characters, and as a result the plot suffers. Writing a screenplay forces me to consider how my characters’ psychological states are outwardly manifested in their behaviors or dialogue. That’s another thing–dialogue. It forces you to painstakingly think about dialogue.
Joan Didion once said that there’s a cinematography to the way in which you arrange a sentence, a paragraph, a page. Movies and books are left-to-right experiences (books more so), with each successive image or word building on the ones before it. Before I write I always visualize the scene, imagine how I’d shoot it–what I’d have a close-up of, what I’d refrain from showing.
Anyway, before I get too long-winded here, I’ll end with this: your insecurities can become assets once you accept where you’re at right now with something and then reflect on how this seeming disadvantage has played out for the better in your life. A little bit of reflection is a good antidote to cursory thoughts and feelings taking hold of you. I want to end with this quotation by Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
Posted by James