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It seems that perhaps the most difficult things to learn in life are the ones you once unlearned before, wittingly but especially unwittingly. From what I can tell, it appears to be so because when you unwittingly unlearn something, it ceases to be part of your subconscious day-to-day life strategy. And as a result, when thousands of days pass by, some of your natural proclivities are extorted from your identity.
Probably, hopefully, at the time, the unlearning was at least effective at obtaining whatever you were trying to obtain. The problem is that the past version of you was a foolish asshole with no regard for who its pitiful thirty year-old version would have wanted to be.
As for me, so it happened that I frustratingly came to realize lately that my unsophisticated seventeen-year-old self had access to something his future self would gradually cease to incorporate and lose touch with: his own voice.
English class 2004… We were given the task of writing our own poem. A poem of which the objective was to provide affirmation to one of the many developing voices that spoiled and self-absorbed teenagers like ourselves would unsurprisingly have. In 2004, I also had a Playstation 2 and so the inevitable lack of time to take this sort of assignment seriously.
So what I did was to concoct a poem of oneliners borrowed from some lesser-known, second-rate punkrock bands, the evening before the work was due. I put in just enough effort, mixing in some of my very own third-rate oneliners, for this treachery to remain unnoticed. And it did. Nobody noticed a thing. After I had just read out loud this Frankenstein monster of a poem, one would have been able to hear a pin drop. B-. The perfect crime.
The poem supposedly represented my inner voice of a young atheist and it delivered. Little did I know to what extent what I brought to the table did represent perfectly what it claimed to represent: a lack of belief.
It is no coincidence that I am today a person who writes down his thoughts, tries to formulate them more eloquently than they initially are, edits them, waits around and only when the initial excitement has faded, publishes them. I am not someone who will often enter into an argument or discussion to say what I believe. I don’t keep my opinions up my sleeve. My ideas are therefore profound but even more so, confused. They are never really on the surface so I never need to define or defend them.
This seems safe but it isn’t, because not defending them in some way implies not defending myself. It means not laying out on the table what I value and what value I bring. It implies not having a voice and it results in having to undergo other people’s hidden agendas, often hidden from themselves as well. That is a pernicious path to be on.
So I intend to re-learn getting my voice heard, even if sometimes I end up regretting what it expresses. Because at the end of the day, regret will always be there with us, if only we have the character to acknowledge it. I’d rather have my voice to be there too.
Just give me a few years.