Thursday, 4 August 2016

Life, death, positivity and talking

I often wonder why I write a blog. It happened at first because I wanted to sell some art and it was a shout for publicity. But it's evolved over the years and became a more random unravelling of my thoughts. I sometimes do it just to get something off my chest and work it through (very occasionally not having a clue of the ending when I start typing) for a bit of catharsis: for example my European rant recently. Sometimes it's because I've made something to eat that's been so good that I want everyone else in the world to make it too. Sometimes it's more of a diary. Sometimes it's pretty pointless. A holiday story. An excuse for a photo. Sometimes I imagine that I'm talking just to certain people. Sometimes I forget that other people may read, and am embarrassed when people I don't know very well talk to me about it. Sometimes it's just for me, but it's fine if you want to read it too. The truth is that I never know who reads it, and I'll never know who thinks it's rubbish, and who likes it. And actually that's fine.

I've thought about this more often recently. Last week I found out that a fellow translation student had died of cancer. It sounds sad, and of course it is, and I was moved by the news. Which is understandable until I tell you that I never met her. Never spoke to her. Never even exchanged emails. But she - and until I came on the scene, only she - had made use of the university's translation MA blogspace. She too had used it in different ways, over the course of several years: sometimes to discuss theorists and talk about how frustrated she was with some of the theories on translation being argued over, sometimes to work out a structure for an essay or a learning log, sometimes to voice her fears on returning to academia after years away from it. From her comments it was clear she was a little bothered that nobody else joined her. And after a couple of months I did join her, just the once, writing a little frippery, carefully avoiding anything academic to ensure I didn't end up looking stupid in front of any tutors, but instead going for a piece about how, in my limited experience, linguists tend to be rather quiet and, like her, bemoaned the fact that on our university online forum hardly anyone types anything, wondering how annoying I must be to the quiet ones. She agreed in her next - and final - entry, a few weeks later, and urged everyone to 'feed back, emote, speak, ponder, mull over, chew the cud...', and like me, talked about the awkwardness of feeling that you are doing a lot more talking (or writing) than anyone else.

After the news of her death, it turned out that quite a few people, including me, wrote emails or comments to the tutor and most said the same thing: that they had read her blog, and it had been a very real source of comfort, of inspiration and hope in a dark hour when you have a deadline looming.

I wonder if she knew that?

I've said it on here before, and I'll probably say it again, but the end of the school year always feels like my New Year's Eve, my time to take stock and think about how far I've come. Often - as with New Year's Eve, it feels a maudlin time of 'another year gone, nothing changed' but this year I feel more positive than I've felt for a long time. After a fulfilling year studying, I now spend my spare time weaving words together in voluntary translations for a French charity, deep in the details of severe malnutrition, refugee crises, epidemic management, gender-based violence and how to examine and interview rape victims. It's sometimes gory and gritty, but here in my lovely warm house, surrounded by all the food I could ever need, and people who care for me, it's made me feel more fortunate than ever before. And I want to tell people about it. I feel like me again. And one of the things I'm thinking about more and more is that we need to acknowledge the good things more, or nobody will know how good they are, until it's too late.

It's good to talk.

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