On Showing Up, Language, Being Offensive + Contrarian (90 in 90)
This long path has come to an end for me.
91 days ago, I challenged some of my students to write 90 posts in 90 days. To get up every day and write. Write when they didn’t have anything to say. Write when they did. Write when they were sick and couldn’t think. Write when they were excited to sit in front of the keyboard.
Showing up is 90 percent of the battle in life. When you don’t want to. When you think you can’t. When everything inside you is telling you to run away. If you can find a way to show up, you’ve oftentimes won already.
Too often we don’t show up. We keep our mouths shut. We allow the common, collective knowledge and wisdom to go un-challenged. We say nothing when we know we should. When we are un-comfortable.
It’s part of the Social Contract, after all.
For the most part, I try to avoid such thinking. Because of that, I have been described with many adjectives – contrarian, argumentative, just to name a few of the more polite ones.
I’m okay with that. Mostly. Although I certainly wish people saw it for what I mean it to be instead of what they perceive it to be.
We let things pass. Too easily. Too often. We let them pass and they become acceptable. Until somebody, at some point, makes a big deal about it.
Yesterday, for instance, I made it a point in my social media class to tell a visiting professor that I don’t believe in “audience analysis” and “audience segmenting” in the way I’ve seen it done at newspapers. The fact that the Cincinnati Enquirer, for instance, has a specific list of black sources and women sources is offensive to me. The fact that they work to create “women’s sections” is offensive to me.
Because I don’t like blacks and women? Certainly that is one way to look it at.
Here’s how I mean it: I don’t believe that we can easily segment people. I don’t believe in “native” populations or “communities” of people. I believe if you have to create “special” lists it means you aren’t doing your job right in the first place. I believe when you use a term like “under-served populations” you have immediately classified these “populations” as The Other and assume that, because you don’t know and write about them, that they are under-served.
I find the language we use to be patronizing and offensive.
But I understand why this language exists. I understand the intentions behind the language. I don’t wholly disagree with what people are trying to do with their lists.
I just don’t think we should give kudos to it. It’s important to remember: it’s still pretty screwed up.
This makes me a contrarian.
I voice these opinions, oftentimes in four-letter colorful language (or if I’m really going, multi-syllabic ones, which are my absolute favorite even though George Carlin called them redundant).
This is not an accident on my part. It’s not representative of a bad upbringing. It’s not because I don’t have better words.
I use the words I want to use. I use them specifically. I use them for a reason.
And if you get offended by a word, I suggest that says more about the power you’ve given a word than the actual word itself.
I am a writer and a storyteller. Words are my tools. I love them all. Even the “bad” ones.
I do all of these things, say all of these things, and encourage my students to do and say all of these things. I push them to find their voices. I push them to stand up to me, to others, to anyone.
I implore them to find their way in the world. Not the way of someone else. Not the way of their parents, their teachers, their preachers, their friends, their significant others.
I want them to become the people they want to become.
I want them to tell the stories they want to tell.
I want them to use the words they want to use.
I try to model that behavior for them. I try to give them freedom to reflect that back to me. Sometimes it comes out crass and low-brow and ridiculous. I’m okay with that.
Not everybody is.
That’s another lesson my students will learn. Being yourself comes with its own hazards.
What I really hope they take from showing up, from finding their own language, from being offensive, from being a contrarian is how to be human. Or the kind of human they want to be.
We get stuck in ruts. All of us. Maybe moreso me what with the weird head issues and all of that.
We need people in our lives who snap us out. Who push us beyond our safe walls. Who drag us into places we don’t normally go.
Those people come in all shapes and sizes. They use all kinds of different language. They fight about all manners of insignificant ideas.
What they look like, how they talk and what they fight about are usually not important.
That they exist is.
That last section may simply be cognitive dissonance though.
So my journey through the 90 in 90 is done. As if Tiffany’s. Megan, Kyle, Abraham and others continue. They continue to show up.
And search for their voice.
And realize they too are contrarians – because we are all contrarians to someone.
And find the language that is theirs.
And model that behavior for others.
Because that is writing.