Publishing as palimpsest

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I love when I am proved wrong, as is often the case. Writing this column was no exception. 

This semester, I thought that this column would be a mangle of memories, a weekly stream of consciousness that amounts to nothing. I thought that my readership would be close to none, perhaps only the occasional pity read from an extended family member. To my surprise, however, every now and again I’d get the odd text message from a friend or a notification in my email or inbox with a note from a reader. 

I went into this semester selfishly thinking that my thoughts were, indeed, my thoughts alone, instead of considering how others could connect. But through liminality, which arguably we all endure at one time or another, each reader could perhaps relate to my wonky threads of words. 

I suppose that is how the liminal space works in the sneakiest of ways, spreading itself so thin that it coats the bodies of many. We are all caught in its metaphysical web of wondering, of waiting. By confronting our confusion about our respective realities and their endless binaries, we entangle ourselves further in this web. 

Even when we leave, liminality lingers on our bodies; the web’s sinews stick to our memories, leaving a mark on our perspective. This mark is faint, almost like a stamp kissed by water, and yet liminality preserves itself as a palimpsest on identity. 

For me, publishing my weekly pieces has been my ticket for the train that leaves the liminal space. In this metaphorical train station, I wait and stare upward at the time board, hoping to find temporal clarity through lit up signals directing me to specific platforms, bound for closure. The liminal space, however, wouldn’t let me slip through its fingers easily; each week I had to grapple with liminality in order to move forward. 

These weekly written confessions gave me the opportunity to complete the task set by the liminal space: to deep dive into my internal archive and attempt to make sense of it all. Some weeks were harder than others; at times, it felt like I was trekking through a bramble bush as I ventured to arrive at the space beyond my very own binaries, only to come out bruised and battered. 

Through the now 11 articles in this column, I have forced myself to willingly enter the liminal space and negotiate my own sense of self through the different facets of my identity — race, sexuality, desires, interests — and somehow, have somewhat found the silver lining in this process. As much as liminality itself draws bodies into its space, sometimes with no return ticket, to interact with liminality on my own terms has provided me with clarity and ownership of the aspects of my identity that will forever float between binaries, never to be anchored down to either side. 

Publishing itself is a way of creating a liminal palimpsest: The internal becomes the external. Pressure gives rise to emotions that bubble up to the surface and eventually pour out, word by word, bleeding onto the page or online screen in beautiful black and white curves and lines. The act of writing each week has offered me the chance to process, to slow down and think through each of the facets of my identity through liminality itself, engaging purposefully with the liminal space to firm my grasp on the facets that compose myself. 

Acting as the Arts Department columnist this semester came at the best of times for me. I felt finally mature enough to have a hint of retrospect and to evoke it in order to reflect on every time I’ve been thrown into limbo or seduced into the liminal space, where I would either sink or swim under the weight of uncertainty. Now I understand liminality as a tool of sorts, an adaptable lump of red clay, ready to be molded by my weary hands into the shapes of my choosing. Through liminality, there is immense opportunity to form my own identity in the same manner, taking on each thumbprint and indentation into my inner persona and outer presentation. 

I myself am in a liminal standstill of sorts, as just like many others, I find my days drained of optimism for a certain future, or even one I can picture myself. Most days, I try to recognize the silver lining in the ambiguity of the next year and instead languish in liminality. But sometimes, I see the potential in what is to come, what may be reimagined and what I may choose to hope for. It makes liminality all the more enticing — it’s a space to push any restricting binaries away to the peripheries of perspective, so that the potential liminality ushered forth may be explored. 

Francesca Hodges writes the Monday A&E column on exploring liminal spaces within art and identity. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.