Forever in a box

Laminated ink

Emily Bi/Senior Staff

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My fingers glide along the wooden patterns of my desk as I attempt to draw inspiration from the mundanity and write something worthwhile. Nothingness seeps into my blank brain and I wonder if these words I’m tangled with will unwind in the ways I hope they do. I must admit, it’s tiring to perfectly piece together what I wish to say. Part of me wants to not bother you with all the details. Part of me wants to tell you everything.

Embarking on this column nearly three months ago, I didn’t believe I had much to say. The maturation and independent livelihood I haven’t experienced in earnest weren’t present in my body. I am at best a swaying, naive dandelion, simply drifting with the gust of winds and helplessly slipping by. My archival mind’s memories and all their mixed meanings flow through just me, closed and stowed away. But these weekly affirmations compelled me to unlock those washed-up thoughts and transform them into 800 revised words.

As much as I rejoice in spilling my guts to a modest readership of unknown strangers and cheerleader-like family relatives, I halt myself from giving away everything. Paragraphs would spell, but I’d instantly delete them. I burned the ideas I found distastefully revealing for even myself to confront and ultimately grant life to. I deemed snippets too sappy, too heartbreaking and too daring to lace underneath my unerasable name. I located myself in a constant state of imbalance, a broken seesaw where I only cling on one end and my words hang loosely on the other.

I’ve wasted a lot of time thinking about this: the person I want you to know and the person I want to protect. The person fossilized within these very lines and the person who carries on in real life. But, to write is to write with conviction and honesty. I couldn’t tell you a complete story without fully letting you into my headspace. It seems to me that to do this, I must wear my heart on my sleeve and shut my eyes, even if I’m screaming inside while smiling on the outside.

To be honest, I enjoy being a private person. One reason being that I’d like to maintain an untouchable collection of thoughts only I get to know. Humans relish in secrecy, and I’m no exception. The other reason is that most of the feelings that inflame within me are fleeting. I can’t help but anticipate that if and when those impulsivities take form on paper, they will surely distort with time, and the person behind the pen who once wrote them will no longer exist.

Because of this, I’m in an everlasting search for something that makes promising sense, a permanence that connects the internal and external realms of my world. It’s easy to bury myself in diaries and notebooks, silently crafting an identity I can be unloyal to and radically change tomorrow as I please. But, this column guides me to walk an unsteady tightrope made of art that I had to remain true to. And to get across safely, I hold hands with vulnerability.

Residing on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood, I nosedive into the kind of person I think I am, the kind of life I want to lead. And I aim to explain it cohesively. If anything, this column has been an avenue for these episodes of introspection to marinate, even if the topics materialize slowly in piecewise fragments. I fixate on declaring nothing but the truth about myself, even if that means giving a little more than I’m used to.

Maybe all we want in this world is to be truly heard. For so long, I convinced myself that my feelings were meant to be trapped within the pages of my journals. I detested the idea of burdening someone else with what weighed my own chest. But ten columns later, I find some liberation in public, typed expression. I shout into a void that may not echo back, but in some way, it’s receptive. 

Selfishly, I realize I write not just for the press, the public and you, but for me as well. I choose my words methodically, ensuring that the image I have in my mind is painted in yours. I reread the same lines over and over, spinning through all the possible ways it could be interpreted. This column elevated the power of language for me. It uncovered the precious space between us when I write things and when you read them.

I don’t know where these articles will end up, the hands they’ll fall into or the eyes that’ll entertain them. But nevertheless, they will remain in the bowels of this digital universe, unaging and unchanging. If nothing else, my words laminate here permanently, as with the heart that strengthened them, and perhaps that’s all I really need to finally be heard. 

Ashley Tsai writes the Monday A&E column on art bridging the internal and the external. Contact her at [email protected].