That Narrative

I am cranky and hate the world.

Go on any social media site. Look for the lost and anxious souls. You will find quotes that look like they've been written on a typewriter about some indeterminate she, who without exception is sad and beautiful and mysterious. They always bugged me. Now I think I have the words for why.

Some people view everything as being in a narrative, which makes sense in terms of how we prioritise information and put it in certain sequences. Not prioritising and stringing together information in "normal" (read: socially acceptable) ways carries pretty heavy social penalties, which is partly because people can't understand you if you don't try to arrange your information in a sensible order. Anyway, it's the idea I'm going to be working with.

I don't know why it took me 20 years (yes, really) to realise the difference between narrativising and being narrativised. (Serves me right for doing a physics degree and having basically zero knowledge of the humanities.) Narrativising is a thing what I'm doing right here, pretending I understand how to prioritise and present information about my life and experiences, or science, or the world's tastiest rainbow cupcakes or whatever, sequentially. I do it a lot. That's what social media is for. I like doing it less now than I used to, partly because I have to do actual academic work now, partly because it's started to feel like surveillance and partly because I've become obsessed with the idea of being incomprehensible, but I'm reasonably good at presenting several different narratives, as most of us are.

You, dear put-upon reader, might be wondering why I'm apparently obsessed with being incomprehensible, or you might put it down to the desire of a mediocre and boring twenty-year-old to somehow seem more unique or profound. You probably wouldn't be wrong there, but it's certainly not at the forefront of my mind.

Being narrativised is quite a different kettle of fish. Being narrativised is having other people take the information about you presented to them and making their own picture. I can't really complain too much about that, because it's just how our brains work. What I can complain about is certain ways of being narrativised.

I don't like reducing people to simple formulae. This is hypocritical and downright stupid, because we all do it when making snap judgements on people and sometimes a snap judgement is necessary. I don't like being reduced to a simple formula, either, but railing against it would be pointless and utter hypocrisy.

I guess I don't like it when people try to fit themselves into simple formulae, to mould themselves to some generic set of tropes. I don't like people because they can describe themselves in utterly ordinary terms; I like people because there are some things we'll never have words for.

Seeing people contort and squeeze themselves into little boxes of words makes me all the more determined not to do it. It just looks uncomfortable and like far more trouble than it's worth. And besides, I don't want to be someone else's pretty little narrative because I'm me!

I'm me, and I'm weird! I'm sometimes nonverbal, highly mathematical and I see things in colour when they're not supposed to have colours at all! I'll go out and sing for a thousand people (yes, really) but be too shy to order a cup of tea! I'll cry because life seems unbearable and then crack suicide jokes while sitting in fuzzy flannel pyjamas! And there's even more of me that I'll never be able to put into words, and I'm perfectly fine with that. I don't want to fit into someone's narrative; I have too much light and fire to do that. And if someone has problems describing me in a beautiful way, well, I don't care.

I don't want to be beautiful if being beautiful means I can't live on my own terms.