Sometimes I am so sickened by the sound of my voice I never want to write, speak, glass-shatteringly sing another word again. Other times I send 16 minute voice messages with only the tiniest shred of self-respect shaming me into a quick ‘ok sorry for the spiel – byeeeeee’. Right now, I am in the slump of complete and utter loathing for everything I do, say, think, and feel. And of course, in beautiful cosmic irony, this is the week I’m being paid to have thoughts.
I find myself in this glorious position of being asked for work, rather than the usual situation of presumptuously begging for it. To all intents and purposes, I’ve far exceeded the ‘dream situation’ I didn’t even have the wherewithal to envision when I started this whole process. And yet, being hounded for new ideas – being gifted this extreme privilege of validation – has not imbued me with the empowerent, inspiration, and confidence you would automatically assume. Rather, it has left me floundering in a swamp stagnant with shame, guilt and, to be perfectly frank and not a little depressing, self-disgust.
Aren’t we all sick of me harping on about ‘stuff’? Aren’t we all sick of me parading my privilege, of flaunting the luxury of getting to wax poetic on pastry or rueful dalliances or the exceptional luck to enter a grocery store with hope instead of the terror of waiting mouths and near-empty pockets? Aren’t we sick of me sitting in my high-and-mighty tower dispelling supposed wisdom, sometimes judgement on humankind?
It seems to me that opinion is no longer just a commodity; it is a luxury. Opinion, to me, is born out of entitlement and bred in the comfortable opulence of having actual time to rest from the basic act of survival to mull over every fleeting emotion or moral quandray of the moment and formulate a response. I’m finding it intolerable. Bourgeois and vile. So many people on this planet are consumed, burdened, with just trying to stay alive – to keep breathing, keep moving, keep fighting – and I’m here sipping oat milk lattés and worrying over the fact I don’t like the aesthetics of my Instagram.
I feel an all-consuming rage at myself, for this thing I thought I wanted and now feel is a burden to society. I now feel my writing is an obstacle blocking the emergence of voices more important than mine – every inch I take up on a website or in a magazine is an inch taken from a voice with infinitely more to say than this pathetic drivel.
Another middle-class white girl with a university education and a penchant for slipping ‘feminism’ and ‘climate justice’ into everyday conversation as she scuppers her spare time and squanders her money in the pubs and bars of a city teeming with homelessness, addiction, poverty, blatant racism, direct provision, social inequality, incompetent politicians, a potentially lethal pollution problem, ad in-f*cking-finitum is not what this world needs more of.
There are millions of me already out proliferating, opining, pondering, painting their opinions on to this crime scene of a world and then standing back to admire the pretty pastels. I am so sick of seeing myself reflected back to me in the scrolls of social media and the lure of Guardian long reads.
I went to a publishing workshop a few months ago and spent a morning eating tiny croissants in the fancy basement function room feeling physically nauseous as I looked around me and saw a sea of ‘me’s’ and a stage of white, able-bodied, middle-class, attractive women talk about their bestselling books and tell us – us hopeful students – how we too could emulate their success. That is not what this world needs. That is only the continuation of patriarchal oppression but this time made ever so inclusive towards a certain kind of woman. A woman who, much as a man doesn’t understand sexism because he’s never experienced it, doesn’t understand racism or homophobia or white privilege because she’s never experienced it. I am that woman.
When there are already so many voices like mine being championed, how can I justify this cluttering of the ether with unnecessary thoughts and unhelpful words?
I am scared. Scared I am not using my platforms for good in the way that I could. Scared because, from what I can see of people who do use their platforms in this way, that it is an almost full-time job and I am already despairing of the amount of time social media steals from me. Scared that I am just writing into a void of like-minded people who nod and smile and tell me how great and insightful I am because I’m justifying their reality. Scared because I feel encumbered with every commission I get to think of things like message and language and audience in a way that feels alien and inauthentic to me. Scared that my words cause upset, anger, derisive eyerolls from people who have more to worry about than having a ‘mindful pastry’ and feel betrayed by and excluded from this writing that could be seen as frivolous, superfluous, condescending. Scared that I now seem ungrateful for the opportunities I am endlessly, petrifyingly thankful for. Mainly, and to conclude as it is now 9pm and I am now even closer to a deadline it is increasingly unlikely I will meet, I am scared I really am just another white girl with a blog and entitlement.