Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You CAN Take It With You

As Jyoti/Jasmine/Jane narrates her story, she emphasizes very many times the rigid divisions between the lives that she has lead. She uses her names to illustrate the differences between her selves, and thinks of them as separate women. She even suggests that once a new persona is born, the last must die. However, I disagree with this for several reasons. First of all, the story is told out of order; she does not tell it in a linear matter but rather in a way so that the stories jump back and forth through space and time and come together as a patchwork quilt. IF she was telling the story of her "three selves," she would tell it like: "This was Jyoti's life...This was Jasmine's life...This was Jane's life..." Clearly, she is unable to do that truthfully because all of the women are in fact the same, and the stories need each other. The truth is, whether we like it or not, we cannot leave our old selves behind. Even though our narrator is constantly trying to reinvent her life, it is evident that she is not actually replacing all of the old. For example, several times she compares herself to Du, acknowledging how similar they are because of the experiences that they have been through. Also, for another example, she acknowledges how great an influence Taylor and his lifestyle had on her. Both of these examples show that she is unable to fully sink into her role as "Jane"--Jyoti and Jasmine linger still. This general concept was something that was really interesting to me because I find that I, too, often try (or at least finding myself doing so) to compartmentalize the things that I have lived through. That is, I often find myself thinking back on times when I've had red hair, light brown hair, copper hair, black hair, long hair, very long hair, short hair, and regular hair....been an average weight, been lazy and heavier, been quite thin....been crazy and happy, been desperately sad, been stuck, been just moving forward...all of these things come together in different variations to create Selves that I can see so clearly in my mind. I may not have had my name changed several times, but I still feel that I have had different variaties of existence. I can't help but look back on the better versions of myself (better either physically or emotionally...or in some rare cases, both) and say "I miss Them." Then, too, I look back on the more tragic Selves and I say, "I miss Them, too," because I still know exactly who They are and what They're feeling. See, even though I (for whatever reason) seem to view the past sectionally, I still know that all of those ghosts are myself, and I am them. I know that the light and darkness I possess are always within me, no matter which is on the surface at any given time. I think that's why it's so dangerous for me to carelessly section myself off on a timeline, because it only allows me to oversimplify. I might view, say, my freshman year at Loyola as one of the happiest in my life, where I was always laughing and having a good time with friends on my floor all day (and night)....but then I forget to add into the equation the fact that I was totally shocked and angered by the school (coming from public school my whole life), and that lead to a lot of distress, which gets overshadowed in my memories. I think the thing that most surprised me this semester was seeing through the different texts how universal the longing for a home is. From Okonkwo in Nigeria to Jasmine in India (and America), the desires we have seen have all been essentially the same: the desire to have a home and comfort and belonging. It's not that I didn't think other cultures had this same desire, but it was just striking to me how a connected to or desire for a homeland can be one of those wordless, untranslatable, universal things. Home might be anywhere on the earth, or even inside your heart, and you might be a man, a woman, a child, African, Asian, Islander, or American, but everybody is searching to preserve the same thing. It's not that this fact itself necessarily shocked me so much as just seeing it build more and more, as we kept reading each very different text.

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