Even before I started postgraduate education and became a writer, I had always been writing. There was private journaling which started in elementary school and continued through the first couple of years in grad school. There was also group journaling that consumed a good deal of my time in high school. In college, I started blogging on different platforms and that continues to this day. So then how is blogging here different from all my previous informal writing?
I’ve really never written informally in English. Of course, there are emails I write to friends, Facebook posts, occasional tweets here and there, but most of my English writing is of a formal, scholarly nature, be it a research paper, grant proposal, syllabus writing, etc. I live most of my life in English: all my pleasure reading is in English, my news sources are in English, I think in English. So it puzzles me a bit why I never wanted to do casual writing in English. Did I want to do internal reflections in my native tongue? The language where I don’t have to worry about getting the grammar right? (Even if my Korean is increasingly error-laden, prescriptively speaking.)
I attended Digital Pedagogy Lab Summer Institute last week. It triggered many thoughts I have not had space/time/energy to think about for a while. What does my ideal class look like? What are my core values in teaching? How do we encourage class participation while respecting individual and cultural differences in learning? What does it mean to have a digital identity?
During the same week as the Institute, I read Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys. I fell in love with Strout this June while reading Olive Kitteridge and decided to pick up TBB this time. In the Reader’s Guide, she writes the following:
“Readers can more clearly see aspects of themselves and of others if the writer had been scrupulous in crafting a fictional truth. It is not “good” or “bad” that interests me as a writer, but the murkiness of human experience and the consistent imperfections of our lives. To present this in the form of fiction helps make our humanness more acceptable to the reader; this is my wish.”
I don’t know exactly why it resonated with me so much. It could be because one tenet of my teaching is understanding humanity and human diversity and Strout does such a fine job of it. I want to understand “the murkiness of human experience and the consistent imperfections” of this society and myself. Blogging on my professional website may be one way of carrying out that mission, examining my thoughts, my teaching, my imperfections, my life. So here I venture out to the world, writing in a language I love but will always have an ambivalent relationship with.
The beginning of my online writing coincides with the release of the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail. It is my favorite Ephron film and in it, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) writes this:
So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.
So here I am, reaching out to the void and to myself. Hello, dear void.