When Talk Was Cheap

Talk1So, I took this class at Lakewood.

Must’ve been fall of 1980, since I can’t find it in the transcripts for fall-winter quarters of 1979–80.

“Interpersonal Communication. 10 a.m.”

We had to keep a journal.

Like, yeah. Hadn’t been here before.

There were ten pages of questions posed by the instructor, whose name I’ve since forgotten. I still have the assignment—I received a B.

First question: What are your three goals in writing this journal?

A: I would say, 1) Fulfill class requirement; 2) Curiosity in seeing how I will answer the questions ahead and 3) Test what I’ve learned from the class.

I found the assignment among the 1980 papers and it gave me pause. I think it was the old love of questioning and being asked questions that lit my fire. It was also interesting as I wrote about the Family Project. Responding in longhand, I wrote with my favorite blue-black ink fountain pen. Anyway, I took to it like a duck to water.

Q: Choose several photos of yourself. What is your immediate impression? Who and what do you see?

A: A boy sitting in a chair two times his size, absorbed in a Hardy Boys’ mystery. Wearing a t-shirt, pants much too short, and a pair of Hush Puppies which rest on a hassock. He seems a confident, comfortable boy.Maryland1968

Hrm, here’s an interesting question: “Looking back, what did you have to do in order to be accepted or loved by your parents?”

A: Do what is “expected of me.” And to this day I’m still not quite sure what is meant by that. (The instructor interjected with a “Yes!”) If what I want to try doesn’t match up with what my parents think is “right,” then I have not lived up to my parents’ expectations and I am in their disfavor.

Q: List things you were told to do or to be:

A: Be good! Be quiet! Do your homework! (Middle school saw me whiling away hours at the dining room table.) Clean your room.

Q: List things you were told not to do or be:

A: Don’t be stupid! (Really, I heard this from my father in situations where [I] lost favor with [him].)

Q: What messages would you like to change?

A: Don’t be stupid. Perhaps I have been naïve, but never stupid.

Q: What do you worry about the most?

A: Whether or not I am an artist. (Instructor: “What does ‘artist’ mean to you?”)

Q: Describe your personality by writing five sentences about yourself.

A: I write well. (Instructor: “Yes you do.”) I have a deep love of living. I feel that I have a positive purpose to being in this world. I enjoy questioning the conventions I see in society. I love Nature, and walking.

Three-quarters of the way through the assignment, I typed out my responses. I felt more comfortable behind my manual typewriter, and the words seemed to spill out.

Q: When you decided … you knew this would be read … How do you feel about revealing personal information? What risks might be involved? Why did you decide to take the risk?

A: I write a lot of things meant to be read. … Sometimes I highly disclose myself on paper, sometimes I am like an actor and a liar both in the same and other times I stumble upon both, which seems rather paradoxical, but it happens. For instance, I may write something that someone points out as being moving, revealing, and it has escaped my notice, even as I was its creator. This process is rare because for the most part, any falsity that I attempt to replace for something that should be vital is almost doomed to failure. The risk shifts. Sometimes I get the jitters, yes.

Q: Write about a perception you have of one of your parents or of another significant person in your life. Do you tend to select the positive or negative side?

A: In my father, I tend to select the negative side of him, although I really appreciate seeing the positive attitudes he displays. In other words, I expect to see him grumpy, irritable and stubborn, and I shirk from him when he comes home from work, expecting the worst he can possibly be. “Well, have I got my work done?” “What am I doing now?” All these things I hear and I guess that I do intensify them to a size that they probably are not. How should I then act? I’ve noticed that my brother holds this same attitude, but that he is better than I at groveling in my father’s presence, of asking him polite questions that seem to stike [sic] in my father a chord of well-being: This is my son and he’s such a considerate, strong young man and I deeply love him for his concern and pleasant-sounding talkativeness. I, on the other hand, would rather be silent in my father’s presence and not go out of my way to say things just to be on his side, or things that are meaningless.

Talk2The instructor responded.

“What can I say to you? I am reading the words of obviously a very bright man. I gathered you didn’t like doing this—yet you chose it from the others offered. Contradictions seem to surround you. I felt you open—yet closed. My hunch says start with awareness and feelings. Just feel—don’t think about them! Also ask yourself what you want! You may not have wanted that advice! It was an impression more than anything…

…Good luck!”

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~ by completelyinthedark on January 2, 2015.

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