A la recherche de soi

Delta Winds cover 2011Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


À la recherche de soi

Rebecca Taylor

My voice evades me. I read volumes of literature, from archaic translations of ancient Greek poetry to a friend's creative writing blurbs, hot off the press (no, Facebook), yet I cannot put a finger on what constitutes my voice. Is it little more than a hodgepodge of the greats, a sad plastic rip-off of the originals, or is it "a song of the universal, full of manhood, womanhood, infancy," as Whitman puts it?

As an individual, I used to crave normalcy. Being raised on a small farm and taught a dead language did nothing to satisfy this craving. The world constantly reminded me that being homeschooled and having a religious upbringing (horror of horrors) meant an impoverished social life, a questionable education (what of state standards and standardized testing? Children simply must take Earth Science in the ninth grade!), and above all, indoctrination. These accusations are not entirely false, but nor are they completely grounded. I admit with sadness that I failed to convince others that Latin was among the noblest of pursuits, but otherwise, life is not half bad.

I occasionally feel lost. The "white" or "Caucasian" checkbox on official forms reminds me that while I am most assuredly of good European stock, I have little connection with any one tradition. I have no heritage language, no cuisine, and no unique culture of which I am a part. In that sense, I suppose I am fortunate; I am free to choose what gives me pleasure and what makes me the best possible version of myself. I don't feel pressured to choose any particular one. Perhaps that is just my way of justifying learning several Romance languages (and their mother, Latin), appreciating Korean culture, wishing to study abroad in France, and feeling at home with Russian hospitality. My writing reflects my desire to be a student of the universe, to learn anything and everything at whatever opportunity, to be a juicy Sun Crest peach rather than a cardboard hybrid variety. As I wrote in a French journal, "J'aimerais voir le lever et le coucher du soleil à l'autre coté du monde. Je pense qu'ils sont comme ceux-ci, mais je voudrais savoir et ne pas douter" (I would like to see the sunrise and the sunset on the other side of the world. I think they're like the ones here, but I want to know and not doubt.)

The ambition of globetrotting aside, my voice is a curious balance of my timid and soft-spoken audible self and the hyper thinker, always concocting a new dream or quest for happiness. It's not easy to be the child of a BMW-riding, gruff Franz Josef meets Santa Claus look-alike and not be intimidated. I learned at an early age to lay my head on my mother's lap and to sing my songs and to build my castles of dreams in my head, lest they be silenced or destroyed by one of my father's inevitable anger fits. Thus, my written voice is confident and adventurous, rarely betraying my fundamental uncertainty and fear of imperfection. I recall that before my first voice recital in 2009, I wanted to flee the country above sharing this youthful soprano's rendition of an Italian aria. I sought perfection as an objective, only to learn that it is subjective. Like Masumoto, I realized success once obtained is a noble achievement, but it must be attained once again (indeed, for the entire duration of life). Like Lamott, I realize that the rewards of writing are largely intrinsic. When I write, I am given an opportunity to set foot in that castle in the sky, to give voice to the endless stream of words flowing through my mind.

I want to write words of beauty and of permanence, like Vergil's "dixit, et avertens rosea cervice refulsit, / ambrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem / spiravere, pedes vestis defluxit ad imos, / et vera incessu patuit dea" (Aeneid, Book I; translation by A.S. Kline: "She spoke, and turning away she reflected the light / from her rose-tinted neck, and breathed a divine perfume / from her ambrosial hair: her robes trailed down to her feet, / and, in her step, showed her a true goddess"). I translated this particular line in my Latin IV class in 2007 and I have never forgotten it. Perhaps that is my true quest: not for perfection, but to be remembered, to share beauty and to give happiness to others. Whitman again seems apt to describe when I write: "O the joy of my spirit-it is uncaged-it darts like lightning! It is not enough to have this glove or a certain time, / I will have thousands of globes and all time."