Forgetting and Learning Again – From Lapalux to Halberstam

When I was traveling alone in Athens in October last year, I spent quite a bit of time on the beach (which resulted in me being proposed to by a Greek policeman, but that’s another story for another day). That Friday on Edem beach, I was not really thinking about going out, especially since I was alone, and the sad and unfortunate state of things in the world is that women traveling alone always have to put safety first. Anyway I happened to see that Lapalux was playing at a club in Athens that night called six dogs. I thought, why the hell not – I have come all the way to Athens, and if I get to see Lapalux do a live set, I am going to do it and who cares if I went out to a party on my own. The guys at the kebab stall did give me weird stares when I was eating alone at 2am but life is precisely about such moments when exactly not one fuck is given. In the end, I got home safely and I gained a great night of music and dancing to the wonderful Lapalux aka Stuart Howard. I even got to chat with him outside the club because that was how tiny it was.

Which brings me to this: Forgetting and Learning Again is one of the tracks I love from Lapalux, and I wanted to use this as a way in to reflect a bit on my own state of mind last year against the thinking of one of my all-time favorite queer theorists, Judith Halberstam in her brilliant book “The Queer Art of Failure”. This book is so brilliant and so interesting, I would encourage everyone to read it. It resonates all the more against the senselessness of today’s world, from politics and geopolitics to gender issues and terrorism.

In the remarkable chapter two, Dude, Where’s My Phallus? Forgetting, Losing, Looping, Halberstam notes that forgetting “allows for a release from the weight of the past and the menace of the future”, and references Nietzsche’s notion that “there can be no happiness, no cheerfulness, no hope, no pride, no present, without forgetfulness”.

The act of forgetting seems so simple, but it is more complicated than that. The mind is a powerful tool, and we can certainly will ourselves to forget something we find too painful to remember. I have purposely, intentionally, mindfully erased snippets, chunks of memories of things, people I don’t ever want to see or think about again. It’s how we cope.

I’ve always been a keen learner, so part of my frustration last year was the ongoing nagging sense that I had forgotten how to learn and learn well. This was more applicable to work rather than my personal interests. However, what I have found to be most useful really, when it comes to reinventing yourself (and I’m really good at that) is just to close your eyes and look into the crystal ball, and really try to envision where and who you want to be down the road. In order to get there, the steps you need to take will point you to the course of action you need to take, which means identifying what I want to learn more of, less of, and what to internalize and own.

It’s review season at the half-yearly mark, and I’ve taken some time to map out my mission and vision statement as well as to set real, tangible goals for the short term, mid term and long term. I know it sounds very boring but to crystalize your vision on paper really helps to set into motion the necessary actions to take to get there.

Aside from the career goals, I would also like to pursue a few passion projects for the rest of the year –

1.     Research paper on gothic in the tropics – I have a topic in mind, and will start putting the submission together 

2.     Languages – continuing my French classes is a priority. It was a really heartening and amazing feeling to feel a switch go off in my head when I was in Paris and I realized I could understand almost 90% of what the people around me were saying, from friends to people on the street and at restaurants. 

3.     CFA exam – Yup, taking the plunge 

There are a few other things I’d like to spend more time thinking, pondering, and working on outside of work (but perhaps also related to work), but I’ll let nature take its course as I embrace the unknown, embrace the queer art of failure, and embrace the act of forgetting and learning again.

Here’s to a more creatively productive second half of the year!

If we want to put out work in the world that moves people, stirs the senses, evokes a resiliency of spirit, creates currents of compassionate change, then we must be willing to heal all the places within us that struggle with those same things. The parts that struggle to find the answers. Struggle to find our way. Struggle to forgive ourselves. Struggle to grow up. Show up. Sit with the discomfort long enough to get the solution. – Chani Nicholas, 2018

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