Baggage Claim [or] I am not my personal history

by P. Braithwaite

just me and my baggage

It’s a new week and I am feeling more positive about turning these interviews into a memoir. I’m still overwhelmed, but I am in the throes of an extremely inspiring narrative non-fiction class, and its reminding me of all of the things I’ve been trying to avoid writing. Also, this is a breakthroug day for me because I never ever ever post pictures of myself. that’s me with my sack of secrets (i.e. baggage) —->

Case Study: A few years ago my mentor required suggested that I read Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and The Story. I read a few chapters and two things stuck with me. First, was the idea that personal narratives (the situation) must lead to some larger context (the story) for readers to actually give a shit. I’ve been so resistant to sharing my personal narratives because I do not know how rambling about my past relationship (the situation) will lead me to some universal truth about men and God (the story??). It seems more important to let the interviews do the talking. Although I’ve started chipping away at this idea, I had an epiphany when, after reading Jo Ann Beard’s The Fourth State of Matter, I actually wrote an intensely personal piece about the break up.

This story is not in my current manuscript.

In the current version of my preface, I pretty much gloss over the entire episode of how this book is a direct result of, you know, a break up. While I’ve been resistant to share in the past, but today I’m finally getting Gornick’s other lesson: There is a very distinct “I” that will tell this story. This person, this Patia, has lived and breathed and cried – but she is not who I am in this moment. I have been holding her close to me for too long, and, as I begin to create distance, I realize that she and I are different people.

I love her dearly, but she can function on her own.

Conclusion: I think she might be the strongest and purest part of myself, and I’m sorry that she has suffered for so long. Sometimes we hold things so close that we don’t look down to realize that we have healed.  She and I both need to grow, I need to let her tell her side of the story. Separating the past from the present is liberating. Thinking of myself, the narrator, as an “other” is helpful in opening up and sharing these intimate details.

I’m actually hoping to share a few snippets of what I’ve written over the course of the week…we’ll see [I might lose my nerve].