Dear Diary

March 27, 2013

Longest winter maybe ever.

Katherine

The other day my literary theory teacher introduced us to the work of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. He wrote a lot about language and identity and would talk about “signifiers,” which are such a complicated thing that if you Google “Lacan signifiers” none of the top results really give you a straight answer. But from my very limited understanding it’s like there’s a thing—say, a butt—in the world, which Lacan calls the “signified” thing. Then there’s the word butt, which is the signifier—it communicates what the thing is (a butt is not an elbow or a pizza or a mouse, because it is a butt) but has no essential attachment to the thing (the butt) itself. We use signifiers to try to pin down what a thing is, but they are so arbitrary that they are always at risk of detaching themselves from what they signify and flying away. For example, where one person might hear the word butt and picture Leonardo DiCaprio’s naked angel butt, another person will picture a painting of a butt, and another a teacher’s butt in a pair of sagging khakis.

In my class notes I wrote, “Our unconscious is a continuously circulating chain of signifiers with no anchor,” and also that “the process of becoming an adult is the process of trying to stabilize the chain of signifiers so that stable meaning becomes possible. You reach adulthood when you say ‘I’ and ‘I’ designates a specific set of signifiers you have adopted.” Meaning (I think?) that I can’t become an adult until I’m able to identify certain personality traits that I have, and use a set of words and symbols to let the world know “who I am.”

All of this signifier stuff has created a little ball of sickness in my stomach (it’s probably helped by the fact that nothing I eat comes from nature). I know it’s my first year of college and I am therefore transitioning in many ways, but I feel like I can’t tie down any signifiers. Like, if you were in one class with me, the one where I’m the kid who sits in the back and scowls, and you walked into my next class that very same day, you would not recognize the person who is so talkative and tangent-y that the girls in the row behind her have asked her if she’s always high in class. Does this mean that I’m failing to mature into adulthood, because I’m not really tying down those signifiers? Or that identity is so complex that different signifiers are needed for each situation you find yourself in? Or maybe I just have no idea what I’m talking about.

Registration is approaching, so I had to create a schedule and meet with my advisor this week. I took one of his literature classes last semester and am signing up for another next semester. I am usually talkative in literature courses, but in his class, for some reason, I hardly ever spoke. If I did, my voice got really high and weepy-sounding, and I could only talk in fragments. I tried to tell my advisor that I was looking forward to his class and also that I was feeling more confident about participating in discussions, but I just got really choked up and had to leave. Maybe I should have just said, “Lacan,” and he would have nodded sagely at my explanation.

I’ve been working on transferring schools, and I’m nervous. I’ve turned in most of my applications, so there’s nothing more I can do. To try to rid myself of that helpless feeling, I’ve created a game called “Do everything perfectly all the time always no matter what.” It goes like this: If I mess up any mundane task, I tell myself that I have guaranteed I will get rejected from one of my schools. If I do something perfectly, my applications will still have a chance. I’ve been trying to make it into parking spots on my first try, match the color of my pencil with the color of the notebook I’m writing in, and flossing every night, making sure to go through each crevice twice with my mint floss, and basically trying not to barf everywhere. ♦

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19 Comments

  • GlitterKitty March 27th, 2013 7:13 PM

    Ugh snow. The snow is finally about melted!! But Canada has a nice way of throwing a snow storm at you in April. Or being super rainy and then getting freezing at night so it’s a skating rink in the morning. March is a really depressing month…

    • Naomi March 27th, 2013 7:42 PM

      i slipped over twice after i wrote this on the skating rink-like ice, it was mortifying. i have a nice bruise on my knee and then the next day i landed on my bum, but i don’t have a nice bruise there which is annoying cause i wanted a bum bruise

  • La Fille March 27th, 2013 7:41 PM

    Dear Katherine,

    I’ve thought about identity before and I’ve basically come to the conclusion that you may be different things in different environments but the person you’re being is still you. Like for example, you may behave differently with your parents than you do with your siblings or your friends. There is no such thing as being yourself because the roles you play are always changing.

    But that’s just my opinion and I wish you good luck in figuring out who you are and who you want to be. :)

  • EmilyJn March 27th, 2013 8:11 PM

    Yes, Naomi! I’m so sick of this endless, bitter English Winter and it’s all I can think about, that beautiful, single day of spring was like being horribly taunted about how it should be at this time of year.

  • Imogen-Rose March 27th, 2013 8:27 PM

    Where’s Ruby??

  • Roo March 27th, 2013 8:30 PM

    On the news in Ireland it says we’re probably in for a “White Easter” this year. :(

    Britney, I understand your point about not feeling connected to people in your school. For the first three years of secondary school my friends’ surnames all began with the letters A, B or C – we were friends literally because the teacher had put us sitting beside each other in alphabetical order. I think it does get easier to spot people you can have a genuine bond with when you move to a totally new group or class, though, so try not to worry too much about high school.

    P.S. Ruby, I hope everything’s ok!

    • strawberryhair April 2nd, 2013 12:44 PM

      Hey :) You live in Ireland? That is so cool! I thought no one here knew about Rookie. I live in Ireland and I thought I was literally the only person here who read Rookie. Yay for you and your coolness/Irishness <3

      • Peanutpug April 3rd, 2013 9:30 PM

        I live in Oirland too this is GREAT

        • strawberryhair April 8th, 2013 3:18 PM

          Yay! I live in Clare- where are you? :D

  • Hecticglow March 27th, 2013 9:27 PM

    Ruby I hope you are okay, last week seemed like a pretty rough week based on your journal entry. Miss you bunches and hope to hear from you next week:)

  • Emily Kay March 27th, 2013 9:47 PM

    Katherine, I am also in the process of transferring schools (its my first year of college also) and it is SO STRESSFUL. I completely understand the anxiety that major decisions like that bring. Just the thought of having to make that ultimate decision starts me cryin’. And it is hard socially too because I still want to make friends, but I know I probably won’t be back here next semester. And THEN theres the whole feeling that I should just suck it up and learn to like it here because I am so fortunate to be here in the first place. Oh, dear. Gotta roll with it.

  • Leah G March 27th, 2013 11:37 PM

    Hi Britney! I’m a high school junior who was also simultaneously nostalgic about and unattached to my middle-school life when going in to high school. Going to high school is a big deal, and it’s probably a good thing that you have some anxiety about it. I think (and hope) that you’ll be surprised at how great high school is, especially for someone who is as emotionally mature and intelligent as yourself. Your opportunities for new experiences will multiply and you’ll meet some really cool people. Also, there’s a lot less silly drama than middle school (but enough to keep things interesting). You’re about to experience a lot of personal growth in the next four years. I hope you don’t let yourself spiral into TOO much anxiety, because high school is a billion times better than middle school, and I bet you’ll be refreshed and energized once you get there. :)

  • junebug March 28th, 2013 12:58 AM

    wow katherine…..i feel you SO MUCH.

    dunno if that helps with anything. but so true. identity is sticky and hard.

  • diniada13 March 28th, 2013 5:04 AM

    Britney, I feel you! This year I’m going to high school too. I was very afraid of high school, change, and losing contact with my friends. But then I try to think about high school as a whole new adventure and that always make me excited! Good luck!

    And I hope everything’s okay with Ruby <3

  • strawberryhair March 28th, 2013 7:10 AM

    Hey, lots of love to Ruby. Hope everything’s okay. Xxxxxxxxxxxx

  • hellorose March 28th, 2013 3:12 PM

    for katherine:

    I think the problem with a lot of literary theory is that it works in theory, but rarely in practice.*

    I hope you find out about your transfer soon, it’s hard being in limbo.

    *I say this as someone who has sat two 3hour literary theory exams in the past two years and couldn’t be happier that she never ever has to take one again.

  • Maddy March 28th, 2013 6:14 PM

    I think I’ve come across the term “signifiers” before. Your class notes sound funny; I had a sort-of math class like that where the lecturer talked in circles and fragments.
    ALSO! To the Rookie who had mentioned in the comments of the high school sports article that I should go out for tennis…I actually did! And I made the team! I’m not 100% if I’m going to do it though because it’s practice 6 days/week and I’ve been so tired from tryouts I can’t do my homework.

  • Kaetlebugg March 28th, 2013 9:27 PM

    Britney: I promise it’s not horrible that all you have in common is school. I know exactly how you feel, but seriously, don’t get down on yourself about the inevitability of losing ck tact with these friendly acquaintances. You don’t need to stay in touch with them. You will both be fine; you’ll have fond, fleeting memories of each other and that’s enough. Humans can only have so many close friends and that’s ok, I promise.