The idea of being “frozen in an age”

I just read this in an old theatre review in the NY Times: “It could be argued that all of us are frozen internally at some age or another.” I had never thought of this before. It’s an interesting idea, and I started to wonder when I was frozen. Was it in my teens? Was it in my twenties? Often I feel that I, in certain respects, haven’t changed a bit since I was 16. That a change occurred when I was in high school, one that I have never been able to heal from. Sometimes I think it boils down to something this passage in Maggie Nelsons “The Argonauts” pinpoints in a very accurate way:

Shame spot: being someone who spoke freely and passionately in high school, then arriving in college and realizing I was in danger of becoming one of those people who makes everyone else roll their eyes: there she goes again. It took some time and trouble, but eventually I learned to stop talking, to be (impersonate, really) an observer. This impresonation led me to write an enormous amount in the margins of my notebooks – marginalia I would later mine to make poems.

Forcing myself to shut up, pouring language onto paper instead: this became a habit. But now I’ve returned to copious speaking as well, in the form of teaching.

I thought, wow, I know that feeling – of being the one people rolled their eyes at. I was a “speaker” in high school. I spoke with passion, and great interest, on all kinds of different subjects, and was never afraid of disagreeing with anyone. I still feel like this kind of behaviour should be allowed in any social setting, as we are all allowed to our opinion, but high school is about fitting in. Fitting in means finding your place in the social hierarchy, an  idea always used to piss me off. Why should anyone submit to anyone elses social reign, teenager or adult? Aren’t we all important enough to be heard?

As an adult I have often thought that I should have learned to shut up, and avoided to be put in a situation where your ideals are more important than being liked. Now I try to shut up as often as I can. But in a lot of ways I still think this is wrong, I just don’t see any other solution. I was never good in a crowd.  If I could have only been more like Maggie Nelson, my life might have been different now. We share a shame spot, but at almost forty, I still live with mine.


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