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Day 54: I’ve Got the Power!


# of pages written: 3 ½ (I have to go to work now, so not much time to write)

# of days left to write 1st draft: 109

Yesterday, Stefan left me the following voicemail: “Hey, it’s me. I hear you want to discuss vajazzling, so call me back.”

Laughing, I called him. “Did I tell you I wanted to talk about vajazzling?”

“No,” he said.  “But you wrote it in your blog.”

“Oh yeah.” I hadn’t realized that Stefan was reading my blog.

In fact, I keep forgetting that all sorts of people – my grandma, Nikki and Nathan, guys I used to date, strangers, etc. – are reading this on a somewhat regular basis. I’ve just been spewing out words with very little thought about who is going to see them. Perhaps I should be more careful…

*  *   *

When I was sixteen, I had a boyfriend named Greg who I thought, at the time, was the cutest boy in the whole world. I felt incredibly lucky that he wanted to date me, what with my pimples and bad hair and all. One day we went swimming, and maybe it was the act of putting on a bathing suit (often a traumatic event for a sixteen-year-old girl), but I remember feeling particularly self-conscious about my looks. It was the first time Greg had seen me without make-up, and after we got out of the pool, my wet hair dried into a frizzy, chlorine-stinking mess. I made some sort of self-deprecating comment about myself, probably something dramatic like “don’t look at me – I’m hideous!”

Greg said, “Eva, I’m not dating you for your looks.”

I’m sure he meant it in a nice way. He probably meant that he liked my personality and it didn’t really matter to him whether or not I had pimples or bad hair. But what I heard was, “Eva – I think you’re ugly.”

That comment was made to me fifteen years ago, and I still remember it vividly.  It had a really big effect on me.

*  *   *

When I first started writing this blog, I wrote about how imperfect words are. How they can never capture what we truly mean and how maybe they’re not good for much. I talked about how Nikki is trying to transcend words through mediation, and how scientists are trying to explain things for which there might not be any words. Words, I said – what good are they, really?

But the thing is, words can be incredibly influential. A passing comment can be remembered fifteen years later as if it was yesterday. A line from a book, or poem, or song can stick with us our entire lives.  Great orators the world over know the power of words.  They can change everything.

Once, when I was in fifth grade, my teacher gave us an assignment to draw an aquarium of any shape that we wanted, but it should have as much viewing space around the outside as possible so that there would be enough room for all the aquarium patrons to stand around and see the fish. Other kids drew circles and long rectangles. I drew something like this:

Ms. Beck came over and looked my aquarium plan. “Eva, that’s excellent!” she said. “You’re such a good mathematician.”

I’d never thought that I was particularly good at math. I was never the first kid to raise my hand during mental math games, and the timed multiplication drills we did put my stomach in knots. But after she said that, I started liking math more. I started paying more attention and trying a little harder. I began to think of myself as a mathematician. It might sound crazy, but maybe if Ms. Beck hadn’t said that, I might have never become a math teacher myself.

As a teacher, I often thought about that incident. I knew I had to be careful about what I said because my words could have a profound effect on my students. An off-hand comment, a passing remark, could change the way they thought about themselves.

And it could work in either direction – a negative comment with negative effects, or a positive comment with positive ones. That’s why, with the boy I’m tutoring right now, I make a point to say things like “you caught onto that quick,” and “you’re getting so good with fractions.” It might seem like a little thing to do, but those words are a big deal.

In fact, last night I was discussing with a friend the idea that people give and receive love in different ways, and she said, “I receive love best through words.  I want my significant other to tell me I look pretty.  That turns me on more than anything else.”  She said the best thing was when her husband left her sweet, hand-written notes around the house.

So it’s not just the spoken word.  Written word can be just as powerful – if not more so, because they last.

*   *   *

In conclusion, I think I should be a little more cognizent of the words I’m sending out into the world.  I’ve been writing about myself and other people (often without their permission), and I need to be careful that what I’m saying won’t have a negative effect on those who read this.  Words can do a lot. They can make us think, laugh, cry, wonder. They can make us feel awed or destroyed. They can convince us, they can calm us, they can turn us on. Words are powerful.

I’ve been wielding a mighty weapon, forgetting about the sharpness of my own sword.  I won’t sheath it, but I will be more careful.

Crosby beach

About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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