Columns

Column #70: writing letters

Dear Hucbaldians,

 

I start this column in the form of a letter. I love writing letters to my friends as it somehow feels more personal than typing an e-mail or sending a message on the phone. Of course, I am typing this on a computer because digitalising a handwritten letter to put on a website is a bit lengthy and unnecessary. Maybe a bit weird.

Sometimes I feel like writing in English. It’s funny how languages work in my head. I mostly think in French, and it is the language I am the most fluent in but writing in French on a Dutch website is maybe not the best idea for all readers to understand. When it comes to swearing, I mostly use the one French word everyone knows and a lot of Spanish phrases (thanks mom.) I’m thinking of this because I have been swearing a lot lately. Swearing is never the answer, but it’s a great tool to let go of frustrations. A breakup in the middle of writing a thesis and my master application being rejected left me with a bit of an identity crisis. Moral of the story: have a plan B.

It’s hard for me as an individual to feel like I’m part of a community. I found a great community in Hucbald, but even so, it can be hard to feel completely part of it. As a person that takes interest in a lot of things, it can sometimes be difficult to make it into a whole that fits together. I like drawing and painting, I love swords and fencing, wear red lipstick and want to play rugby, like to wear heels and watch violent movies, enjoy romantic music and run with metal on. These are only a few incoherent things that I like and somehow form a coherent whole. Contributing to this distanced feeling is maybe the fact that I never felt like I really “belonged” somewhere. With parents from two different nationalities and growing up in another country where we were also seen as foreigners, it was difficult to feel at home. And when I returned to my “home country,” I realised I didn’t completely fit in either. Still, after four years of living in Utrecht, I have nestled in pretty well. However, there are so many things I still don’t understand of Dutch culture. Playing a Dutch version of 30 seconds is more a source of anxiety, even though I love the game. I’m always afraid to come over as stupid because I don’t know famous people or places. I always think that I’m going to catch up and learn all the aspects of Dutch history and geography. Of course, I never do. It’s part laziness and part lack of time and motivation.

Even within the musicology community, I often have a bit of an impostor syndrome. I don’t feel like I have the skills and knowledge to talk about music. People around me always seem to know what they are talking about and have strong opinions. I realise I have finished a bachelor’s degree, with a pretty decent grade and even so, I feel lost. I’m floating on a raft in a wide ocean filled with big fish and garbage. The light tower is the little knowledge that I possess and allows me to find a way to the shore, but the blizzard is the feeling that I belong here, in a scary place that can drown me at any moment.

What is great about the ocean is that it is not only hostile but also a wonderful place. The coloured fish and coral reefs, dolphins, sea horses and turtles amaze us. Every day, I’m amazed by something new. It can be the ducklings that I see wiggling after their mother on the side of the water pond next to the bicycle lane, the bees pollinating flowers or the magic show at the spoorwegmuseum.

I have also been listening to podcasts. A friend recommended “Oh, Witch Please,” a podcast by scholars that discuss the Harry Potter books and films and it blew my mind. I love Harry Potter and with this podcast, I am discovering it again with new perspectives and a critical approach. If you like Harry Potter as well, I highly recommend it! I also downloaded Twitter, because that’s what you do when you’re struggling with life decisions and have a lot of time to waste on social media. However, that’s how I discovered another podcast, by the same host, Hannah McGregor, of the one mentioned above. I listened to a few episodes of Secret Feminist Agenda, and it just puts a smile on my face. She discusses very relatable situations and serious issues in such a great way.

This year has been a great adventure and being on the board has helped me to socialise more, and I said yes to many more things I would have refused before. I have learned very much and it was a great experience. It is a relief it’s coming to an end, but I am also a bit sad. Next (unplanned) gap year leaves endless possibilities, and while it is scary, I am also excited to explore some of them.

I realise this column/letter got a bit personal. Now I’m not sure I’m going to send it to you. Maybe a twitter poll? See you soon,

 

Love,

Paula