I, like every single other person on the internet over the past year or so have witnessed the rapid growth in popularity of the form article ‘X pieces of advice for Y demographic’. Thought Catalog, Medium, Tumblr, you name it, they have it. It’s an easy and rewarding way to get attention in this age of ‘3 minute read’ articles. I understand it, I really do, and for a long time I wondered why I couldn’t ever write one myself.
Trust me, It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Or a lack of life experience, for that matter. I’ve lived in 5 different states, travelled across the atlantic and south of Mexico, spent a year volunteering 1800 hours in an at-risk elementary school where 23 different languages were spoken, spent two years at a quaker boarding school, and now spend my free time doing overnights at a local homeless shelter, and I’m only halfway through 21. It’s just that somewhere between the girl who gave up everything to travel to Asia telling me that traveling will allow me to connect with people on a more intimate level, or the girl writing yet another column on how college is a time to explore and find yourself , or the umpteenth I’m-white-writing-about-race article, I realized a very important thing about myself.
I know nothing.
Were I Ygritte’s honor bound bastard lover instead of Jon Snow, she would have dumped me faster than The Food Network dumped Paula Deen.
Look, don’t get me wrong. Traveling is an amazing experience that I will recommend 100%, college has been a wonderful time to experiment with different people and experiences, and I am the first to acknowledge that racial issues are something that we need to have in open public discourse, what I struggle with is thinking I have any right to be writing about these things in any educational sense. Maybe it’s because I’m an education major, and I’ve spent the last two years reading about what exactly good teaching is… but there’s something about telling people what they should do and why it will benefit them that seems awfully intrusive.
OK so sleeping with x amount of people while you were overseas has freed you from limitations, or experimenting with so and so psychedelic drug while at a rave in Barcelona has done the same (no judgment, I’m hardly chaste in any sense of the word). Or venting your frustrations at a culture that is so obviously blind to the systematic oppression almost inherent in it’s structure has helped start a discourse of some sort, whether it is internal or not (irrelevant, still a net positive). That’s great, I’m not being disingenuous when I say I’m supportive and happy for everybody who has experienced something life changing and decided to tell everyone about how they should try it too. But how can I assume everyone reading will be a reasonable adult and realize that something that worked so well for me, might not work for them?
If someone reads my article and has a life changing experience abroad, and ends up creating world peace? Great. Fantastic, even. If someone reads my article about how they should unplug and enjoy the moment, and gets killed because they went out without a cellphone and didn’t think about what choices they were making at a club they’d never been to before? …Not quite as fantastic.
But hey, maybe if I didn’t worry about those kinds of things I would have a published article too.