Growth and Insights Found In the Foreword

I have read quite a bit of Alice Walker’s writings. Though not easy reading, I find her novels and short stories worth the work–thought provoking and mind broadening. However, some of my favorite things that Alice Walker has written I’ve found in forewords, prefaces, essays, interviews, and here in an address to students from her Alma mater, Spellman College:

Alice Walker, 2007

“For a long time, from babyhood through young adulthood mainly, we grow, physically and spiritually (including the intellectual with the spiritual), without being deeply aware of it. In fact, some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is what is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or person who explained it to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. I remember the waves of anxiety that used to engulf me at different periods in my life, always manifesting itself in physical disorders (sleeplessness, for instance) and how frightened I was because I did not understand how this was possible.

“With age and experience, you will be happy to know, growth becomes a conscious, recognized process. Still somewhat frightening, but at least understood for what it is. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.

Excerpt from Alice Walker’s “Oppressed Hair Puts a Ceiling on the Brain” from an address she gave at Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1987

I can’t even think of anything to say about this. In part it is part something I’ve experienced, but never been able to define. And she does. It also takes me one step further–it produces hope that I might get to a place where I recognize growth as it is happening, instead of just in retrospect. I might be a little more patient with myself and with time if I do.

Today, I’m wondering what I’ve “written” in the forewords, interviews, and speeches of my life. Now that I’m a little older, I think I begin to see the main part of the novel or play that is my life, often in broad strokes instead of details, but what nuggets of wisdom might I find if I dug around the edges, defining, explaining (to myself more than anyone else), interpreting, assimilating. I suppose, for me, that is the purpose of a journal. And I suppose the purpose of a blog–little snippets from around the edges of my life. An opportunity to see what I am thinking and feeling, remembering moments in the past that have gone into creating the plot, setting, characters; and looking at the experiences of the day and seeing, sometimes dissonance, but often the connections and making sense of them or seeing the sense in them.

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