Paris is an isolating city for people leaving home for the first time. How does this affect you? Has this shaped your experience of Paris?
Paris is a doozy. For every stunning, romantic, and historically significant moment, she hits you with isolation, exclusivity baring assimilation, and rain. One often feels lousy. AUP students are plagued by poor mental health, financial stress, and loneliness. It’s a difficult place to stay, especially when you are babysitting twenty hours per week and still can’t afford food and cocktails. Last week I debated between paying for metro tickets and my phone bill. Metro tickets won. The kindest thing I did for myself was stop pretending it was easy and comparing my inner frustration to the outer glamor of the wealthy and extravagant AUPeople. As I began reaching out to other students about my frustration, I found rapport. Hafiz’s With That Moon Language reminds us to reach out and ask our peers to love us. I feel certain that they will!
Everyone you see, you say to them,
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us,
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
―The Gift, Poems by the Great Sufi Master Hafiz, Translations by Daniel Ladinsky
How do you gain a valuable education in spite of the heteronormative standard?
The work of making a systemic problem go away is different from the work of dimming the pain it brings you on a personal level. A valuable education comes from more than curriculum, and we can fight to diversify ours on a structural level through organizations like the Student Union or the GenSex club.
The question of how to do the emotional work of self-empowerment is directly concerning and personal. I find it helpful to follow Audre Lorde’s example: Don’t worry about whether or not you are a poem. Embrace your bodily functions, your attractions, and your pain, and be messy out loud. Have a proud stomach! These are delicious and revolutionary feelings for us to have.
Cheryl Clarke presents another gorgeous example and reminds us that being oneself is an act of rebellion. Decolonizing your body is resistance and self-love is resistance. It’s an internal battle, the following excerpt is immensely helpful:
“No matter how a woman lives out her lesbianism - in the closet, in the state legislature, in the bedroom - she has rebelled against becoming the slave master's concubine, viz. the male- dependent female, the female heterosexual. This rebellion is dangerous business in patriarchy. Men at all levels of privilege, of all classes and colors have the potential to act out legalistically, moralistically, and violently when they cannot colonize women, when they cannot circumscribe our sexual, productive, reproductive, creative prerogatives and energies. And the lesbian - that woman who, as Judy Grahn says, "has taken a woman lover" - has succeeded in resisting the slave master's imperialism in that one sphere of her life. The lesbian has decolonized her body. She has rejected a life of servitude implicit in Western, heterosexual relationships and has accepted the potential of mutuality in a lesbian relationship - roles notwithstanding.”
―Cheryl Clarke, Lesbianism: an Act of Resistance