Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Losing Yourself to Find Yourself

I have lived in the same small town in Connecticut for my entire life. Unlike many people, I have never had to move. I feel like I know every inch of my town, the land and the people. The vast majority of my graduating class had been together since kindergarten. We all new each others stories far too well. Everyone had their place and there was really no breaking out of that. Therefore, coming to Loyola freshman year was incredibly disorienting. It was the first time I'd been away from home for any extended length of time. Not only did I not know where anything was on campus, but I also didn't know any people. I was used to running into the local market and seeing everyone I know. I've always been shy and reserved, never one to "leave my comfort zone" as my mother would say, though she tried to get me to do so all my life. When I came to Loyola I was lost and disoriented. I remember stumbling around campus the first few days of classes with my nose in my schedule desperately trying to find where I was supposed to go and not look like a confused freshman in the process. I attended the activities fair along with the rest of my class and remember be overwhelmed and feeling like everyone had a place already, and wondering where mine would be. I signed up for every club I was even remotely interested in to try and start taking advantage of my four years here as quickly as possible. I was bombarded within the next few weeks with emails from all of these clubs, and it became so overwhelming that I eventually dropped almost all of them, except for Relay for Life. In this way, I began to make my way here, to find a place for myself. I also began to branch out socially. I found myself in a small and intimate writing class first semester freshman year. It was one of the most difficult and time consuming classes I have taken, however, not only did I become a better writer, but the class fostered a kind of community, and to this day my best friends and roommates are from that class.

My experience as a freshman at Loyola reminded me of the point made in our class discussion that Wendt, throughout  Black Rainbow, orients and disorients the reader as providing the form of travel. Furthermore, that he is doing this to convey a larger message, that perhaps losing oneself is truly the only way to find oneself. The story begins in a quite disorienting manner for the reader, simply delving into the mundane thoughts of the narrator's life with his wife and illustrations of the ongoing trials of the tribunal. The reader is only allowed snippets of the narrator's life for much of the novel. That being said, in the beginning of the novel, the narrator seems oriented. He has his family and is going through the same routine each day. However, once he becomes a "searcher" everything becomes chaos. He lives in the moment finding instructions as he goes. He becomes different people in his extensive quest to find his family. He has sudden spurts of violence, such as when he murders someone at the "Labyrinth Club". Throughout the novel he changes greatly from the man he was in the beginning. He loses that man in the process of his search. However, it is through this that he discovers certain aspects of himself.

This is what Wendt was trying to capture by making the novel disorienting to the reader. It was difficult to tell at any point how much time had passed between destinations and events that occurred. Wendt captures this sense of being lost and confused throughout the novel. Certain aspects of the narrator's life, however, keep him grounded. His family remains important to him throughout the novel, as that is what he is trying to find. They keep him tied to his past self. Similarly, through all the chaos of the beginning of a semester as a new student, I had my family and friends at home to keep me grounded and remind me where my roots are, although I had found a new "home". While being lost helps you find a new self, it also reminds you of what is important, what grounds you.

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