I was pretty disappointed with my history classes in primary and secondary school. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in history – it seemed like a great idea. I thought, however, that reading a bunch of dates and trends out of a textbook couldn’t be the best way to learn it. I would tell my friends, “What I really want to know is how people lived in different times and places. What were they thinking and feeling, and why?”
All this to say: I really enjoyed this project. I had a complicated journey with it, and the results definitely weren’t perfect, but it was such a great way to engage with that question. So often our classes focus on the big players, and it’s important to know about that, but (I think) it’s just as important to think about the people who responded to history, not the ones who “created” it. It allowed me to think about these events and their ripples, not just into future events but into the daily lives of people just trying to make it to the next day.
As a writer, I definitely played to my strengths in my posts. I made sure to make Clara a very different person from me, with very different wants and needs, but I think if I was doing this again I would have tried to make my posts a little more factual, just to push myself. I do think, however, that I tried to capture the way people react to events: emotionally, with a focus on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. I also tried to have those reactions change as Clara got older – one of the most challenging parts was trying to approach these events from the same person at different times in their life. It was difficult, but trying to imagine what would be happening in her life also made me think a lot about the options Chileans did and didn’t have during those times. It pushed me to imagine history the way I always wanted to.
As the timestamps can attest, the second half of this project all happened this week for me (wow, that’s some nice passive voice, isn’t it?). Definitely part of the reason for that was me being disorganized, but I also found aspects of this project very personally difficult. Traveling with Clara through Chile’s national trauma, made me confront the trauma in my own life: how I and my community are willing and unwilling to see it and believe in it. The issues I brought up through this project about the balance between forgetting and remembering, speaking and staying quiet, are deeply relevant to my own life. Obviously there are big differences in these situations, and I’m certainly not trying to oversimplify anything, but in drawing on the emotions I think I would feel in Clara’s situation I came up with a lot of feelings that I’ve dealt with before. I’m not sure I answered any of the questions I have (I’m not sure it’s as simple as “answers”), but I found new ways to think about and address them.
The biggest similarity between Clara and me is that we both, at difficult times in our lives, have written when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do. I’m not typically a poet, but I loved writing the poems for this project. It gave me a chance to put something of my own voice into my avatar while still staying very much in her world. The poetry, as with the project as a whole, taught me and reminded me that looking at the past can be the hardest thing, but that it is also a healing thing.