This semester was tumultuous for me, and I found others telling me how I should write myself into my research. I had people telling me that it would be more meaningful if I discussed my sexual orientation openly in my work regarding Tumblr because of the communities that converge there, further validating claims I was planning to make about identity in this space. I had people telling me that writing about my sexual identity as a black woman would show how progressive my work is, or that it would somehow make me a “better” feminist and identity scholar. In addition to being told to come out in my research, I was also struggling with my depression more so than I had for months. And at the same time, I was re-experiencing and trying to work through my own personal trauma. That’s what I think about when I reflect on this class, and it makes me cringe.
Our Skype session with Whitney Phillips helped me realize the extent to which my personal trauma has colored my experience in this course and in my work more generally. But more importantly, Whitney helped me realize that it’s okay to not be okay. She helped me realize that I’m not failing as an academic or feminist by not openly discussing my struggles or identity in my work. Although I can do so if and when I’m ready, my work should be evaluated on its own. My trauma is not validation for what I do and my work is not defined by it. It has fundamentally shaped who I am as a person and how I approach everything from personal relationships to research, and that’s okay, but my arguments can (and do) stand on their own and are no less powerful because of it. That’s the biggest takeaway for me.
Another related takeaway is the value of journaling during the research process. The blog posts encouraged me to stop, think, and make evaluations about whether the decisions I was making were really the best options for my project. Most notably, it helped me pin down my decision-making processes in a way that better allowed me to see where and how I make decisions in the first place. In this way, they helped bring me a sense of clarity in my approach to research more broadly. Given the emotional state I was in, this was also a therapeutic process and helped me work through my project by breaking it up into smaller, more manageable steps. Consequently, I plan to start keeping a diary for each of my research projects, using some of the prompts from this class to guide my thinking during the process. Not only will I use this to reflect on my approach to research, but I also intend to journal about how I process trauma during the research process, specifically. There were some days and weeks where working on any part of my project at all felt impossible, but the blogging helped. It really did.