I fear beginnings and endings.
Middles take many turns, shifting according to minuscule changes or dramatic events, but they remain connected to that first moment. Beginnings set the tone for the future, sliding into place the lens through which everyone will view whatever follows. Beginnings can be false, based on misconceptions or misunderstandings, but each step after must follow that first footprint.
I overthink beginnings, considering the endless options that could lead to endless possibilities. Each choice could change the way others perceive the stories I tell, altering the impact of my words. This first post on my blog feels like the equivalent of a handshake with my readers; if I cling too firmly, you’ll see that I’m nervous — if my hand is too limp, you’ll know that I haven’t done this before.
But even if you can’t predict how something begins, you lose something if you don’t start at all. I may be starting this blog a few steps into my journey, but I still want to forge a path. After all, once the story has begun, it can only grow; the narrative can change along the road even if it began on a different note. Handshakes improve with practice.
As a fiction writer, I tell stories that are not my own. They are stories that could be mine, littered with fragments of myself in the habits of a little girl or the hobbies of an old woman, but each character takes on a life of their own; I become the medium that furnished a window between the waking world and people who exist in another dimension. Perhaps this distance, of sharing myself distorted and decorated through the guise of characters, is why I have been so daunted by beginning my blog. Because, though the setting is unfamiliar to me, I am telling stories through my personal voice, inviting the reader to share a moment with my mind without the filter of my characters. I’ve become so accustomed to speaking through my characters that I’m anxious about speaking from my own perspective.
I will begin this blog with a promise to myself and anyone who enters this space. I will be honest with my readers about my thoughts, encouraging feedback and asking others to continue the conversations I begin here. If people can learn from the stories I tell — if they can advance their knowledge of another part of the world, improve their grasp on language learning, and enhance their knowledge of differing perspectives, I will consider this blog a success. My loftiest goal in this process is that a community of learners, whether their interests lie in language, culture, or storytelling, may form through the course of this blog. I encourage readers to share their own insights about my observations and the thoughts of others, so long as they are focused on mutual learning through respectful dialogue.
So to follow this plethoric pondering, I’ll set the physical scene: I am attending two study abroad programs in Taiwan, remaining here until early January. The summer session, a language and culture program called the Taiwan US Alliance located at Tainan’s National Cheng Kung University, began on June 29 and concluded two days ago. I now have three weeks until the beginning of my fall semester in the CET program hosted at National Taipei University, where I will take a pledge to speak Chinese exclusively as I take intensive language courses and pursue and internship.
As I have mentioned before, my goals in this blog revolve around information and communication. Please let me know if you would like to hear about anything in particular as I share stories of my time abroad! I have some ideas for topics I plan to explore, but I am always open to suggestions. What would you like to learn about studying abroad in Taiwan? What language learning questions do you have? I look forward to beginning this story in the middle with you.
A street in Tainan after the rain. 06.30.17.