Auto-Correct

A few months ago, I took an old notebook, half-filled with Russian words, out of a cupboard, and appointed it my new diary notebook.

It has more ink in it now than it could ever have as the kind of notebook you take to classes. In fact, it’s almost full by now. When I wave it goodbye and take on a new one, I know I’ll remember it with fondness because it is the place where I’ve learned and am practicing a new life skill: auto-correct.

The pages filled with Russian words are the only pages from my notebook that you're allowed to see...
The only pages from my notebook that you’re allowed to see…

Let me explain. For most of my life, I thought I lacked self-confidence but that that was the way I was. I thought that not being sure what you want and not believing that you can get what you want was something you were born with and that you couldn’t change regardless of how much effort you put into it.

“Being the way I was” in this aspect never made me happy. But it wasn’t until my early twenties that I decided I can get rid of tendencies that make me unhappy.

One of the eye-opening events during that time was reading Anna’s post about women’s lack of confidence in their dreams, plans, and abilities.

It was this post that made me start to notice the little “I think’s” and “maybes” that I slip into my utterances, my diary entries, even my thoughts. And when I became aware of the number of those seemingly harmless words in my language, I decided to… one after another, get rid of the fuckers.

So when I had filled some of the new notebook those few months ago and, flipping through it one lazy day, spotted several sentences starting with “I think I may want to…” or “maybe I will…” crowding it up, I corrected them to what I actually wanted to say: “I want to”, “I will”.

Since then, I’ve crossed out many “I think’s” and “maybes”, and you know what? Over time, I’ve begun to feel more confident about what I want and how I feel about things. In fact, I’m just beginning to believe that I have the right to want things, and to feel about things the way I do. In other words, I’m beginning to feel that my life is actually mine.

Auto-correct may well sound silly to you, but to me it sounds like the best way to start. I have always experienced words spoken out loud as “heavier” than ones you just turn over in your head. That’s probably because I don’t like talking very much, so when I do talk, I try to at least make the words “heavier”, that is more meaningful.

The same goes for words that get crossed out on paper — the act of crossing them out means that I don’t want them in my language. It’s a manifestation. It means that I want to change.

So if you also want to change something about yourself… why not try out auto-correct?

José Ortega y Gasset on Talking and Not Talking

This time I’m only quoting, sharing with you some food for thought. See how communist of me?

“Let us say, then, that Man, when he begins to speak, does so because he thinks that he is going to be able to say what he thinks. Well, this is illusory. Language doesn’t offer that much. It says, a little more or less, a portion of what we think, while it sets an insurmountable obstacle in place, blocking a transmission of the rest. As soon as conversation begins to revolve around themes that are more important, more human, more ‘real’ than the latter [i.e., than mathematics], its imprecision, its awkwardness and its convolutedness increase. Infected by the entrenched prejudice that through speech we understand each other, we make our remarks and listen in such good faith that we inevitably misunderstand each other much more than if we had remained silent and had guessed. Furthermore, since our thought is in great measure attributable to the tongue […] it turns out that thinking is talking to oneself and, consequently, misunderstanding oneself and running a great risk of becoming completely muddled […].

“Because if, in fact, we are cured of believing that speech succeeds in expressing all that we think, we will recognize what, in fact, is obviously constantly happening to us: that when speaking or writing we refrain constantly from saying many things because language doesn’t allow them to be said. The effectiveness of speech does not simply lie in speaking, in making statements, but, at the same time and of necessity, in a relinquishing of speech, a keeping quiet, a being silent! […] Remember what happens to you when you have to speak in a foreign language. Very distressing! It is what I am feeling now when I speak in French: the distress of having to quiet four-fifths of what occurs to me, because those four-fifths of my Spanish thoughts can’t be said well in French, in spite of the fact that the two languages are so closely related. Well, don’t believe that it is not the same, of course to a lesser extent, when we think in our own language; only our contrary preconception prevents our noticing it. […] The fact is that the stupendous reality, which is language, will not be understood at its root if one doesn’t begin by noticing that speech is composed above all of silences. A person incapable of quieting many things would not be capable of talking”.

[from José Ortega y Gasset, The Misery and the Splendor of Translation. For the whole text, go e.g. here.]

Have a good week,
Mulan