Valley Fold

Monday, 22 February 2016 18:03

I am slowly teaching myself the art of origami. I only started learning it at the New Year so my skills are still rudimentary but I take great pleasure in every lopsided unicorn or too creased flower blossom I create. One of the most basic folds in origami is called the valley fold, which is quite simply folding the paper so that the crease is at the bottom, the paper pointing upwards on either side in a vee shape. When creating origami figures, this kind of inward fold can become quite complex as you make a series of folds on top of one another all in one smooth motion. While simple at the start, a valley fold is the beginning of something magical, lending hidden support to a narrow spine or mapping the way to the next folds to come.

Like a square of origami paper, I have been turning inwards. I have largely withdrawn from the world of internet chatter, specifically deleting my one social media account. After several years as a Twitter user, I found myself being both drawn to and devastated by the platform. It didn’t matter how well I culled my following list or muted people, I left every interaction with Twitter feeling worse than I had begun. Most discussions on Twitter (and wherever people gather virtually) seem to boil down to “us vs. them” and I was always worrying about which side I was supposed to be on. I’m not afraid of conflict but I long to see the person behind the words. The staccato effect of social media is too overwhelming, a stream of emotions mixed up the point where I lose context of what’s being said. I lose myself.

As I turn inwards, I am also moving away from identifications with large communities. When I left academia six years ago, I eagerly dove into the world of science fiction fandom and hoped that I would find a home there. I have not. I gave it a really good go--I went to conventions, I joined Twitter, I edited a short story collection--but fandom is not for me (at least not the way it is now). I think that I come off as too academic for fandom (and as too fannish for academia). As an independent scholar of science fiction, I confuse the categories. That’s okay, I get it. It’s just that I hate feeling adrift. I like being alone but I am tired of feeling lonely. I recently wrote an essay about Joanna Russ for the next issue of the WisCon Chronicles, and it helped me find comfort with my constant feeling of not belonging. Russ wrote about how she was always looking for, finding, and losing community. Of course I don’t fashion myself the next Joanna Russ but her letters poignantly describe the same fears and worries and desires that I have about community. And that shared identification is a form of belonging, is it not? I’ve now folded Russ’s words into myself and they give me encouragement to move forward.

At first I was worried that these mental valley folds signaled a larger retreat inside of myself that precluded growth and creativity and social connection. Since I left social media and rejected its illusion of connectivity, however, I feel so much better being alone. Instead of logging on to read a stream of strangers' tweets, I have been slowly writing emails to the people I am genuinely interested in. I’m always limited in energy but I’m making more of what I have. Most surprisingly, this inwards turn has caused a stream of words to spill out on to paper. There is so much that I need to write out, to explore and to explain. Something huge inside has finally shaken loose of anxiety and doubt and it wants out! I think writers call this “finding your voice” and it is wonderful.

Here I am. If you want to connect with me, I’d be happy to hear from you. Send me an email (I also have lots of paper and stamps and postcards)!

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