Writing My Identity
Sometimes, I just wish that life came with a script. Whether catching up with a friend or chit-chatting with a relative, the thought of having well-written, tidy responses laid out for me is a tantalizing prospect. Never again would I have to worry about saying the wrong thing, tripping over words, or completely misusing language in a misguided attempt to sound smarter than I actually am. Alas, life is not scripted. Life is a reality show, sans the catty barbs, dramatic background music, or extreme close-ups that make TV reality shows so fun. Fortunately, there is a way to find respite from the confines and shortfalls of spoken language. A way to find words that can be carefully strung together to make people not only understand you, but sit up and pay attention. It is called writing.
For thousands of years, the ability to comprehend written language was a privilege granted only to a lucky few. It was only with the advent of the printing press and wider public education that writing became the spreader of truth that it was always destined to be. It did not matter if you were a socialite, a coal-miner, a dentist—you could create and consume writing that reflected your life and ideas. Now, with the awesome power of the Internet at our disposal, the potential for writing to put important issues in focus and bring about vital discussion is staggering. It has gotten to the point where a girl like me can spread the words she types on her laptop to readers she has never met in her life.
Fourteen-year-old me would not believe what seventeen-year-old me is doing. When I started high school, I was a flighty creature who dreaded walking down the halls because I was unsure of how to make eye contact with the teachers and students I passed. I believed that was who I would always be. The only wildcard of my future that I recognized at the time was writing. At my school’s newspaper, I was given an assignment, and suddenly, a plan. Life does not seem so precarious when you have a snappy opening sentence planned out in your head, or a deft turn-of-phrase that springs up out of nowhere and onto the page. I wrote for every issue of the school newspaper and rose up the ranks. I moved away from straight news pieces to exploratory stories and forceful op-eds. A few weeks ago, at student government elections, I listened as not one, not two, but three candidates referenced a somewhat controversial op-ed I had written about greater transparency in the student government. I heard, first-hand, how my words had provoked both anger and concurrence, so much so that they were debated in front of the entire school. I don’t know if any of my other school experiences can ever approach the pride of that moment.
I don’t yet know where I belong in the real world. But I have found my niche in the great white Microsoft document. The cursor winks at me, daring to give it some company. And I oblige.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Bayroff, ELiza. "Writing My Identity ." 2 June 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 29, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/writing-my-identity>.
Eliza, you have a talent for expressive writing that is only at the beginning of it's tenure. I would also love to see the Op-Ed.
May we see a copy of the oped that provoked the candidates? Your writing is wonderful--so good you found yourself through your words.
In reply to <p>May we see a copy of the by Barbara Dobkin
Eliza will get JWA a copy of the Op-Ed she references here to us within the next few weeks.
Love this so much, Eliza!