Nov2420084:43 pm

A personal reaffirmation: banging my head on the wall for international careers

Over at The Atlantic, Ta’Nehisi Coates, who I sort of read before but am now reading quite a bit more, laments the laziness of writers who don’t engage a subject enough to come at it with any kind of originality. He specifically gets worked up by those who use the now-hackneyed “team of rivals” to describe Obama’s early appointments. To him, this is tantamount to: “I quit. I refuse to respect my subject enough to think about what he specifically represents.” Coates continues:

The best thing about the human brain is that it’s original. None of us think the same. When thinkers amd (sic) writers refuse to employ that originality, when they opt against telling us what is particular, what is specific, what is unique about this moment in time, when they decide to go with the easiest received wisdom at hand, as opposed to deliberating, as opposed to banging their heads on the wall until they arrive at something new, than they are not writers or thinkers any more, but henchmen in the employ of propagandists.

I want to join him on his soap box even while I am humbled by his accusation. I am certainly one who has fallen into the Rancor pit of writing in (meaningless) cliche, especially when it comes to writing on international careers, a fairly new endeavor for me. “Cast the net wide.” “See what’s out there.” “Extend your network.” “Follow your gut.” Do these things really mean anything beyond the worn-out image or association that comes with them? Perhaps they mean something to me, the writer, when I use them, though because the phrases have already been beaten into the ground by repetitious use, they may come to mean something completely different when digested by a reader. And thus, my job of honestly communicating a thought about careers in international education, exchange, and development has not been done– largely because I have not taken the time or energy to express what I am thinking or feeling in any way other than the most expedient.

The point, brought on by Mr. Coates’ mini-rant: a reminder to challenge myself, to bang my head on the wall, in order to make original and unique contributions to this ongoing discussion of international careers, rather than simply say what is easiest.

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