The first time I fell in love with English was via Slam Poetry: freshman year of High school. Though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, that was when I discovered the power of words as a means of developing self efficacy. Being exposed to Slam Poetry and LTAB culture helped me gain a level of confidence I couldn’t get from anywhere else–even though my poems were shitty (as past work always seems). It was supportive and honest: it was walking on stage with something to say, to a crowd that was there to listen. It was hardwork. It was ridiculous. But most importantly, it was not for homework. It was for myself.
The second time I fell in love with English I was reading The Great Gatsby. I was analyzing the significance of light in chapter 5. I was thinking about the defunct clock, and past love–as if I had any comprehension of love at 15. I hated Daisy; I loved Fitzgerald’s words. I skidded on the surface of the text: simply enjoying the plot. And I dove head first into the symbolism: struggling to go beyond whatever sparknotes had already offered the world.
The third time I fell in love with English I was in AP Lang and my teacher asked us to explain what an essay was. We generated a list with phrases like “5 paragraphs”, “supportive details”, and ultimately “boring”. That day we threw convention to the wind and began to use essays creatively. We told our stories in whatever way best suited them: using form intentionally instead of obligatorily. It was the first time, ever, that I was writing about my personal life in a classroom setting. Everyday I left class as a better person and I left the course as a stronger writer. It was watching my teacher lead discussions that made realize how much I loved English. As much as I’d enjoyed my prior classes, this was the first time that English didn’t feel like a forced thing. It was natural. It wasn’t archaic; It was interesting. I looked at my AP Lang teacher and knew what I wanted to be.
Right now, I am revising an essay. But earlier, I was miserable from spending too much time on my own negative train of thought, which went roughly as follows.
I don’t want to revise this paper, it has so far to go, I don’t know what to do, poetry is hard, sonnets are hard, I hate sonnets, this week’s readings aren’t on moodle yet, this week is going to be hard, when will I finish this revision by, I have another paper due saturday, if this one turned out subpar what’s the next one going to look like, WHY AM I EVEN MAJORING IN THIS. Maybe the math majors have a point, there is no right answer in English and that’s frustrating (and even though there’s “no right answer” this paper definitely is not the right answer).
Fortunately, one of the good things about myself is that I realize when I’m being fussy. Then it just becomes a matter of making myself un-fussy (this part is harder). So after attending to my, often neglected, haiku project and listening to some spanish music I was feeling much better. Then it became a matter of getting over myself and getting to work.
After I outlined my paper I noticed the flaws. I also noticed that even while I was writing it the first time.. I noticed these flaws, but I was hoping they would somehow go unnoticed by my professor (wishful thinking to say the least). But for draft #1.5 it wasn’t bad at all.
Now I’m into this paper again. I have a giant poster board, index cards, highlighters, and a whiteboard. (I basically write my papers like I’m solving a murder). I realized that my relationship with English has a foundation that’s strong enough to get me through the rough times. And the massive wall I hit last night was the first of many I will encounter during my 4 English classes this year. Luckily, this is usually followed by a spurt of inspiration/insanity that pushes me through to the next draft. And oddly enough, as much as a I hate the analysis/writing wall, I love breaking through it. English is a cycle of struggle and satisfaction that I’m sick enough to major in.