Inspiration & Encouragement, Writing

Of Storybooks and Stages

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

– Lewis Carroll

Happy November, Friends! It has officially been over three months since I have posted, and while I could go into detail with excuses and hullaballoo, I will just leave it at this: I have been hard at work FINALLY finishing my degree! I did not want to leave you all out of this exciting moment in my life, so here I am with the skinny (do people still use that phrase?). Basically, after a long, winding journey through the higher education system, I will be finished with my major (Bachelor of Arts in English), my minor (Theatre), and all of my general courses at the close of this semester in December. Can I get a Hallelujah, Someone!? Despite all of this being complete, I was a few credit hours shy of waltzing out of here diploma in hand until May, so I will hopefully updating you very soon with exciting news on how I will be completing these electives this coming spring semester (seriously, stay tuned).

With all of that being said, my major portfolio for English was due this semester, which is basically an organized culmination of my writing and progression through college. This portfolio includes a self-reflective essay on my journey and writing, many academic essays, and a senior project (a poetry collection, in my case). Seeing as how I began college in 2012 (while not in school for this many consecutive years), looking back over this large chunk of time has been rather therapeutic and rewarding. I have been able to see growth where I did not previously realize it was occurring. Even though I still firmly stand behind what I have stated in other posts about a college education not being necessary for everyone, I am so thankful to be able to say that I completed this degree.

In an effort to fully include you moving forward, I wanted to give a glimpse as to what I have already learned in my voyage through academia so far. To do this, I have included an excerpt from my self-reflective essay from my major portfolio. While this omits some of the more personal details about my gaps in college, it gives a pretty thorough indication of how this process has shaped me for the better. I have also left out the sections discussing each of my academic essays and how they have evolved because while my professors may get giddy about such things, I had a feeling you’d rather be spared of these excessive details (you’re welcome, I’ve got your back).

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Thank you all for continuing to be a part of the Inkwell, and for supporting my writing—this platform has helped me to become a more open individual, and for that I am so grateful! And after a lengthy introduction that probably could have been one paragraph instead of three, I present:

Of Storybooks and Stages: A Self Reflection

I grew up in a home that knew the power of words. My mom would read my favorite storybooks to me when I was little, filling me with the rhythms of Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss and the messages from the Berenstain Bears and Precious Moments. Then, when I was old enough to read for myself, she would let me bring stacks of books home from the library where I began transitioning from The Chronicles of Narnia and The Magic Tree House to Nancy Drew and young adult novels by Sarah Dessen and Suzanne Collins. My thriving imagination and love for interesting characters and tales also translated into a passion for writing and performing. Despite these being the subjects I always knew I enjoyed, I still had never given much thought to a career in the field of English or Theatre. My ambition through many of my high school years was to attend an art institute in New York City for Fashion Design. After a series of events that made me reconsider this decision, by the time I was graduating high school in 2011, I began an eight year journey in and out of college that only deepened my love for both of these subjects and landed me a degree majoring in English and minoring in Theatre.

I am well aware at this point in my life that my college journey looks much more like a patchwork quilt than anything else, with different materials and patterns stitched together in a way that has produced something very unique. I did not get to attend college that fall of 2011 as planned due to notice of declined loans in August right before classes began. Needless to say, I was crushed. Some say that every person has a moment in life that defines him or her; I don’t necessarily believe that because I feel there are many moments that continually redefine our perspectives and positions. However, this moment in my life was definitely one of my turning points. I can honestly say that moment of realizing life does not always turn out the way we plan broke me in the best possible way. I am still growing, of course, but I am a much more flexible and open minded individual now than I was seven years ago. During that first year out of school, I grew more than I ever would have imagined and I began acting more and co-directing a drama team at my church. This time gave me a new perspective and allowed me to hone in on my passions, which ultimately led to me beginning college at Rio Grande in the fall of 2012 with a major in Secondary English Education and a minor in Theatre. While the exact combination of these subjects has adapted according to the changing seasons of my life, I always find my way back to them (even after a two-and-a-half year gap from college while working in customer service fields to support myself). I feel I am equal parts writer and performer, and that has revealed itself time and time again within my college career.

After participating as a community member in a production of Taming of the Shrew on Rio Grande’s campus, I was reminded of how good it felt to be on a college campus and by fall of 2017, I was a returning college student majoring in English with an individualized minor in Theatre, and could not have been more excited for the opportunity to finish what I had started so many years earlier. These subjects are not only paired together because they are so much a part of my core, but they also complement each other in the sense of how I approach each subject. When I am looking at a script for performance, I am coming at it through a love of language and words that has only intensified through my courses. My time of returning to URG to finish my BA in English has been invaluable. I feel that due to my internal and external struggle with college, and knowing how right returning at this phase in my life felt, caused me to have a newfound passion and maturity in my approach to courses and assignments. I knew there would be negative opinions and, of course, the golden question: “What are you going to do with that degree?” To be honest, I didn’t know then exactly what career I wanted to get with this degree, and I’m still narrowing it down now, but I knew I needed it for me. Sometimes, that is enough—to do something for yourself. Throughout this process of finishing my English degree, I have revised poetry that I had long-left untouched. I have dug more deeply than I thought possible on academic essays, discovering a real joy in arguing a point in a creative way. I have felt broken at the heart wrenching content within the pages of The Handmaid’s Tale or Azar Nafisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran. I have been freshly inspired by the works of Fitzgerald and Shakespeare. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, portraying characters on stage that were not previously in my acting repertoire. I have stayed in the library for hours breathing in the smell of old books and coffee, and giving myself pep talks of “you can write this paper . . .” and I did. Not for you. Not for them. Not because it made sense to my employers. No, I did this for me.
. . .
Eight years after high school, I am finally graduating with my Bachelor’s degree with the full assurance that I chose the right path for me. I graduate knowing that my journey looks different than some, maybe even most, of my peers, and that is fine with me. I graduate knowing that I am thoroughly equipped to do more than I previously allowed myself to believe. I graduate knowing that the skill to feel and to acknowledge the feelings of others is vital to progression and community. I graduate knowing that failure is dependent upon the individual perspective of success. I graduate knowing that my first draft can always be revised and that my heart will not break when someone makes that suggestion. I graduate knowing that in improving in academic conclusions, I somehow accomplished one of the biggest of all – and what a beautiful thing to have finished. I graduate knowing that of all the storybooks and stages that have shaped me so far, the pages are still turning and there are still empty spaces in my life to create art.

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