Back To School, Back To Reflection

 

It’s now September and the start of a new school year. I am finally coming to terms with the changes that happened in the past six months. I suffered appendicitis at the beginning of February, something that I thought would never happen to me (because, in reality, who actually thinks it will happen to them?). Almost as soon as I was cleared to go back to work, I began my first round of intense interviews for a big position at my institution. One that would usher in major changes for the school and for the person chosen.

While waiting to hear if I got the job or not, I thought about what would happen if I did, in fact, get it. I repeatedly told myself that I was not going to move. That I would stay at my parents’ house to save up for a house of my own. My boyfriend and I already had the future talks, and I felt confident that staying home to save up for some aspects of that future would be the best plan.

And then I received the phone call informing me that they had chosen me for the position.

As I drove home that day, I inevitably got stuck in Boston traffic. The type that jams up at the Medford exits and continues to get worse. I encountered this type of traffic many times before, and it usually meant a solid two-hour commute home. By the time I pulled in my parents’ driveway that day, excitement was replaced with exhaustion. I had a glimpse of what my life would be like if I stuck with my original plan and vision: a crushing commute that would dampen the day-to-day, slowly stripping it of energetic excitement.

I had to make a decision: stay with my vision of living at home to stay with my vision of my relationship; or move.

I chose to move. In making that decision, I chose uncertain reality. The type of uncertainty that makes us cling to the semi-stable parts of our lives, funneling our efforts into them because we don’t know what will happen if we don’t. Uncertainty contains possibilities, but there is certain degree of comfort in what we know and are familiar with. Then again, is this comfort a trap of our own making? Do we dare cast it aside and embrace the unknown?

 

 

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Coping with My Trauma

My body went through a trauma. I went through a trauma. I can finally say those words.

On Wednesday, I met with the surgeon for a follow-up appointment. It’s been three weeks since I had emergency surgery to remove my appendix. During the appointment, I asked him a few questions regarding when I can exercise again, lifting, any restrictions. He told me what others had told me, but I refused to believe: my body has been through a trauma. In his words, my body is reacting and responding to the surgery the same way as if it had been stabbed. Which, he clarified, it was: three times in my abdomen. Granted, it was with my permission and for healing, but my body doesn’t know that. It knows something sharp pierced through the skin and worked on the insides.

I awoke from the surgery crying out. I remember that, even through the fog of the anesthesia and drugs they gave me. I started hyperventilating and getting upset, so much so that the nurse told me I needed to breathe or else I was going to kill myself. I didn’t understand why I reacted that way out of surgery. I wasn’t in pain. They put an anti-motion sickness patch on me prior to surgery so as to avoid waking feeling nauseous. No. I awoke crying out as I came to consciousness because my body knew what happened. I may not have been awake during the procedure, but my body was.

My body was in pain. Not physical pain; instead, it was in its own sort of emotional pain at having had the boundary of skin crossed with a blade. Of missing a piece of itself it had known for its entire life, albeit, an inflamed one that was no longer healthy.

My body is starting to understand that it was done for healing and that I am, in fact, healing because I am starting to understand what my body has been trying to desperately tell me: trauma.

The body and self are finally communicating.

Recovery

Here I was, going through my semester at full speed. Eagerly waiting to know about the position I applied for, trying to somewhat win over my students, working on an essay to potentially send out for publication, and starting to feel as though I was getting back to my old self in terms of ambition.

And then I was hospitalized with appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery.

I don’t know why, but I thought the recovery time after an appendectomy would be shorter. I thought it was a simple matter of “After a week, you’re good to go!” No. More like two-four weeks. And not being able to lift anything over ten pounds.

Checking emails takes a lot of effort, let alone doing laundry or other seemingly everyday tasks. All I want to do is rest.

I’m starting to think that’s what I’m supposed to do. Slow down, rest, and recover.

What Does It Mean To Teach Writing?

Poe

Poe was a great writer. But what does the art of writing even mean?

“What do you teach?”

I often get asked this question when I tell people that I am a professor. My answer typically goes from “I teach English,” to the more specific “I teach writing.”

With the end of the semester fast approaching, I have thought about what it is that I teach. Yes, I teach writing. But what does that mean?

There are, of course, the many concepts that I incorporate and teach to my students. Bias, appeals, audience, tone, thesis, revision, peer review…these are seemingly standard fare in the particular course that I teach. I could get even more general and say that I teach students how to analyze a text, research a topic, and write about themselves in a thoughtful, self-reflective manner.

More than that, though, what I teach is critical thinking. Critical thinking may sound like a simple enough concept, but it’s actually rather complex in that it requires students to engage with a text and/or topic in a way that goes beyond simply reading and looking stuff up on the Internet. Critical thinking involves thinking beyond the self so as to widen the lenses individuals use to comprehend information. And it’s not just students who are tasked with this; as an instructor, I, too, have the responsibility to constantly view information and situations from different perspectives.

To answer the question I originally set out, I teach the product of many discussions, drafts, edits, revisions, and challenges: voice. Because to teach writing is to teach voice. How to have one and how to effectively use it.

Understanding Jane Bennet, The Broken-Hearted

I recently experienced a breakup, and I have to say, it sucks. I was the one who got dumped, unexpectedly, and I was the one who put most of the effort and commitment into the relationship. So, yeah, major suckitude.

Jane Austen’s works help shed insight into my personal life, and this time is no different. I thought about my current situation, my favorite novels, and, more specifically, my favorite characters. Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet did not seem to be appropriate for my present emotional state. Neither did Anne Elliot nor Catherine Morland.

No, the character I can connect to most is none other than Jane Bennet. Before the breakup, I thought of Jane Bennet as an extremely static, somewhat dismissible character. Her storyline consists of beautiful girl falls in love with Charles Bingley; he reciprocates her feelings. He is misguided by his closest friend and his family and breaks it off with her upon their advice. She continues to love him. When his best friend (who convinced him to breakup with her in the first place) persuades him to get back together with her, Bingley proposes to her; she accepts. Happily ever after.

I am not relating to Jane Bennet for happily ever after; rather, I am relating to her for her broken-heart. She is the girl who got dumped, unexpectedly, even though she did nothing wrong. She is the girl who remained in love with the guy, even though he metaphorically kicked her to the curb. She is the broken-hearted. She is the character who helps me during this time. Plain Jane Bennet, the unexpectedly relatable.

 

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part IX: Marriage and Friendship

pride-and-prejudice-wedding-scene

(Photo source: themerrybride.files.wordpress.com)

Emma Woodhouse and Miss Taylor. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet and Charlotte Lucas. What do these pairs have in common? They each represent a pair of Jane Austen characters whose friendships were altered when one of them married. It then became Emma Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston. Elizabeth Bennet and Mrs. Collins.

One of the motifs of Austen’s novels is that of marriage. I would argue that a more specific theme would be how marriage alters friendships between female characters. Regardless of whether or not the marriage is to a likable character, such as Mr. Weston, or to a not so well liked character, such as Mr. Collins, the institution of marriage impacts the friendship and usually in a way that weakens it. Look at Lizzy and the former Miss Lucas: sure, Lizzy visits her friend and new hubby at their home, but Charlotte is no longer the friend Lizzy could confide in and gossip to at the beginning of the novel.

Austen’s observations regarding marriage and friendship ring true today. In getting married, the woman takes on the additional identity of someone’s wife, a role society promotes with traditional connotations. In other words, in marrying, the spouse is expected to become the priority while pre-existing relationships take a back seat. It’s no wonder that when Harriet Smith tells Emma about Robert Martin’s initial marriage proposal, Emma’s reaction is to persuade her friend to turn him down; in her eyes, she’s already lost one friend to a marriage, and she’s not about to lose another.

Does putting a ring on it mean putting an end to a friendship? Not necessarily. But it does mean that the friendship will not be the same as before.

 

 

 

Reading List:The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

I received Amy Schumer’s book The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo for Christmas, and I meant to read it before the end of winter break. Call it a reading goal, but I was determined to finish it before returning for Spring semester. And I did (and, yes, I am proud of myself for accomplishing said goal – sometimes it’s not easy to make the time to read).

The book chronicles various aspects of Schumer’s life, from her childhood to her rise as the comedian she is today. As a fan of Amy Schumer, I loved it. Her writing style invites readers into the text so that it reads less like an autobiography and more like a series of conversations you would have with a friend. She even includes photographs at the end of most of her chapters, furthering this personal connection with the reader, allowing them to see more into her life.

Schumer is candid – she admits her faults, her mistakes, her imperfections. She owns them, not dismissing them to try to glorify herself in the eyes of the reader. Her honesty is what makes her both appealing and approachable for the audience. This quality is something Schumer is known for in her work and why I look forward to her next project.