Challenge Journal 1

// Personal Essays Feeling Too Personal //


In my capstone project and in previous assignments, I’ve used personal essays to illustrate an idea/point/claim about the world.  I really enjoy writing personal essays and I feel that it is the form through which I’ve produced my best work.  However, a common issue I’ve run into is feeling self conscious about the idea of people I know (particularly those eluded to in my writing or who know those eluded to in my writing) reading and judging my interpretations and descriptions.  This is an interesting issue because I do not feel any sort of anxieties about strangers reading my personal stories, or even about people I know who are removed from the specific scenario reading them.

For example, in English 325 I wrote an essay about the irrationality of fear.  In this essay, I described my childhood memories of 911 and how I felt when I realized my dad was supposed to be in the building that morning and (by some wild stroke of luck) took a later train into the city and came home safe.  When crafting the essay, I was extremely anxious to write about that event purely out of concern over the idea of my parents ever reading it.  I suppose this in of itself supports the idea of irrational fears, but it is a concern I worry will hold me back in writing personally in my capstone project.  I do not want these specific worries to prevent me from “digging deep” and writing truthfully and openly.  For instance, in this paragraph of the essay I referenced my memories from 911:


This Tuesday morning, we did not go to work with my dad.  We also did not go to school. My mom got a call from our Montessori school a few minutes before we were supposed to be buckling up in our car seats to head to school.  Typically a call from school meant a snow day or a power outage, both of which freed us to stay home and play all day. “There was an accident,” she told us, “so school is cancelled today.”  The three of us rejoiced and set off to play. But in the same living room where we fiddled with our dolls and wore plastic tiaras, my mom stood in horror with her eyes glued to the TV. It was September 11, 2001 and as my dad rode the NJ Transit to his destination in the upper floors of the World Trade Center, a plane struck the first tower.  


Since I was little when it happened, I don’t remember much and I don’t remember well.  I know my parents both remember the day so vividly, so I was anxious to write about what I remembered when I didn’t trust my own memories to be accurate in comparison.  I had to let this anxiety go and just accept that my 5 year-old memories are what they are, and that the factual accuracy of them is of lesser importance than the role they play in the overarching narrative.

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