Challenge Journal: What if…?

When I think about the biggest opportunity for potential (if given as much time and help as my capstone project), a piece of writing that first comes is my college essay, except that I did have someone (my nosy mother) checking in, giving me ideas, holding me to a time table. Eye roll. I know.


I probably would choose an essay that I spent the most time on, one that was looked at by 19 of my peers and by my professor, talked about, revised, then again, and again. It was an essay in my English 325 class. I was a sophomore in a class full of seniors and was saving this topic for my full class workshop. It wasn’t a topic so blatantly personal like mental health, my family, or a past romantic relationship. It was something that was personal in a whole new realm. Religion. I carry my religious identity with me everywhere I go and found that to be changing, and challenging, in college. What better of an opportunity to write about it?


While it was amazing to be given the artistic autonomy to write so freely and to have my peers, all of whom I had never met before taking the class, look over it and give suggestions, I was inherently limited. I would have challenged myself to go outside of my first-person voice, to take more risks and write with perhaps a more colloquial tone while also maintaining intellectual authority and thoughtful prose. For example, in my essay I said

“In preparing to take my first leap outside of the Jewish bubble, I thought: How do I maintain such a holy part of my life when I am no longer surrounded by its presence? How will college impact how I think about and practice Judaism? ”

Here, I speak about myself and mostly focus on my experience in the present moment. I speak from the first person and try to unpack the questions that were on my mind at the time. It would have been amazing to talk about other religions or religious identity or theology and how that fits into the life of a 19-year-old college student, but I focused on my experience, my perspective, my vulnerabilities. I ended up being proud of the essay but always felt like I could have done more with it, like I could have played around with the style, formatting, and presentation.


I also had to share this essay with two other essays for the semester. This one ended up being 16 pages, seven pages over the initial limit, but I think it could have been more of a personal statement, or search for the meaning of theology, or personal manifesto for others to read. Instead, I ended up writing it to be graded by my professor and kept it to myself. After all, it was super personal, but a part of me wishes I could have had more resources, more guidance, more time to make it into something bigger, something to perhaps publish or cherish in a more unique way.

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