Capstone Journal #4: Well…What Now?

I’m sitting in Ross drinking a crappy iced Americano and tying up the loose ends of this project and the rest of my undergraduate career and finding it difficult and easy all at the same time. Time has flown by but also I feel so much older than the person who first sat down in ENG 125 and who would fall in love with reading and writing personal narratives. And somehow, I still feel much older than the person who made her Gateway project. That Abby seems so, well, far away.

I know how funny that is because my whole capstone was about distance. The ways in which all of us feel close and far all at once. And distance has probably been the one true constant in my life – especially throughout these last couple of months of college. All my friends are moving away. I might be moving away. I’m trying to navigate the future and the past and somehow maintain all the relationships in my life. So this capstone was very personal to me.

That made the production of it harder than I thought. I’ve mentioned it before but there is something about putting into words all the things that have been swirling around your brain for basically your whole life for whoever to read that is scary. The subject matter, the reflection of it, also made it clear that I would have to relive some pretty sad/scary/bittersweet memories. But all in the search of making something I was actually excited to look back on – unlike my gateway project.

It was hard. But I did it. I presented something I am proud of. I made something I, as a lover of the genre, would love to read. Which is the weirdest thing about all of this. You see, I’m a business student. I don’t currently have post-grad plans but it probably won’t be writing (even though that’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted since I was a little kid). So this will conceivably be the last written work that I am actually forced to produce. Everything else will be journal entries and half-finished narratives that sit untouched as life continues on around them. But I feel like a writer now.

For the first time, I feel like a writer. Not just someone who likes to write. This capstone did that for me. Pushing through all the hard stuff and bad memories and ambiguity made me feel legitimate. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know who I’ll be in 5 years. I don’t know how far away or how close to this version of Abby I will fill then. But somehow I know, with the most certainty that I’ve felt in a long time, that the feeling of sated accomplishment will last. This project is pushing away feelings of imposter syndrome and giving me the confidence to figure out what’s next. So thank you. I needed that.

Capstone Journal #3: This Hurts Okay

Oh boy. It’s happening. It’s really happening. I may now *actually* be closer to the end of this than the beginning. Good thing I have barely a week to finish, am I right?

Throughout this process I’ve realized that maybe I did something wrong in a past life to deserve being drawn to personal narrative writing. For whatever reason, I can’t stop writing about the painful and embarrassing things that make me human. To be honest, the embarrassing stuff doesn’t really get to me. Since high school, I’ve been alright being brutally open in my writing. Read my diary – I don’t care. But maybe in my old age (hey 23 is kind of old, at least compared to all of you), my skin is getting too soft to write about the painful stuff.

A couple years ago, I took ENG 325. The class taught me a lot, but most importantly, it taught me that I like writing about myself. Which is all fine and dandy but as a young college girl, some of my biggest learning experiences to date have been romantic relationships. Cliche and sad but also true. At the time, I was just coming out of a pretty bad break-up but writing an essay and sharing it with the class actually helped me work through it productively.

In Gateway, I did the same thing. This time, it was a current relationship that I was struggling to wrap my head around. I was in Love, but there were Problems. Gateway helped in a way. At least for the time being. But the cracks that were present before and after started to become more clear as I looked back at the project in the increasingly difficult times that followed in that relationship. Eventually it ended too. But it would serve as the catalyst for this capstone project. The central piece I wanted to write was about this relationship. And I thought like ENG 325 and Gateway it wouldn’t just be easy – it would help me contextualize and work through my own jumbled thoughts.

Clearly I was wrong.

I think I’ve put off finishing for so long because it hurts to write. It hurts me to think about it. I’m over it of course. I even am dating someone new. But maybe that’s why it hurts. There’s genuinely no animosity between me and this ex boy. I don’t want him to hurt by seeing this project somewhere, and I don’t want to hurt for writing. And I definitely don’t want new boy (sorry guys for any confusion I’m sure this is causing) to see this project and hurt too.

But that’s the cross I’ve come to bear as a personal narrative writer I guess. I have to be willing to write through the pain. To stop being so concerned about hurting people and especially about hurting myself. I’m certain that I’ll feel better at the end of this Capstone journey. The relief I felt at the end of ENG 325 and Gateway are proof of that possibility. But for the time being, I can’t stop tearing up every time I sit down to write. It’s making me even more tired than I am naturally.

I’m scared for any of you to read this. But I think by journaling about it, I may be able to finally push past this hurt. At least, I hope so.

Capstone Challenge Journal #2: I’m very tired

Woah the semester is almost over and here I am posting my second challenge journal. Wish I could say I am surprised at my delay but I have to be honest – I’m not. This semester has been…difficult. And as I’ve struggled with writer’s block and finishing all my other course work and trying to find a job (and trying to fit in time to be a person in between all of that) things have fallen to the wayside.

This is unfortunately one of them. My project is – well – it’s happening. More out of necessity and less out of actually agency or motivation. A battle of wills is happening as I sit down and clunk out paragraph after paragraph in between shots of espresso, tears, and breaks for other assignments. I can’t say that whatever it is I’m working on will look like what I imagined at the beginning of this semester but it will exist. Even if I have to stay up every night for the next week and a half to make sure I have something, anything, to present.

My topic of distance I think is what has contributed to the scattering of my thoughts and willpower. It is something I have thought about for years of my life. But that’s just it – writing about is somehow more difficult that ruminating quietly on it in the comfort of my bed as I listen to music and journal. There’s something painful about finishing these narrative pieces which are so close to be and yet somehow so far from my remembrance now. It hurts pulling open these old wounds, and I think that’s why I’ve struggled.

As a sad result of this, even my research has become tainted. I have not completed as much as I wanted to and at this point, I might just have to lean into the narrative aspects of my work and throw some of the research ideas to the wayside. I still have at least 10 pages to write and a website to finish constructing. I’m very tired, you guys. But I’ll finish even if it kills me.

Capstone Challenge 1: I’m a Little Bit Scared, Guys

Since I finished the Minor in Writing Gateway, the prospect of the Capstone has been looming ominously over my head. I’m a big procrastinator and each time it has crept into my thoughts, I’ve nervously swatted it away, telling myself that I’ll have time later to devote to it. But now here we are, and I’m still swatting nervously.

Why am I so scared? I mean, I shouldn’t be right? I’m a 5th year senior who enjoys writing – it’s a chore to me the same way running is: at first I hate it but once I get on a roll, I can go for miles and miles with no break. But there’s a disappointment I have from my Gateway that lingers and makes me scared about this Capstone. I really don’t want to screw it up. I want to be proud of what I make and willingly showcase it to the people around me.

As of now, the crushing ambiguity and unknowns of my Capstone also seem to be raising my blood pressure. I’m writing about the concept of “Distance.” Don’t worry, even I’m a little unsure of what that really means.

As of now, I have a few main questions my thoughts have been centering around.

  1. What is distance?
  2. Why do we feel distance?
  3. How do we feel distance?
  4. How are distance and feeling alone linked?
  5. How do people manage distance?
  6. And, why do I feel so alone all the time?

I’m looking to loop in both personal narrative pieces and research pieces centered around a few main topics (family, friends, dating, college, adulting, mental health, etc.). I’m not really sure how the two types of writing will be combined though. Part of me wants to write narrative and research separately, however I think it might also be interesting to play with distance by writing the things I perceive as closest to myself purely narratively. Then I’ll work my way out to purely research-driven work surrounding the topics I feel to be the most physically and emotionally distant from myself.

Along with that idea, I’m really struggling to conceptualize a form that makes sense for this type of content. I want to (somehow) play with the idea of distance in the physical construction of my Capstone, but I don’t know how to do that really. Right now, I am planning on writing essays as the main medium for my project, but if podcasting, photography, or even mixed media makes more sense, I’m extremely willing to try it out.

Ultimately, I’m really scared about this Capstone project, but I don’t really have time to put it off anymore. Hopefully I make something I love and am proud of. Wish me luck!

Am I Me?

We were asked to address whether or not our first take on the “Why I Write” draft was true to our perception of what our voice is.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Idk–maybe, dude?

I always feel a little bit like that fish in the asthma commercials that were popular in like 2009 when asked to stake a claim regarding my voice. Flipping and flopping around, in obvious discomfort, but safely returned to the bowl because PETA would have a field day otherwise. I’m obviously in discomfort but ultimately I know that the harm that will befall me when I fail to answer is only superficial.

I’d like to say this initial gut description of what compels me to write is fitting with the “witty” voice I’ve built over a lifetime of pen stroke chatter. I try to say that about everything I do though, even the really boring business reports I have to write that are way too long and way to devoid of mistake, humor, personality and warmth in general. Ya know, business-y stuff. But even with that, I try to bring in me in the ways I structure sentences and phrase things. My formatting and structure also help me build a cohesive professional paper me. It’s the equivalent of wearing a blazer. Underneath is still the girl that probably forgot to put on deodorant and is trying to cover up her doughy palms. Me just dressed up.

That’s how I feel about my writing voice for the most part. That no matter what I do, someone will inevitably be able to tell it was me who wrote it–assuming that they’ve read my work before that is. Because what I’ve found is that my writing voice, though relatively constant, is unrecognizable unless it’s been read by someone before. People are shocked it’s mine. Not sure what that says about me as a in-real-life person (actually I do and it’s that I’m boring), but if it means that I put on a voice, then that’s something I’ve come to terms with.

I guess the real question though, and one I’ve never been able to answer truthfully, is which one is it? Which one do I put on? The one I write with or the one I talk with everyday?

Going No Where Fast: Zeno and His Pair ‘o docks

I wouldn’t be lying to you when I said I’ve been thinking about Zeno’s Paradox all weekend. To be fair, I don’t know what that say about my personal/social life as a college junior, but I can say that it has gleaned me more questions than answers. During the U-M/Illinois football game, I found my mind wandering to the odd concept we had discussed in class on a touchdown drive. Specifically when our 3rd in goal on the 1 yard line was “halved” due to a Illinois foul. We had then, technically increased our distance to the goal line. But if we only kept moving half the distance to the goal line, the game would be the longest in history.

With a mind reeling from the enormity of infinity (and probably a little from the hard spiced cider I had had before the game), I realized that when you’re playing the game, you don’t think about that. You don’t think about how far away the goal line is. You just move.

So I guess that’s where I’ve ended up. It’s easy to sit back and think about how the journey anywhere could be impossibly long. Infinitely long even. But we aren’t thinking about that. We are thinking about where we are now, how we need to get there, and ultimately, the end point. We just move through all those halves until we reach the whole of our destination.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ended up somewhere at all. But, I’m at the end point, so I’m going to stop thinking about it now before my brain explodes.

Him & Her (& Me): 10 Questions for Repurposing

For the entirety of this semester, I will be working on a piece that (as it currently stands) is a half-completed account of my experience going to a music festival with my boyfriend and his ex. Riveting. Fun. Good times shall be had. Here are the top 10 questions people tend to ask me on the street when I mention my situation (so I’m assuming, they will be the top 10 question my readers might want to know):

  1. Why are they still friends?
  2. What is it like to hang out with them?
  3. Are you sure you aren’t just a rebound?
  4. How do you feel about their relationship (then & now)?
  5. What do you friends & family think about the whole thing?
  6. Do you ever think that they will get back together/he will cheat on you with her?
  7. Why did they break up in the first place (and how did you get together as a result)?
  8. Does he know how you feel about everything?
  9. Do you like her as a person/are you two kind of friends?
  10. Is it a stressful enough situation that you want to leave sometimes?

In order to successfully “engage” the reader, I think the most important thing will be to provide background information and context so that the dynamics of the relationships at play can be more easily understood by outsiders. I also want to come at from an unbiased (or as unbiased as I can be) standpoint. I don’t want the point of this to be bashing another person (or persons). So I think coming at it from a relatively removed standpoint might also help the readers, so they don’t feel lead to certain conclusions.

However, I think my major strength and some of the things I won’t have to clarify for my readers are the emotions and experiences. A lot of people have an ex. Or are an ex. Or are with someone who has an ex. And I think a lot of us have dealt with weird scenarios with our significant others and been insecure in our relationships–whatever the reason may be. That’s a basic human feeling that I think is really difficult to explain, but something most of us have felt. So while context will be key to provide some answers, the feelings–and sometimes even the motivation–behind those conclusions won’t necessarily have to be spelled out.


Goldilocks & The Three News Sources

Though I pride myself on being informed, I find that as soon as school starts up again I retreat back under the rock that is stress and fleeting time. The amount of news I actually consume is laughably small, and I’m actually embarrassed to say how little I actually pay attention to current events while I run from class to group meeting to bar.

However, there are a few sources that I tend to gravitate toward. And a few that I tend to spurn. In terms of sources I find below me, I think Huffington Post is right down there at the bottom. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing the same inane and poorly written post cropping up all over my page. And though I don’t think that it necessarily “bad” writing, I do think it lacks a certain level of integrity. Started as a blog, the roots of the source as still prevalent as a slew of who’s-not is allowed to publish repetitive and onenote liberal arguments. When I scroll the pages of the site, I recognize that their purpose of providing a low-impact and and low-quality news source is important. However I find it’s lack of complexity to be disappointing to say the least–especially as they grapple with issues that have so much meat.

On the opposite end of spectrum, I find a majority of my peers reading the Wall Street Journal. Because I am in the business school, it’s pretty much a constant staple. Instead of scrolling Twitter feeds in class, students will lazily scroll the online Business sections. But the WSJ has always been a hard beast for me to tackle personally. While I don’t believe it’s actually written at a level that renders me incapable of comprehension it, I do think it subscribes to a style that is personally taxing for me to read. The WSJ frequently utilizes abbreviations and employs discussions that can only be understood easily by industry insiders. This doesn’t mean you have to be an industry insider to enjoy its prose–it just helps. For this reason, I would rather not struggle to understand what I don’t already and instead opt to pay attention in class so that one day I too can leisurely skim the pages of the Wall Street Journal and not feel like I’m completing some oddly worded puzzle.

So on two opposite spectrums for me reside the HuffPo and the WSJ. So what is it that tantalizes me to read more? What is my Goldilocks “just right” news moment? Recently, it’s been Der Spiegel, the German news magazine. I consume it through it’s online website, purusing whenever I find a break from my constant quest to do more. I like it because it challenges me without pushing me to boredom, and it covers a variety of topics. I thoroughly enjoy the International section, and love to read it in comparison with American news outlets to see where the national origins of news cause differences. It’s written in a simple yet elegant style. That’s what has drawn me to the publication in the past year and why I continue to go back.

But just because one is too “soft” and one is too “hard” doesn’t mean I only stick to the news source that is “just right.” I like to challenge myself, and I like to see what other people are consuming for news. There isn’t just one perfect news source. There’s just learning what way to consume the news (and what style news you gravitate toward) is right for you.

Noice Voice

Not unlike my sense of style, my sense of voice has remained relatively stagnant since 10th grade. Unlike my taste in hand-me-down clothes from my older brother and father, this consistency hasn’t really posed any problem for me–at least academically. I was always “Abby the writer” or more accurately “Abby the reader who really likes to write a lot.” My voice became a combination of everything I was too shy to say, everything I was unaware I even wanted to say, and everything my parents wouldn’t want me to say. And with that, a distinctive–though I would argue relatively unoriginal–voice was born.

If you haven’t already noticed, I love to interject. Dashes, commas, and a good ole fashioned parenthetical pause are more prevalent in my writing than butter in Paula Deen’s recipes. I find it mimics more succinctly my internal monologue of my writing. The way I tend to chatter on incessantly to the closest people to me is best captured by these formal markers. There’s also a tendency toward simple language. I never want to write anything, even academically driven research papers, without being able to feel comfortable reading them aloud. Probably because up until about the age of 8, I only could read aloud. This accustomed me to a certain hurried, whispered rhythm that tends to clutter the my writings.

I would say that this meant-to-be read-aloud-by-the-light-of-my-computer-screen style is also a large indication into the personality of my writing. I like being sarcastic and cynical. I like that in my writing, I don’t have to worry about people telling me to lighten up. I like that I get to be a little bit darker. It’s kind of my schtick. Not saying I’m a Poe or anything–or even that I can’t do the lighter personality thing when I feel like it. But if writing is a thing that’s done under cover of darkness (and generally put off until the last possible second) then most of the time, I don’t mind if that’s the way it comes across. ‘Cuz at least then it’s real.

Similarly, I am drawn to what’s “real.” I like to write about myself. Telling stories is a major part of my family life. After the second time my boyfriend met my family, I asked him why he was always so quiet around us. His answer? “It’s kind of hard to interject when all you guys do is tell stories about things that I wasn’t at.”

And he’s right. I inherited my family’s self-centered desire to entertain lazily with stories of the past. But I also love to write about those stories (or personal narratives) in ways that allow me to revisit and reevaluate. Looking through a lens and asking myself questions about why I reacted that way–or didn’t react at all–is why I keep writing. And so that’s what I tend to center around. I know that it can’t all be about me, but if given the choice of getting all A’s for the rest of my college career in exchange for never being able to write a single word again about the time I broke a lamp because my brother said Anne Hathaway was a bad actress, I’d take the B+ grade point average that I rightly deserve.

In terms of formal markers of my voice, I guess it’s not difficult to see. Interjections are what I live for. Whether that be in writing or at the dinner table. I also tend to use fragmented sentences to reinforce ideas. Long sentences and exposition are where I make my bread and butter. But when I do try my hand at scenic writing, my imagery tends to be odd turns on cliches and stereotypes. All things I’m sure I could work on varying, but know I will always fall back on stylistically as I build my stories.

And where did it come from? This 10th grade voice that I still use as a 20 year old at one of the best universities in the world? My mom thinks from this weird advanced English class she forced me to take in 8th and 9th grade because I kept disrupting the classes at my middle school by reading things not on the curriculum. My dad thinks its from my “ladylike” sense of humor. My brother, I’m sure, thinks absolutely nothing about it at all. And me? Hell if I know. All I know is that no matter how hard I try and how much I’m sure it annoys those forced to read it (here’s looking at you Ray and classmates), I can’t seem to shake it.