The End?

When does something finish?

When you feel accomplished? When you’ve made your point? When you’ve said what you wanted to say?

When you’ve pressed “submit”? When you’ve hit the deadline? When the clock runs out?

The end of all things has made me especially nostalgic and contemplative, these days. I just finished the last competitive softball games of my life. I just finished the last assignment of my undergraduate career (sort of). Soon, I’ll pack up and move out of hopefully the last house of 8 girls I will ever live in. But will I continue to be competitive and play catch? Yes. Will I continue to write and even edit this project? Yes. Will I continue to maintain the relationships I’ve made with my roommates and friends from college? Yes.

So, when is something over? I consider this frequently, as events are marking the end and the beginning. In August, I will move to Tanzania for a year. I’m engaging in another contract with Father Time. He was there when I moved from each block of my education, and he is back again giving me a time frame to start and finish. I’m wondering if he ever goes away. Maybe after you get a job or get married, does he let you live on your own like a good parent weaning their child? Does he think we get to make our own decisions about beginnings and endings?

This is a borderline-existential extension of my project claiming that we do not get distinct starting and end-points in our lives. We do not have separate occasions of ascent, peak, descent. And we don’t know how we will feel during each one.

As we all move onto another stage, no matter how ambiguous or planned yours may be, I remember this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that reminds us to continue adjusting and changing, because we are always learning: “You make some big grandiose decision about what you need to do, or who you need to be, and then circumstances arise that immediately reveal to you how little you understood about yourself.”

When I started college, I never thought I would be complementing my degree with Writing or Swahili, but here I am, with the two notched on my resume as cornerstones of my college career. Be prepared to start anything, and have the courage to finish them.

Conquest.

That is, in some ways, the title and the point of my project. It is called, Umeshindajewhich translates to “How are you conquering?” in Swahili. The phrase is used colloquially as “How are you?” but I find it ironic and meaningful that its literal translation is something much more drastic than the average greeting. And don’t we conquer something everyday?

So, I used this phrase as inspiration and the backdrop of my project: when I conquered a mountain and my first intercultural experience. The piece juxtaposes my time in Tanzania against my time climbing Kilimanjaro—mimicking my arrival at different mental (and physical) checkpoints throughout my journey. If I had more bandwith, I would have upheld the same style for my journey after returning from Tanzania: because that is when I came down the mountain, metaphysically. 

This is something I have wanted to write about for a long time, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to tackle this obstacle. And it doesn’t have to stop here. I hope with my project, I can inspire people to conquer the barrier between our culture and African cultures: even if it is just a small foothill one day to the next.

Thanks for a great semester!

https://meaganmalm.weebly.com/

Q&A

As part of my researching process, I read the book Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature. A mentor of mine thought it would provide valuable insights about audience, as I struggled with choosing who I want to write to and what I want to tell them. There were a few excerpts and pieces of advice that stood out to me.

“The most powerful strand in memoir is not expressing your originality. It’s tapping into your universality. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be original in your writingyou are the only one who can write that universal experience in just that way. Trust that.” — Cheryl Strayed

Universal originality. This oxymoron actually made me feel wildly more confident that my piece could be impactful. I was concerned that documenting such a unique experience and focusing mainly on my own reflections could make my project inaccessible to a large audience. However, my project also emphasizes restrospection, intellectual curiosity, self-discovery, hubris, adventure, travel, romance, etc. In many ways, it is about a college kid learning new concepts and experiencing new things that challenge her beliefs. That is something most of us experience regularly at this stage in our lives.

“As a young teenager I looked desperately for things to read that might excite me or assure me I wasn’t the only one, that might confirm an identity I was unhappily piecing together.” — Edmund White

Edmund White’s recount inspired me to continue in the direction I was heading, as well. At first, I was nervous about writing something I couldn’t find models for. But isn’t that how we normally write? To create something new and unseen? Edmund emphasized the ease of venturing into a new terrain and creating a new space. This advice juxtaposed with Cheryl’s reminded me that it is okay to write something about myself, and then trust that others will relate to it.

“I thought that if I had a book like that, it wouldn’t have made the pain bearable, but it might have made it so that I was able to continue. Holding the realization of what this story could do for a kid like me who’s young now, and lives in the rural South, and might be losing peopleholding that close to me when I felt like I was breaking every dayreaffirmed the importance of doing it.”  Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn’s advice was most impactful on me. Although her experience was much more dramatic (the death of her brother) the idea that the book could help someone else seemed so generous. Thinking, “Would a book like this have helped me?” My answer would be yes, as well. Just maybe if I had read something about culture shock and a journey from judgement to empathy, I wouldn’t have have been so bitter. Maybe I could have just felt less alone. As with Jesmyn, it was a story people needed to read.

 

In the end, this book made me reconsider why I was writing, which led me back to my essay from Gateway, “Why I Write.” Despite resurfacing some of the cringeworthy content my 19-year-old self created, I found it fruitful to revisit Point A in my writing journey.

“I write to answer questions.”

I welcome growth and change and evolution of thought, but I’m content to have remained faithful to at least one proclamation of my younger self.

TTP (trust the process)

You get to a point where everyone is running around yelling the house is on fire, but nobody has got a bucket of water.

A professor of mine shared this with our class last semester, after we spent another session beating articles to death with incessant blows of pro’s and con’s. His point: as humans, we critique and improve and critique and improve and critique and improve trying to achieve an unreachable form of perfection. And more often than not, we only stop and say, “Ah, it is enough!” when the moment has passed.

I thought about this moment earlier this week when I presented my project plan for feedback with all its marvelous deadlines, none of which within the first month included a deliverable of actual writing. There was reading and research and modeling and meetings, but no creation. The advice I received: just start writing now.

I was (slightly still am) obsessed with having copious amounts of knowledge about my setting, memoir models, prose styles, history, and theories to complement my experience. But wait… complement. My experience is my project, and the knowledge is meant to make it stronger, relevant, informative, and more relatable to my audience.

I found Caroline and Jon’s posts reassuring and effectively pushy. Why am I taking so long to grab that bucket of water? Because I’ve got it. When does planning turn to doing?

Seems awfully present-tense to DO. Tharp would be disappointed in my ability to be present. In truth, I always feel most present at the end of things: a hike, an essay, a book. Those moments when you take a deep breath and bask in your experience. But even a tough hike, a winning essay, and a great book began at point A. There are no dice to roll and tell you “Pass Go.” (How I wish there was a magical dye to tell me to collect $200.) What inspires you to start?

I feel like I’m at that point in my preparation where I am holding the bucket full of god damn water, just trying to convince myself to throw. That my bucket will somehow make a difference to this vicious flame. What if I toss it and the fire licks it away with a laugh? What if it makes no difference, at all? What if I get burned in the process?

To let go of the fear of the unknown (Thanks, Caroline) and trust your preparation (Thanks, Jon) is to begin.

On Being A Ritual Slut

Considering Tharp’s words and looking back on my writing experience, I discovered that I’ve had a floozy relationship with rituals. My count continues to increase, but I can’t seem to stay married to just one.

After class discussion, I think the art of rituals depends on the environment you create and the mindset that affects.

Environment isn’t necessarily “created” but something you insert yourself into: a location that is conducive to constructing creative content. My first time with the college writing experience, I gave myself to Espresso Royale. A coffee shop offers the picture-perfect scene, but is logistically a nightmare: machines making noises, people making noises, and where the hell are the outlets? I moved on. Next, I made an attempt with the League. The more ignored version of the Union seemed to be love at first write with its old architecture and infrequent foot traffic. However, that flame was soon squashed by the intense effort it required to walk across campus. After several more flings, I notice I was trying to combine the environment and mindset factors as one; however, I needed a strikingly practical environment in order to achieve the creative mindset I was looking for. Thus, nowadays I prefer to study at Aikens Commons. Conveniently placed across the street from my house, plenty of outlets, and a “white noise” environment where everybody else is working. Once I got past all the distractions, I could work on the creation.

Although I found love with a certain environment, I still struggle to devote myself to a ritual that inspires me to be creative. I’ve thought a lot about what Thorpe mentioned about the taxi cab before the gym. As I mentioned, minor distractions are the bane of my creative experience. Cue my newfound fleeting relationship with rituals. I tried not looking at my phone for the first two hours of the morning. I attempted to stay away from social media. I flirted with reading the news with every cup of coffee. I made a pass at playing a game of sudoku when I woke up. I pursued several different avenues of inspiring introspection, critical thinking, and cosmic thinking, but have not found the one. I always end them.

 

I think rituals need to become a habit. Which just makes me consider, why is it I can stay committed to something as unproductive and annoying as biting my nails, but I frolic between activities that would actually make me a better person?

I spend the same amount of time trying to think of titles for my blog posts as coming up with captions for my instagram pictures… too much.

After exploring the definition of boilerplate in class, I noticed that they’re everywhere. I started seeing phrases and just pondering “What does that even mean?”. So, thanks to our discussion I now suffer from constant skepticism about the validity of everything I read, and everything I say– comforting.

Anyhow, my favorite discovery was on the Ross School of Business’s homepage: “Real projects with real people to solve real-world challenges”. Retrieved from http://michiganross.umich.edu

What in the hell does that even mean? Does it mean other colleges and career paths do not offer palpable projects? Is Ross the only school where real people are involved? “Apply today!” And what is this definition of “real-world” challenges? That adjective gives the impression that challenges addressed at other schools are simply fake and nonfactual, as if they don’t matter.

I’m still upset about this phrase.

 

As for cliche… I decided to search Her Campus and Buzzfeed. After thorough (and painful) investigation, I discovered an interesting trend that has also surfaced in my social life. The term “best friend” when a girl is referring to a boy is, in my opinion, a grade-A example of cliche. Personally, I do think it is possible for a girl and a guy to be best friends, but the context in which I observed it online and in real life did not give that impression. More often than not, I perceive the reference to a boy as a girl’s “best friend” as a cop-out. In reality, the boy is simply a decent kid who is hopelessly pining after a girl who does not like him, but likes the attention he gives her. I think this cliche seems apparent to me just because I am a girl with a couple guy best friends, and the relationships I have with them do not at all replicate the “6 Things Every Girl Experiences When They Have a Guy Best Friend” as so helpfully described on Her Campus.

“A use in measured language lies,”

Fine (adverb): in an excellent manner; very well: He did fine on the exams.

In my experience, “fine” is most often to describe how we are feeling, and in those instances I am positive it does not mean very well. I think the common use of this word is a combination of an occasion where people are not aware the true meaning and one where it is actually being used to disguise what they’re truly experiencing.

“How are you?” “I’m fine, and you?”

“How was the test?” “It was fine.”

“How did the funeral go?” “It went fine.”

There are two explanations to these common responses:

A) You’re misusing the word by meaning everything is “eh”. Your experience has not been exceptional, the test was nothing easy but nothing too difficult, and the funeral went as swimmingly as possible without too much of an emotional toll. Everything is OK.

B) You’re using it to conceal the real emotions you would rather not reveal to the person asking the question. You’re not doing well, but you don’t necessarily want to feel obligated to explain what is actually awful about your experience. The test was crappy, but to avoid any accusations of stupidity you dismiss it as “fine”. Lastly, the funeral was probably a mess: uncomfortable, sad, a causation of existential crisis– the exact way funerals are.

 

Our discussion on Tuesday immediately reminded me of a line from Tennyson, “For words, like nature, half reveal/ And half conceal the soul within”, which I think explains this situation well. Words are meant to tell us something, but the context of how those words are presented are very important. The author’s tone and audience will determine what a word is trying to say, and what it is not. If the audience picks up on the deeper definition of a word, then they will gain a deeper understanding; however, I don’t think that the audience interpreting a word strictly at face-value worsens their experience, I think it simply gives them the information they were looking for and nothing more.

Why do we write?

Why I write? A question I would have no issue answering. Why anyone would want to read that? A question I would respond with the godforsaken, Millennial “I dunno.”

So in my best attempt to answer that inquiry, I plan to take a very Orwell/Didion approach in the sense that I will dance around the question and produce a satisfying– yet, not completely clear– response.

First of all, not everything I write is for somebody else’s eyes. For example, I should adopt Daniel’s approach and simply burn the pages from 13-year-old me’s diary. The title, “Why I Write” is not necessarily a completely private piece of narrative, but I think that is how it is written. Orwell and Didion both exemplify that there are different styles or types of writing, authors, and audiences. Their narratives, however, seem to be this unique kind of material, in some sort of limbo-genre. I think that is because they are written as if no one else could have read it, and they would have been perfectly satisfied with their piece. This is the factor that stood out to me the most, in both pieces. The ambiguity of genre, that resembled something as innocent as a journal entry, gave me the impression of complete authenticity. And the fact that the words I was reading resonated with me, made the experience feel like a genuine connection between me and the writer. It inspired me to explore why I write.

So, the prompt was posed in various ways:

  1. The reason I think people might want to read my essay
  2. What I think is potentially interesting about my own writing
  3. What I think I have to offer in answering the question “Why I Write”

My answer is opportunity. The process of me answering that question will reward me with self-realization, new ideas, understanding, etc.; but, the process of someone reading that answer will hopefully reward them with the opportunity to reflect on themselves, the opportunity to connect with another person, and the opportunity to think more broadly about why we all write.

Three possible, impossibly difficult remediations

Currently, my repurposing assignment is an infantile attempt at a satirical news article. As this continues to grow, it will develop into a–hopefully– successful representation of a satirical news article. The piece itself is in regards to the controversial comedy, The Interview, and I am criticizing the reactions surrounding the movie. Anyways, I have two vivid, fitting ideas for remediation, and one less-impressive, hail-mary-ish thought.

First, I picture a Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update skit. Unfortunately, I have a far too idealistic image and unrealistic expectations considering my abilities; however, I picture myself devising the script and doing my best attempt at a Tina Fey impression. Secondly, I imagine a skit on The Colbert Report, which seems to be more of a challenge. I think it would be a similar process to the SNL rendition, in the sense that I would author a script/teleprompter and try conducting the video representation to my best ability. These two ideas are strikingly similar, and I think the choice will depend on the finalized tone of my current piece: sarcasm versus satire. Lastly, my final idea is wildly different and much more desperate: a documentary article about the truth of North Korea. I feel like this would counter my repurposing project in an interesting way, because it reminds my readers that while I’m joking about a global situation with North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s radicalness is very real. Although, I am afraid this qualifies as more of a repurposing than an actual remediation of my previously repurposed assignment.

Overall, these are just inklings, but I am very excited for the upcoming assignments (I don’t find myself saying that in many classes).

Old habits die hard

Some recent developments in regards to my own technical devices have influenced by normal internet habits. First of all, my computer charger broke and I can’t afford to buy a new one, so I’ve been snagging my roommate’s whenever I get the chance– my computer is dead a majority of the time. Secondly, my phone’s data capacity is nearly saturated. So, these two implications inhibit me from spending time browsing the internet; however, I’m using that kind of as an excuse for my uninteresting internet history.

I found that the overwhelming majority of sites I visit are through google. Google search, translate, docs, drive, and most obviously my email. And the sad part is even most of the links I visit are sent to me through email, like Canvas and Ctools. Luckily (unfortunately) I had two papers to write last week, which entailed mounds of research so that significantly spiced up my feed and gave me the opportunity to read some interesting articles. Although besides that, the most interesting site I visited was ,embarrassingly, lizardpoint.com to take a bunch of geography quizzes. Plus, the only reason I use the browser on my phone is for quick-fact searches to prove people wrong, “See, I told you Les Mis wasn’t about the French Revolution” *shoves phone is loser’s face*

I will not hesitate to admit that I am lazy and have little time to be searching the internet for new and exciting destinations: it is a strenuous activity (#firstworldproblems). I do not oppose a challenge, though, and plan to combat my monotonous habits by reading at least one article per day, always from a different source. I feel as though this will complement my consistent reading of my almanac every morning at breakfast. Old habits die hard, I guess.