You all rock

I tend to never get close to people in my classes. I remember during one class discussion, I brought up this point; it seems like no one in my classes want to talk to each other or work together. We’d rather just stew in silence.

For some classes, I guess that’s fine. I’ve done extremely well in many classes without learning a single person’s name or having a conversation of any depth with the person sitting next to me. It works, but what does it do in the long run?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t grow as a person, and I certainly don’t have feelings of attachment to those classes or those people.

Writing 220 has been different because even though I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room of such academically and personally diverse people, we all came together and became a team when it came to our projects and our writing. I felt a sense of comfort going to North Quad every Monday and Wednesday morning, because I knew I would be greeted with a smile from the people in the room. It was definitely a nice change from the monotony of my other classes, and something that I’ll definitely miss.

Learning about people’s projects and the process of completing them, especially considering the diverse array of topics, really emphasized the fact that everyone has a unique perspective and passion to offer the world. And learning about these special passions makes one more proud and aware of their own unique traits and skills, even things that we didn’t even know made us stand out.

Therefore, I hope each and every one of us takes this class as an initiative to step forward in the future and get to know the people around us, because endless good things can come about if we do that.

The worst thing that happens is they don’t respond, and we just move on to the next one.

Finally Done! (or am I?)

After much procrastination, random bursts of productivity, and lots of time wondering whether I’m even doing things right, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on my final project (at least, I think I have. Either way, it’s too late to go back now).

I just wanted to throw my link in here in case anyone needs something to do and wants to look through my website:

It was so nice being able to share my thoughts on two things I’m the most passionate about, public health and the arts. The workshop/teaching format of the website gave me full reign on how to present my favorite parts of combining these two topics into one. I got to really reflect on the way I tell stories through dance and hopefully inspire others to do the same through their own mediums!

What a time to be alive(?)

Many of our class sessions started off with brief comments on the impeachment proceedings going on in DC. Today, everything seems to be culminating into a final showdown-type fiasco. Throughout the semester, I’ve found myself reminiscing back to my junior year of high school when I would avidly sit in front of the TV every night watching the updates on the 2016 election; I was so in tune with everything that was happening and how things were transpiring. I knew my shit.

Although I’ve still been keeping up with the news and striving to learn about major events that are happening, I can’t help but feel a sense of disconnect from everything. These impeachment proceedings are so integral to how our democracy has functioned and will function moving forward, and 16-year-old me would have gotten so into it and learned every single nuance to the event. I’ve been keeping up with the events, but everything seems so distant that I feel like I can’t even comment on it when the issue comes up. It’s not that I don’t care; I think I have come to the point where I am stuck in my head with everything going on in my little world that everything beyond seems so far. Moving forward, I’m going to have to work on seeing things in the context of the entire world, because this will not only prepare me as I enter the “real world” but it will also help boost my creativity that I feel like has been running dry lately.

Writing 220 and Everything Beyond

One of the reasons I’ve always loved my writing classes, both in college and in high school, is that learning happens and I’m never consciously aware of it. It’s so easy to say that English classes don’t teach you anything besides how to write an essay the night before it’s due, but even if you take that approach, I firmly believe that there is some inherent learning in that. The best learning is done through practice, and that is exactly what writing classes are made of.

For example, in my AP English Language and Composition class in high school, every week consisted of practice essays for the three forms we would be tested on in April. Even though it felt grueling and repetitive, the skills I internalized that year stayed with me and allows me to put forth quality writing without thinking too much into the details and nuances as I used to.

This class has been different in that there wasn’t a set list of skills we were expected to master by the end of the semester. Starting off, I was worried that without this specificity, I would slack off (I guess in a way I did with these blog posts). But I found myself getting so excited for my project and creating something that is entirely my own. The flexibility and freedom given to us this semester relieved a sense of stress that I usually feel in my classes, of having to fit into a box of standards that aren’t built for everyone in the first place. I know that this same freedom will not come in my other classes, but I hope I can still translate the passion and drive of this class to create something special into my other classes by, while still sticking to their standards and rubrics, stretching them as far as I can with how I want to do things.

What pushes me?

The other day in class, we were asked what motivates us to be the most efficient writers we can be. At first, my mind went completely blank because I honestly don’t know. My productive bouts of writing seem so sporadic, with no effort on my part. It seems like my mind chooses when it wants to focus and when it doesn’t, without taking into account my schedule or what I need to accomplish. However, maybe there is an unconscious trigger that leads me to be the most productive.

Even while writing this blog post, I can feel my efficiency blinking in and out. This next sentence is being written 24 hours after the previous one. I’ve realized that when I am in anticipation of something, such as when I sit down to get some work done before another class or a student org event, I simply cannot dedicate enough attention to the task at hand. I’m the most productive when this is my biggest priority. I don’t like to put something out without doing it complete justice, and I can’t do that unless I give it my undivided attention. Therefore, it has been very difficult this semester to put forth work that I am truly proud of because I feel my mind racing all the time and thinking about different things that are happening in terms of classes and extracurriculars. One way to solve this issue next semester is to teach myself to focus only on the task at hand and worry about other things later, which can help me give my 100% to everything I am doing, especially my writing.

Am I allowed to relate?

One of the biggest struggles I have had recently surrounding the concept of relatedness is whether I even have the right to relate to something. Is this meant for me? Am I invading a space that was meant for someone other than me?

I feel this way a lot when listening to people’s stories of struggle, especially as pertaining to their immigrant families. As the children of South Asian immigrants, we all come from stories of hardship, feelings of failure, and hopefully eventual success. However, when I think about my family’s transition from India and Bangladesh to a welcoming, quiet community in Canada, I realize that we had so much privilege compared to others. My family did not go through severe mental trauma during the immigration process, even though I know that it was not easy for them. They certainly did not go through physical abuse, and left their homelands because of career prospects rather than being forced to by the government or some other entity.

Therefore, while I feel myself nodding along to the stories of victims of intense immigration trauma, especially those coming from South Asian countries like myself, I can’t help but stop and wonder why I can understand. I didn’t have those experiences and neither did the rest of my family, so are we even allowed to relate? Does our sense of relatedness diminish the trauma experienced by others? Is it a sign of disrespect?

I grapple with this concern by analyzing the feelings rather than the events itself. No matter the situation that led a family to immigrate to America, the same feelings of leaving your familiar land for a foreign on and the tension at raising children in this new land are constant across most immigrant families. In this way, although we cannot relate by events, we are able to relate in the intangible feelings that come with being first generation Americans. Relatability comes from more than just shared experiences; different experiences can yield similar sentiments. In this way, we are able to relate to people who may have led completely different lives, and we are not trampling upon territory that is not ours unless we are pointedly diminishing their own experiences or inserting ourselves into their experience without allowing them to share their own story in the first place.

Does this even count?

One of the main questions I’ve struggled with is setting a clear boundary for the artwork I include in my experiments. I’ve realized that many pieces of art make, at first glance, appear to reflect topics purely about social justice rather than public health specifically. For example, does a painting signifying the emotional pain of sexual assault count as public health? What about a streetside mural depicting the harm of climate change?

In an era where social causes have erupted throughout the world, gaining traction both online and in person, we seem to be reminded of these issues no matter where we look on social media; this brings up the concept of “trendy social media”, where we often repost something or comment on an event without truly knowing the implications or roots of the issue. Therefore, we may not realize that an issue that has gained traction recently has actually been worked on by health department specialists for decades.

In this case, it appears that I can argue that any piece of art with a social justice message is also reflecting a public health issue. The values of public health align with ideas of community empowerment and improvement which, at the end of the day, is what social justice advocates are fighting for as well. This opens up a new avenue for my project where I may possibly look at social justice art and describe the public health roots behind the issue, and how it has gained so much traction in social media today.

Is broadness necessarily a bad thing?

I think the biggest mistake I made when deciding a topic was not understanding the depth we had to take for our research, and I ended up picking something much too broad for the scope of research expected of us. This isn’t to say I regret choosing my topic at all; getting the chance to explore the world of public health through an artistic lens allows me to learn about a different side of the field I hope to be in in the future. However, this choice was overambitious in the sense that I did not account for how broad the term “public health” is; it can be argued that everything is a public health issue, so where do I draw the line for the type of art I include in my experiments?

Upon starting the research for my first experiment, I realized that my topic didn’t really have a clear aim; which field or issue did I want to focus on the most? In a sense, this first experiment still allowed me to be broad, so I organized it in a way that included a brief rundown of various pertinent issues. I was able to get away with it this time, but I know that I will need to dig deeper for each new experiment, so I will have to make up my mind about a specific sect within public health to focus on. In this way, I remain optimistic and believe that this goal is attainable, because even if my final project focuses on, say, how the public is informed about vaccinations through artwork, this same template can be used for every single division of public health. If I really worked hard enough, I can create a comprehensive portfolio analyzing artwork in every area.

Why did I do this

Three things I despise the most are economic jargon, people telling me what to think, and men who talk too much. I pride myself in knowing what I know about what I want to know, and frankly, I’ve been okay with not knowing what I don’t know. I never feel the need or intense desire to learn about outdated economic ideals or what some old white dude has to say about his shiny new ideology. It has nothing to do with me, and maybe I’m better off not knowing.

So, of course, The Communist Manifesto (or at least the preamble) was the perfect choice for this assignment.

I went in with a thin veil of disgust as, having read excerpts for history classes in the past, I knew that this would be an experience full of confusion, backtracking, and pronouncing “bourgeoisie” at least five different ways in my head. I couldn’t stand the high-and-mighty voice of Karl Marx or the winding, twisting way he crafted his sentences to get one single point across. But most importantly, I couldn’t stand his definite belief that he was right.

Why did I feel this way? I normally value a strong, able writer. I respect their assertive nature and their confidence. But this time, I was nothing but irked. I think it’s because I’ve been conditioned to view this piece of writing with fear, with the common belief that any high school or college student who tries to read it won’t understand a word. Maybe I was mad at Karl Marx for allowing teachers and students to immediately write themselves off as incompetent or lacking in some way.

Of course, this belief isn’t without reason. At the end of the day, The Communist Manifesto was not written for me, my peers, or my teachers. It was not written for anyone in this time. It was written as a plea for the world to accept a new ideology, one which we now look down upon. So of course I have zero feelings of trust and security when thinking about this piece.

However, eventually the exact things that annoyed me, particularly the writer’s assertiveness and demanding tone, drew me in. This was probably his intention; to brainwash the reader into trusting his every word and bringing them over to his side. Although I understood little of the economic talk, the discussions of society and America were intriguing under this new perspective. This just made me even angrier. Why? Because I have no patience for men who talk too much, especially when it’s about the economy.