Reflection on Final Project

When I compared the topics I chose with the ones my classmates chose, it occurred to me that it came down to one of the following two options for most of us: some of us chose topics that interest them but are not directly addressed in the rest of their schoolwork they had been pursuing in other majors and minors, and it looks like some of us chose to integrate academic ideas and delve into them further. My original plan was to go with the second option; since my majors are linguistics and international studies, I originally wanted this project to be an opportunity to tie all the stuff I learned into a single big discussion. But I ended up including much more that was personal and anecdotal than I had originally planned, which led me to focus less on the academic ideas underlying the topics than on direct accounts of experiences in the real lives around me. Because I was given a chance to write without constraints, I ended up discussing things that are more directly relevant in my daily life. Even so, the amount of time and energy required for the project made the experience a challenge, and it made me think once again about what it is that I really want to do for the rest of my life as a student. Do I want to spend even more time and energy writing dissertations that are far less personal and far more rigidly academic and theoretical? Maybe. I’m still thinking through it, but this project gave me such a perspective that I otherwise wouldn’t have developed at this point.

Is anyone else surprised we finished?

To be honest, I am shocked that this class has already come to an end. Maybe it was the lateness of the semester, the multiple snow days, or simply senioritis, but these past few months have felt like the longest of college, while also feeling like they flew by. After changing my topic late in the game, struggling to balance writing with my other credits, and feeling frustrated with my own inability to generate content, it really is a surprise to me that I was able to finish it.

In typical fashion, I finished very last minute, but I FINISHED. And to me, that is everything. I am proud of what I wrote and did, and while the process to get there was definitely messy, that journey is inherently mine and therefore, valid. Being able to write something vulnerable was really difficult for me, because vulnerability is arguably one of the scariest things on earth, but I did it, and I finally feel comfortable with letting it live and exist on it’s own.

Looking forward, I am thankful for everything I have learned and created in this class. While I will probably never be the type of person who gets things done ahead of schedule, I am confident once again in my ability to get them done, and to feel like a writer even in the face of adversity. In a way, this capstone brought me back to how I felt during gateway, and reflected a lot of the emotions I am feeling in my own life. But thankfully, I have an outlet, in that I can write about those feelings and start to find clarity. For that, I will always be grateful.

Reflecting on what my audience means

After sitting at the capstone showcase just a few days ago and seeing all the incredible work created by some of my gateway friends, I began to reflect back on where I wanted to post my own capstone. I know many others have posted them on facebook or sent them around, but I was nervous about who would read it if I did that. But then, right after the showcase, two of my closest friends (who are well represented in my work) asked to see it and be walked through the entire thing. They were kind and helpful, and actually enjoyed reading it, and we continued talking about it simply as a topic that evening. Not only did that affirm my own pride in my work, but made me realize that this is still a conversation worth having, and just because I finished my project doesn’t mean I will be done with this topic in general. It is a huge part of who I am as a person, and a passion I found grow immensely stronger over the past semester.

I may still be deciding what is the best avenue to share my work with the closest people in my life, but now at least I am reaffirmed in how important that sharing is. I am excited and optimistic about having these conversations with others, and to use my project as a foundation for them.

New trick I learned

Because the amount of writing I had to produce for this project was nothing like anything from before, I was compelled to organize a systematic writing process so I don’t get lost. In the end, I did discover an efficient and convenient trick that I will continue to apply when I write: First, I would have two Word documents open at once. I approached this project by opening two blank Word documents and accordingly dividing the kind of writing I put on. On the first one, I put down basically any idea of fragment that came to mind. It worked like an unorganized notes folder. The contents on this unorganized document weren’t in any particular order, because I didn’t know yet what order would make most sense. Some were barely bullet points and not even grammatical. They were mostly ‘mental cues’ that haven’t been formulated into actual sentences. But on the second document, I only put what I considered finished paragraphs. I assembled fragments from the first doc, and whenever I thought I finished a paragraph, I pasted it on the second doc. Then, I opened a third doc and try to reorganize the finished paragraphs into cohesive order. This process helped me keep track of what ideas have been touched and what ideas are still left alone. Another thing that was useful for me was to create a folder on the Notes app on my phone for the project, but I don’t think this applies to everyone. Some people get all the writing done at designated times on their desk, and not even think about it elsewhere. But I often got stuck sitting on my desk and had to come back to the ideas I didn’t get to finish. New plans and ideas would suddenly come up when I didn’t have my laptop with me, so for the first few weeks, I wrote them down on my phone. But because they were besides all my other notes on the app, it was hard to put them together to my laptop later. So I created a separate folder towards the end of the process, and that really hastened the production.

Leaving Michigan

Until I came here as a freshmen, I had neither ever been to the Midwest nor ever had a close friend from the region. I came clueless, got used to the place over 4 years, and now I leave again in a week indefinitely. It is possible that I never come back to Ann Arbor, even though I now know almost every street and store here. I’ve never gone back to New Hampshire since middle school or to New Jersey since high school. When I stop and think, it feels weird that a place, its people and culture, can consume the whole of my daily life for a long period of time, and become the default environment of my life, and then suddenly vanish from me, never become a daily part of me again, and gradually start to fade away from my memory forever. I’ve repeated this process several times that I am altogether numb about leaving Michigan. It is only when a slice of memory appears involuntarily much later that I’ll be able to feel nostalgia.

I don’t think this is either good or bad; I think it just is. There isn’t a location that I feel cannot be separated from my life, because pretty much every place has already been separated from me. To be sure, it’s not that I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I certainly feel like I belong here, in South Korea, and in NYC, too. But, all the same, I don’t feel like I am grounded anywhere. I’m not sure if I can name a single place that is the deepest foundation of myself. It’s all scattered, so in order to bring out a cohesive narrative out of those pieces, I need special memories from each place. And having worked hard for something one cares about is always one of the things that can later invoke nostalgia in her mind. Among other things, I think this class will be one of those experiences by which I will remember Michigan.

In the Future

When I look back at this project in several months or years from now, it will, as always, look bad. Everything I’ve written in the past now feels unsatisfactory, so when I was planning for this project, I had in mind the notion that this project, too, will not be good enough for the future me, however much the now me liked it. For mandatory essays for other classes, I think I didn’t put a lot of thought and energy into it, both because the requirements were laid out and because I thought of them as little more than labor for grades. But the fact that I had to choose something I do care about and build a website from scratch made this project register to me as different from anything else I’d written. So there was a bit of dissonance between the part of me that pessimistically assumed that this project was inevitably going to be another amateur piece I will end up dismissing, and the part of me that wanted to produce something that would remain meaningful to me after I get the grade.

Now I think that both of these ideas can be true simultaneously. When I become a better writer in the future, the quality of this project will of course seem unsatisfactory, but I wouldn’t be the better writer I will be if I hadn’t created this project. This was the longest thing I’ve ever written, and I don’t think I’ve ever had another school assignment that occupied so much of my leisure time as well. It’s not that I was required to do more work; it’s that ideas and fragments for the project suddenly popped up in my head even when I was resting, and I had to open my laptop and write them down. While the unprecedented degree of agency ascribed to me gave me a lot of pressure, it prompted me to put in much more thought and care. So I think I will continue to think of this project as meaningful because of the uncomfortable yet fruitful writing experience I had.

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.

Well, I guess my project is done

The title of this post really encapsulates all of my feelings towards this project. It is finally done. No more stress about if I have any idea what I’m doing or if somebody is going to read it and be offended. No more staying up until 2 am thinking about the project, but not really doing anything.

I think that I will kind of miss the stress this project gave me. This was the first time that I was REALLY supposed to think about something and turn it into my own. While part of me hopes I will never need to do anything like it again, the other part of me knows that the challenge was worth it.

To be honest, I am not sure how often I will be looking back at this project. I think this is mainly because it took so much out of me, but also largely because I don’t want to look back and see that after all that work I mistyped something or used the wrong word. I am proud of my work but I also think that distance always makes you fonder and the less I look at it now the more I will like it later. Or maybe I will never look at it again. I really can’t say for certain.

The next few hours I spend on this project will be solely focused on my annotated bibliography. The thing that I have enjoyed the most about this project and the work put in it is that there was actually a climactic ending. Showing the work to my peers made me proud of what I had done, which is a very different feeling than merely turning in a paper and receiving a grade. I didn’t do this project for a grade. I did the project for myself and that is something I am going to remember fondly about my senior year of college.

Capstone Showcase

Last week I had the opportunity to share my work with my peers and reunite with my Gateway pals. I got to show off my work to the world…. and I was terrified that my project wouldn’t make sense to anybody but me and my supportive workshop group. That being said, I worked until the last minute possible. I was unable to attend that showcase when I produced my Gateway project so I didn’t know what to expect. Was I going to be sharing with my class? Or forced to stand in front of the entire room and give a speech on my project? This uncertainty kept me up through the night as I tweaked animations and rewrote and rewrote until I ended up leaving when I already had at the beginning.

Needless to say, the showcase was so much better than I had expected. Not only was I able to learn about other people’s projects, but I was also able to finally show off the hard work that I have done this entire semester. I even volunteered to be the first one at my table to go– when walking into that showcase I would have preferred to hide behind somebody with my laptop closed.

As I presented my project I could sense a sincere interest in the topic and a fascination with the work that I had done. This surprised me because I the entire time completing this project I wondered if there was a single person in the planet who would even be remotely interested in the topic that wasn’t me. I am so glad that I was proved wrong.

Capstone Challenge Journal 4: When to Reflect

            Showcase has come and gone, and with it my concerns over finishing my project in time to be able to show anything at all. Despite my best efforts to procrastinate until the bitter end, the project is finished, and a semester’s worth of work now rests quietly in my odd corner of the internet. All there really is to do now is reflect, a process that can easy become a stressor itself. Did I work hard enough on this section? Did I actually make a clear point on this part? Will anything I’ve done actually matter? If looking over my gateway project months upon completing it are of any indication, I can only assume I’ll return to my capstone and feel the weight of everything I failed to do with it rather than appreciate what it was I accomplished. I know this about myself, and as such I need to be cautious about how I direct my reflection, lest it be little more than me giving myself a hard time.

            To this end, the past work that this post brought me to thinking about was a paper I wrote for a course I took on Shakespeare. It’s a piece where I compared Lady Macbeth from Macbeth with Emilia from Othello, both the wives of villainous characters, and both with something of a hand in their husband’s villainy. I’d go into greater detail about my claims, except, well, for one thing they’d probably make for a boring blog post, and more importantly because I don’t actually remember them in detail. You see, I don’t actually have this essay anymore. It’s nowhere to be found on my computer, nor in the cloud or on my google drive, or on old canvas pages or in old backups of my computer. I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to recover it, but it’s seemingly been erased, and I have no idea why.

            And that’s just it, my memory of this piece is all I have left of it. My reflective ability, as far as that work goes, can only surround what I remember and what effect it had for me in the class – which is to say it got me an A in the class, so that’s a pretty positive thing to reflect on. While I certainly wish I could read the piece again just to see it, I understand that a part of why I feel so strongly about it is because I no longer have the ability to over-examine it. It served its purpose then disappeared, forcing me to reflect on what it left behind rather than what it actually was.

            This isn’t to say that I’m going to delete my capstone now that it’s over with, but it is a necessary reminder of how much the work itself can change in the writer’s eyes after the work has served its purpose and now just stands as forever embodying that purpose, unable to change even as the writer moves on and develops a more mature understanding of the work’s subject matter. Having the actual thing in front of you can be stifling in this maturation, the writer getting bogged down by the reality of their work rather than in the ideas they represent. With that in mind, I’m going to step back from my capstone for a while, so that I may more easily see the good in it rather than focus so much on its shortcomings.