Challenge Journal 2: How to Begin

In my first Challenge Journal entry I talked about how endings are my weakness. Well, in the first stages of the project, I realized that beginning wasn’t that smooth either. Going into this semester, I had no ideas for what I could potentially do for my capstone. I think that, as a sophomore in the gateway, I expected my future self to have a greater clarity and wiseness that comes with age. In reality, I’ve just started wearing more leggings and less jeans. In the gateway course I set out to write a comparison/contrast of western astrology and Chinese astrology and ended up writing mostly about my childhood.

Consistently, I end up writing about my childhood:

English 225:

As a young girl growing up on television and movies, I latched on to every single Asian female I ever saw on a screen…

            English 325:

When I was even younger, before the great growth spurt of 2007, I would flip through the American Girl Doll catalogues that were sent to our home, circling the ones that I thought looked most like me…

My Gateway Project:

I grew up with my parents’ superstitions. It manifested itself in different ways…

            (Trust me, there was a lot more in all of these papers)

Though I remain passionate about exploring my heritage and reflecting on my past, I wanted to have a project that didn’t directly relate. Of course, our backgrounds and identities permeate all our actions and beliefs, but I wanted to see what I could do with a project where I didn’t have decades of knowledge to fall back on. So, this ideation process for the Capstone project was an exercise in finding out what I really care about besides what it means to be Chinese-American.

And, wow, it was tough. An excerpt from my brainstorming:

Things I know/want to know


                        – Cryptocurrencies (kind of, a little bit)

                        – How to write a cover letter/a resume

                        – Recognizing political figures and their platforms

                        – Nutrition

                        – Mandarin Chinese (would like to learn more)

                        – Sports (rules of football???)


                        – Skincare (in general)

                        – Asian food   

                        – Current events


                        – Generally want to read more instead of watching TV

                        – Feeling productive; waking up earlier

                        – Wanting more energy (diet? Lifestyle changes?)


The main theme of the most compelling ones (at least in my eyes) was things that I am bad at because I don’t enjoy them. Waking up early? Nope. Understanding the nutritional value of my food? No, I’d rather not. Watching football? No. And, the things that I do enjoy (food, skincare, finance, politics) are not necessarily things that I would want to write about.

I was stuck. The ideas that I liked most (trying a new sleeping routine or learning more about nutrition) were things that I really do not want to do. And, the ones that were doable were not compelling enough for me.

In the end, what really helped was narrowing the scope. I decided to choose a Capstone project related to the peer writing center for two main reasons: 1.) I think the Sweetland crew are the raddest mix of people on campus and 2.) I felt most comfortable with the writing center director as a potential consultant. Once I realized that I would need a consultant for my project, most of my ideas flew away. I mean, who would I consult with about a new sleep schedule? Literally nobody I know has a healthy sleep schedule, and I definitely don’t know any experts on the topic.

So, if you too are indecisive about choosing a topic (the ability to do whatever you want is exciting in both a yippee kind of way and an oof kind of way), perhaps being most aware of your restrictions is most helpful. That being said, telling people to cut off their dreams is not something that I normally do. But, if you are like me, maybe you need to be aware of your realm of possibility before you go off dreaming about waking up an extra hour early to fit in some yoga. Of course, even though you may feel like you have set boundaries for yourself, there’s still a million possibilities in front of you. But, out of the million, there may be only like 40 good ones.

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