Challenge Journal 2: A Missed Opportunity

An essay that has always stood out to me as something I wish I had more time to work on was my second essay for English 325. The essay was a personal narrative, and it was supposed to connect to a some sort of larger social issue. I chose to write about my experiences in Sociology 225, also known as Project Community. As a part of soc 225, I went to the Washtenaw County Jail once a week to teach a creative writing class to some of the mail inmates there. My plan was to tell a personal narrative of what it was like going to the jail, and then talk about the larger issue of mass incarceration.

The paper turned out…fine. It wasn’t bad, but I just felt like there was so much more I could have done with it. My general format was to talk about one of the inmate’s stories, and then talk about the issue as a whole (for example, tell the story of an inmate who was in for a low level drug crime, and then discuss mandatory minimum sentencing in the U.S. that sprung from the War on Drugs). I wanted to use their stories to illustrate the larger problems with the criminal justice system.

What I felt like I could have expanded further on, though, was my own story. I started the essay off by saying

“I didn’t know where I wanted to go to school or what kind of law I want to do specifically, but one thing I knew for sure was that I definitely did not want to do criminal defense”,

and ended it by saying

“Eight months after deciding I want to go to law school, and telling every family member who asked that I definitely was not interested in criminal defense, criminal defense is now all I want to do”.

I briefly discussed how uncomfortable and scared I felt the first few weeks, but other than that the narrative wasn’t very personal.

Had I had more time, (say, an entire semester as a capstone project), I would have liked to make the essay more personal. I would have liked more time to talk about how the experience changed me, and what misconceptions I had going into the experience.

But to be honest, I’m not sure if more time would have helped. I have an entire semester to work on my capstone, and I’m still having the same problem- how much of myself do I insert into this? I wrote about this issue in my first Challenge Journal (almost two months ago, lol) and I’m still having the same problem.

I don’t want to cloud the more analytical parts of the essay with my own opinions/emotions/judgements, because I don’t want to come off as too attached to the topic to make a clear judgement on it. But capstone is a personal project, and I feel like it would be strange to act too robotic and pretend like I don’t have any investment in it either. Not to get tooo therapy session, but I’m starting to wonder if my aversion to wanting to add too much personal voice in my work is a larger problem of me just not being a very open person, but that’s another problem for another time.

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