Challenge Journal 4: Wrap it Up

I have always struggled with conclusions. Not in the sense that I struggle to write them, but in the sense that they never actually CONCLUDE everything I said prior. I’ve talked about something similar in challenge journals in the past, but I’m bad at matching my ending words to the main point I’ve been making in all of the writing prior. I think its because usually the idea I have at the beginning of writing is gone by the end. It inspired what I was going to say, but the actual articulation and organization I had planned on ends up getting replaced by a deviant form. It is related, but its conclusions are different and its message is different.

Yet when I’m writing the conclusion, I write it as though I stuck with the original plan and everything panned out as expected. For example in my gateway project I wrote about when I went blind in my right eye in middle school:

When I was in seventh grade, a cascade of complications that began in November 2008 led to me going completely blind in my right eye within the next six months. Over the course of these months of pain and fear, my vision progressed to the point where I could barely see changes in color. I couldn’t go out in sunlight without the sensation of knives being jabbed into my eye. I couldn’t be in a brightly lit room without tears unknowingly streaming down my face and onto my shirt. I couldn’t wear contacts, so I wore glasses with oversized sunglasses on top. But eventually, the medication did the job. By the end of seventh grade I had regained almost all of my eyesight.

I proceeded to talk about how much this experience affected me and my family, particularly my relationship with my mom. We fought a lot as a kid, and I talked about how during this time I took out a lot of my fear and anxiety on her. I misplaced my worries as anger towards her, and it was really straining our relationship.

As I continued writing, I got more and more cheesy as I went along. I started talking about how I used this experience to grow as a person and learn how to be kinder to my mother:

Last year I got caught for sneaking out of the house. My mom was furious. She normally manages to speak kindly to me no matter what, but her words were biting and cold— she could not believe that I broke her trust. And I felt the anger bubbling up like it always does; “You’re way too strict, I’m 18 years old for God’s sake, and I deserve some goddamn freedom!” I wanted to yell these words and more at her. But I paused. It wasn’t that I directly thought about seventh grade and the strain my words to my mother had placed on our relationship. It was far more subconscious than that. I paused, and considered if blowing up at her was worth it. And more than that, I let myself question if she was really to blame. That half-second of contemplation changed the way I responded completely. My tone was soft, and I said clearly and calmly, “Mom, you know how I feel about your rules on curfew. But arguing with you about that is not going to make this better. I should never have broken your trust like that; I know how important it is to you. I’m so sorry. I know that what I did was wrong.”

Originally, I ended it shortly after this with a quick blurb about how I had changed and was a better person now. Reading it back now, I hate it. I don’t like that my default is to come to the quick and easy conclusion, because its not true. Our relationship isn’t 100% perfect and I don’t treat her like gold every time I interact with her. This is something I’m struggling with now in my capstone project, because I’m getting to the point where I need to wrap everything up, and Im trying to steer clear from the conclusion that I would have made at the beginning of all of this. There have been enough direction changes in what I’m talking about that the conclusion needs to reflect those, not what I had thought early on.

In that gateway essay, I ended up adding some paragraphs to steer away from the cheesy ending a bit:

Talking to my mom about this has brought many of the specific memories back to the surface, and I’ve realized that while I do still snap at her too often and talk to her in a tone that should not be directed towards a mother, I am more thoughtful. I realize that she is emotional and sensitive, and although too often I am cold and thoughtless, I sometimes think before I act. Not always. Not every time. But enough that I am confident that the lessons I learned have affected how I respond to challenges and hard times.

It’s the same basic idea, bit it’s quantified. That’s the part I’m trying to keep in mind now for the conclusion of my project. It’s okay to make an argument and conclusion that you know isn’t all encompassing, as long as you articulate that. If you state the limits of the argument you’re making it makes it more believable, even if it is cheesy.

Challenge Journal 3: An Opportunity I Wish I Had

I took English 125 during my first semester here and loved it. I had a brilliant and engaging professor and the small class discussions were refreshing compared to my large weed out science courses. Beyond that, I really enjoyed writing the essays.

The one that stands out to me in particular was the redefinition essay. The assignment was fairly simple in that we just had to pick a word and change something about the definition or argue for it to be defined in a whole new way.

Being a very indecisive person, it took me a while to settle on my word. Ultimately, I surprised myself by choosing to write about the word Love.

I say it was a surprise for two reasons:

  1. I’m not a very emotional or “lovey dovey” person, so it was a bit out of character to focus my essay on these emotions.
  2. It was a boring word. When the assignment was introduced I promised myself I would choose a really unique and interesting word, but instead I chose the most classic word to discuss.

But I chose it because I was annoyed by how often “extreme” emotions like this are misused and overused by people my age, and I found that I had a lot to say about it.

Most of my argument was centered around the idea that we tend to use love when we really shouldn’t, and not use it when we really should:

How often do we lose our patience with the ones we love, whether it’s our boyfriend or girlfriend or our family, but give strangers all the respect and kindness we can muster up?

This is something that has always really bothered me, and something that I am often guilty of:

We have over-romanticized the idea of love without actually following through with it. Our actions don’t reflect our words. The quote on my mom’s wall claims that: “Love is patient, love is kind, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails.” There are thousands of quotes like these epitomizing what love should be, and an uncountable amount of words describing what it is to love. But to describe how you treat your family who you love, would you say you’re always patient, kind, and trusting? Rarely does that prove true. What we claim love is often doesn’t match up to how we treat people.

The redefinition aspect of the essay wasn’t as important to me as the idea that our society uses words wrong. We don’t say what we mean and we don’t think about what our words should mean.

I couldn’t really focus on this throughout the essay because it didn’t fit the assignment, but I think I would have had a lot to say and explore if I could have worked on this for longer.

I would have talked about other words as well, not just love, and learned more about why there is a disconnect between our intensions and what actually takes place.

This struggle to constrict what I want to talk about to the perimeter of an assignment’s rules is something we don’t have in the Capstone course. While this was frustrating at the beginning since it was difficult to decide what I wanted to do, it has become really nice to be able to guide the project in whichever way best suits my arguments and thoughts. The conversation I started on love and other human emotions could have been interesting to explore in a similar manner- no rules, no requirements, just deciding what matters for me to say.

Challenge Journal 2: Too many words, not enough thoughts

I’m kind of a rambler. Annoyingly, I sometimes remind myself of politicians giving speeches. You know when they’re asked a question and they respond with everything that they can think of besides the answer to the question? I often catch myself doing that accidentally. A friend will ask me something and their question will remind me of 15 other things I wanted to say. By the time I get through those, I’ve forgotten what the question was in the first place.

I’ve noticed this happens in my writing as well. I start off with a good outline, and a strong idea of what I want to communicate overall in my essay and how I want to say it. But as I get into the writing, I start enjoying myself a little too much. I think of stories that are interesting to describe, and scenes that I’m excited to paint for the reader. I write 10 pages of this junk when I only need 3. Then when it comes time to tie it all together, I forget what my point was. I find myself in a situation where I have lots of good writing but very little purpose for it. So generally what I’ve done in the past is slap a pretty conclusion on it and call it a day. Even when I’m not sure that I’ve said what I wanted to.

This happened to me last year in my English 325 class. I was writing about my relationship with my grandparents. We have a lot of problems that I had never really thought about up until then. It felt so good to get it out on paper.

I realized I was okay with how my step-grandpa and I’s relationship had deteriorated over the years:

I had always assumed that the reason my grandpa didn’t like me was because I was too different from him, and I’d let that go a long time ago. He saw through my lame attempts to love fishing and insects, and I didn’t let it get to me that I wasn’t his favorite, partially because I had never been close with him, and partially because he wasn’t my actual grandpa. Even though we tried to make it feel like he was family, he wasn’t, and deep down I think that’s why I was okay with it.

I also was starting to understand that my bigger struggle was accepting all the problems my grandma and I had. I didn’t want to give up on her, she was family. I was torn between loving family unconditionally and letting shitty people go.

My first draft of this paper was discussed in full-class peer review. Ultimately, I had ended the paper by saying I would give her another shot, and keep trying to be a better granddaughter.

Next week while we’re catching up over breakfast burritos, I’m going to forget about impressing this crazy grandma of mine and just talk.

My classmates were a little annoyed by this conclusion. I had spent the whole paper basically describing how ready I was to be done with her. Re-reading it now, you can feel what my conclusion should have been- I was sick of giving her second chances. And yet, I was being lazy and failed to read through my work to see the direction it had gone and the subconscious thoughts that had emerged. I stuck with what I thought I wanted to say at the start.

For my second draft I changed this. I said how I truly felt and it fit so nicely with the paper as a whole. It did what a conclusion is supposed to do- it wrapped up my thoughts and gave words to what I’d been saying all along.

And now, here we are at the capstone and I’m doing it again. The section I just wrote was about art and it was a mix of personal anecdotes and history. I really liked the directions it was going, but I feel like it was going too many places. At the end I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say overall. So since it was a draft I put a nice clean conclusion at the end and didn’t think further about it. I don’t even think it made sense. But I’m glad I re-read that paper from 325 and reminded myself how shitty it sounds when you don’t think through your final paragraphs. I need to push myself to not make that mistake again.

I’m looking forward to revisiting the section with fresh eyes in a few days. I’m going to figure out what I really meant to say and SAY it.

Challenge Journal 1: Consistency

When I try and picture what my Project is going to look like at the end of all of this, 5 or 6 possibilities pop into my head. I’m writing about dance, and I’m reaching a point where I’ve enjoyed the research I’ve done thus far and I’m excited to continue doing more, but I’m nervous about deciding which direction to go in. I want to talk about dance as a sport, I want to talk about dance as an art, I want to talk about the history of dance, I want to talk about the role of the dancer vs the role of the choreographer, I want to talk about my personal dance experience… The list is endless. What I DONT want is for the project to feel like 10 different ideas poorly woven together. I’m afraid because doing research is starting to make me think that might happen, as it feels like I’m researching several different topics instead of just one.

I also wonder what will happen when I try to weave these concepts together, because I have a history of struggling to keep my voice and tone consistent. I am sarcastic by nature, but I often don’t write in a sarcastic tone. I write in a more thoughtful and curious manner, yet in the past I’ve tried to incorporate sarcasm and wit and while I think it turns out okay at the time, looking back it reads choppy and disjointed, because it is unlike the tone of the rest of the piece.

For instance, in my Gateway essay about Why I Write I share a story about my first daycare. The reason I included this was to highlight how noisy and babbly I was as a child, but I tried to have a very present voice by being sarcastic about the woman who ran the daycare:

“I discovered my own voice and liked the sound of it, so I cooed and screeched constantly at different volumes and tones, which was too much for Poor Daycare Lady. Poor Daycare Lady was seemingly unaware that babies make noise, and it shocked her so much that she had to throw me out. She must not have thought my childish charm was enough to outweigh the ruckus that accompanied it.”

While it was fun using this tone to talk about the daycare lady, reading it now makes me realize how out of place it seems in the whole essay. Never again do I use that tone, and it doesn’t fit with the purpose of the story. I think the reason I did it was because I was writing separate stories and combining them together, and I didn’t pay enough attention to the importance of writing in a similar voice throughout the entire essay, not just for each story. I’m going to try to find a balance in the capstone project with how much of my own voice I want to include, and make sure it carries through for each topic I’m discussing.

Cut the Ribbon

Friends, family, colleagues, fellow writers… the deed has been done.

Okay sorry, that was too much. I just feel like making a post to announce the unveiling of my website deserved a dramatic opening statement. But it’s true, my website and my time in Writing 220 is finished!


Keeping with my tradition of New Girl posts, here’s one that describes how I feel about this semester being over— completely shocked.

If you would like to check my Portfolio out, heres the link:

I have a lot of mixed emotions about this. I’m sad that the class is over, since it’s one that I thoroughly enjoyed everyday, but I also feel incredibly accomplished, and I’m so happy with how my EPortfolio turned out.

I feel like I’ve grown so much in my writing and my confidence in my writing this semester, and a lot of that is due to my amazing classmates and to T. So huge shoutout to you guys, thank you for always giving your full attention and care to collectively becoming better writers.

I hope everyone has a relaxing and adventurous summer, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in the future!


Excitement… Panic……. and then Calm

When I found out that I was officially going to minor in Writing, I was ecstatic. It was something I’d been considering for a while, and I was relieved it had finally started to happen. I signed up for the gateway course and was actually looking forward for it to start (I know, strange right?) I think I was mostly intrigued to see what the program would actually be like.

Then came the “Oh shit” moment. It was on the first day of class, and it started to sink in that I was absolutely out of my mind to do this. I had thought of myself as a good writer in my prior English classes, surrounded by students who despised writing, but now I was in a room with writers. And I was so intimidated.

Don’t let yourself get caught up in this idea.

For so long into the class I fought with myself on if I really belonged, because I just felt like I wasn’t “writer” enough. I didn’t have hardly any writing experience, and I wasn’t in the know about writers.

Writing the very first “Why I Write” piece was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do for school, because I didn’t really know why I write. So I tried to write a BS essay about it. I’m good at BS-ing, and I figured it would fly— it always had before.

But if there’s one thing this class taught me, it’s that it is okay to not know what to say or what to write. Just be honest. I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d avoided the fluff and cheesy endings from the beginning and honestly asked myself what I was trying to say. Even if the answer is “I don’t know”, this class made me realize that if you’re at a loss for what you want to communicate, your reader will connect with you much more if you say just that.

Better yet, when you think about what you really feel and want to say, I discovered even if your answer is still full of questions, it will still be more powerful than if you confidently splattered out an answer that you haven’t fully thought out.

So new-coming gatewayers (I know that’s not a word, let it go), here’s a summary of what I would advise:

  1. Don’t be intimidated. You’re a writer just as much as anyone. And you don’t have to be a “writer” to be a writer.
  2.  It won’t be the same as your other English classes. You’ll have to push yourself further.
  3. BE HONEST! Honesty is relatable, and being relatable is more important than being right.
  4. An amendment to  #2: LET it push you. Don’t stop at okay just because it’s good enough. Revise it. Revise it for real. Don’t be afraid to delete huge sections and reverse the order of your message (I know I know, I get attached to the paragraphs too, it’s okay). Revision isn’t just the grammar/fluidity check it used to be. Take some risks.


P.S. Here’s a gif of Nick Miller singing Beyonce. Be honest, can anyone tell me a time where New Girl or Bey aren’t necessary? Nobody? Kay good.


Hey did anyone know there’s only one week left of classes? I sure didn’t.

When I think about the quantity of ‘stuff’ I have to do between now and then, I start to panic a little bit, so I’m just trying to take it assignment by assignment.

As for how Project III is going, all of the ideas are there but it isn’t actually created yet. I originally wanted the video to be a compilation of interviews of my family members about my eye, but after interviewing them I felt like leaving just that as the primary content would be way too boring. So instead, I want to focus on memory. How I remember the experience is very different from how my family does, or even how I expected them to.

As I was pondering this, I stumbled upon a TED talk about the difference between our experiences and our memory, and it brought up some very interesting points. I’ve decided to use this as my inspiration for Project III. I’m still going to make a video that includes pieces of the interviews, but it will now also include pieces of the TED talks to highlight the contrast between what we remember and what actually happens.

Cross your fingers for me that this actually works out (please please please)


Above is live footage of me panic moonwalking away from the amount of work I have to do in the next week

Just put one thought in front of the other…

I’m just going to start. I don’t know why, but since it’s timed and I know it’ll disappear, all my brilliant ideas for beginnings and hooks disappeared from my head. I just wanted to start moving my fingers on the keys. Its actually sort of soothing- not being able to stop and think. I know I can’t get frustrated, and I can’t let myself overthink or question anything. Just go go go keep going oh god don’t stop going. Okay. So what kind of animal am I? Well what the hell kind of question is that. I dont knsdfjkdsfjksdfljsldjfklsjdfjs ahhhh oh my god it started to fade. That was terrifying. I actually felt my heart rate triple.


Okay. So I am going to choose to interpret this question as what kind of animal would you WANT to be. Because I don’t know what kind of animal I AM exactly, I think I am a combination of lots of different animal characteristics. I would want to be part dolphin, because they honestly never stop having fun. Dolphins never have any problems, they just get to splash around and play and have a blast and maybe eat some fish every once in a while. But I’m definitely not all dolphin, I’m way less carefree than that.

Okay so how about a giraffe or an elephant? I like both of those animals a lot; elephants have always been my favorite. But they don’t really do much, do they? If I’m going to choose an animal, I want one that stays busy. So maybe some sort of monkey? Or like a squirrel or something? I never stop moving, and I like to overbook my life and my self (even though I don’t handle stress well- which makes no sense). So I’m going to decide that I am a squirrel or a monkey. Hey!!! I’ll be a squirrel monkey!! I love those. They’re adorable. Check em out if you havent. Monkeys have fun, and they’re cute and smart and funny to watch. Also they just climb trees and swing around all day, which would be fun. And they probably do stuff, right? Good enough for me.

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Judging a [Website] by its [Home Page]

I’m not going to lie, first visual impressions are everything for me. Whether it be a book or a website, I judge what I’m looking at by its aesthetics. That doesn’t mean the nit-picky details aren’t important either, but when deciding which Eportfolios stood out to me, I chose the three I did primarily based on my initial impression— especially of the very first page.

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I chose Cameron and Logan’s for very similar reasons. I enjoyed the large images and the professional looking text. As opposed to Eportfolios with busy backgrounds and fancy fonts, I appreciated the simple white background and generic fonts contrasted with the beautiful pictures. I think these traits make the sites look more professional. They look like actual websites instead of bearing closer resemblance to a blog or a website that was clearly made just for an assignment.

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Sara’s EPortfolio differed from the last two I chose in that it does contain the flowery font, but it still stuck out to me because of how simple and elegant it is. While I will probably not mirror this writers choice in font or background, I thought the tabs and assignments were very easy to navigate and explore. I liked that the projects were sorted nicely into three tabs, and each one contained screenshots that you could click on and make bigger. The one thing I would change would be to not have the bigger versions open up in new windows (if at all possible).

Looking at all of the examples definitely showed me that I like simple. For me, less is more, and I think I will try to mirror the professional design of the first two EPortfolios mentioned.

We’re already on Project III??

As we complete more and more of these projects I continue to go into each one with a specific idea and end up surprised by the final direction it takes. So, while I have an idea for Project III, I am starting to expect that it will have morphed into a new project completely by the final due date. But oh well, here’s to hoping this idea sticks.

For Project II I wrote about one of the hardest years in my life. During seventh grade, I went almost completely blind in one eye. Obviously, being one of the toughest things I have gone through, this experience has affected me a lot. Enough that I’ve already written about it multiple times. But I wanted to talk about it again for these projects because I felt like both of the previous essays I had written ended with a cheesy message that wasn’t entirely true to how the experience affected me, and I wanted to be real. I hope Project II was real. It felt more real.

With this objective in mind, I ended up focusing more on my mother and I’s relationship than I thought I would. Project II is interspersed with quotes from an interview with my mother, and I explored how I now behave and treat her.

All along I have wanted to do a video for Project III. Originally I thought I was going to write Project II from multiple perspectives and, had that been the case, I wanted to record a video and play the same footage twice with two different narrations overlaid— my own and my mom’s. The essay didn’t end up being about that, but I still want to try to make this video work. Since the whole theme of my project is my mom and I, I want to record a video about the experience and contrast with words from my mother and words from myself.