“Creative Commons Butterfly” by Conal Gallagher is licensed under CC 2.0
It’s been a year already? Time has sure flown by. I remember the first day I walked into class. I had no clue what to expect. I remember so being nervous and afraid of not meeting the standards of the class with my writing. My only goal was to be able to stand on my own as a writer. Now, I stand with more confidence than when Gaston went to ask Belle to marry her. I don’t cringe as much when people read my work out loud. Trust me. I used to cover my ears and sing “lalala” repeatedly when people read my writing. I absolutely couldn’t stand it. Things have changed. I can take criticism. I’ve grown to love writing challenges. I’ve emerged from my metaphorical cocoon as a writer and matured into a butterfly that’s still exploring the world.
Well, its not like I was a horrible writer to begin with. I usually could be pretty detailed with my work, but I would never be able to get it to flow. One of the first assignments that we had to do, a narrative essay, emphasized this point. I stuffed too many ideas into a two page essay. That’s when group evaluations came in. This wasn’t a new concept, but the set up made the difference. Back in middle school, people would critique my writing, but I would never be able to ask them for further explanation because it was all anonymous. In Ap lang, I was able to communicate with my peers and hear suggestions from multiple perspectives simultaneously. Within my group, I able to get a sense that everyone there was earnestly trying to help me improve my writing. It became a safe space, a mini community. I think this sense of community was what made it work. The constant push and pull between the group members allowed for us to reach new heights as a writers. Ideas would be bounced off each other and everyone would borrow each other’s writing styles.
Through reading novels such as the Great Gatsby and the Grapes of Wrath, I was able to incorporate different literary devices. Because these authors were so great, I wanted to emulate them in my writing. Analyzing these books made me realize that I needed to put more intention into every sentence that I wrote. Sentences should have meaning. They shouldn’t be created just to hit a word quota. A single sentence could change the entire meaning of an essay. I applied this to our descriptive essay. Every detail that I wrote about my father’s leather jacket, the main object of my inspiration, was used to describe him as a person. Any abstract details were immediately filtered out. It was different from anything I had ever done before. It was a challenge and I loved challenges. With this, I learned that there were other ways of describing things without saying outright. Language didn’t always have to be direct for it to have impact.
Seeing language in a different way made me become more aware of devices used in all sort of outlets and media. I didn’t notice, but I began to point out literary devices to my brother whenever we’d watch something together. Of course, he’d be annoyed, but I was just happy to be able to understand what the scriptwriter wanted to do. That was the only way I felt like I could give appreciation to the scriptwriter. Not to mention, my brother has become more keen on what is being said in the dialogue in his favorite shows. I had a proud big sister moment there. Devices that used stay in books jumped into the real world. I could no longer see things the way that I used to. There was no turning back.
There was no turning back in my writing as well. I think one of my best moments in the pursuit to understand language was when we took the essay test for the Grapes of Wrath. Here, I was able to show that I really understood that purpose of the given chapter and how the author wrote with intention. Every phrase suddenly had a deeper meaning that I wouldn’t have picked up at the beginning of the year. Every image was meant to prove something to the reader. I was able to understand the writer and that is one of the best things I’ve learned to do in AP lang. The author of a literary piece no longer was an aloof figure to me. I was able to connect with them and use their background to figure out why they wrote what they wrote. Not to mention, I received my first perfect score on an essay by this. It was definitely a shock.
Never before have I ever used Twitter so much in one year. My God. It was so weird to be tweeting out my classwork, in the beginning at least. After a while, I got the hang of it. Using Twitter made learning fun because we all had to come up with different ways to express what we wanted to say in 140 characters. Actually, I had never used the internet so much in one class. Utilizing the internet was what made me realize that the world of language was so much more than what I originally thought it was. With this new view on language, I became more free in the sense that I didn’t strictly stay on the format given to us by our middle school teachers. I experimented around with language and had some pretty cool results.
Throughout the year, I’ve been going on a journey as a writer and learner. It was a lot of trial and error, trying to figure out what worked for me. There’s not much I regret or wish I could do differently. Except, I wish I kept up with the reading more consistently. That was my biggest weak point. I was more excited to write than read, which was a good thing and a bad thing. I probably would’ve had a better grade in the first semester if I time managed correctly and got my priorities straight. It wasn’t that the reading was boring, it was more so that I was lazy. It was also that I would sometimes forget to read altogether.
Somewhere along the way, I found the answer to my question, “how can words characterize a person? “. In Catcher in the Rye, Holden uses adult language to give us the sense that he’s trying to be grown up. He does this to mask how immature he really is ,yet at the same time gives away his insecurities. In the Great Gatsby, Gatsby repeats the phrase “old sport” to establish a sense of closeness with Nick Carraway and make himself seem more grand than he really is. In these two examples here, they are using words to create a better version of themselves. At least, what they believe is a better version of themselves. Their choice of words reveal what they want others to think and their actions sometimes prove otherwise.
After I’ve found the answer to my question, what’s next? Once I leave the gates of Fountain Valley, how am I going to show the world that I’m never going to stop being a student in the study of language? My college thesis papers and my blog posts. College is going to be the summation of everything that I have done in middle school and in high school. I will use the skills that I have cultivated here to help myself advance as a college student and young adult. I will continue my blog posts long after I leave my high school career behind. I will continue to publish pieces on my thoughts and feelings on society and current events. I will use language for good and use it to raise other people up. Thank you Mr. Ziebarth for your guidance and understanding.