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Midterm Evaluation-The Musical

AnotherAbby's picture

(Disclaimer: This paper is not a musical.)

-So do you go into Philly all the time?

-Yeah, I’ve gone in most weekends. But it’s for a class. Try to gloss over the description of what an E-Sem is. You’ll lose her attention.

-So where have you been?

Drop names. Things people will know and be able to connect with regardless of whether or not they’ve been to Philly within the last twenty years.

-Oh you know, some museums, some places around South Street, the Italian Market, and a bunch of other places. We wander, mostly.

-Have you been to the art museum? You have to go to the art museum.

-Yeah, I haven’t been in yet this trip, but definitely, yeah. Thank her nicely for the tip. Refrain from telling her it’s one of the most iconic places in Philly and of course you’re going to go soon.

-Good. Eat a cheesesteak for me when you get back!

-Yeah, I will! Thank her again and secretly think that she wouldn’t know where to get a good cheesesteak if she ever made it to Philly.


I feel like I’ve seen more of Philly than I know I actually have. In every conversation over fall break where some well-meaning former teacher, family friend, or neighbor would ask me where I’d been, I’d give them the general spiel of places I knew they’d have heard of.  I didn’t want to alienate them by talking about how cool The Magic Gardens was, but, looking back, I could have missed out on making an even more meaningful connection with them over a shared experience in a part of Philly I had assumed they wouldn’t have seen. That, overall, is very against the spirit of serendipity that this course is trying to encourage.

I do feel that the concept of serendipity is helping me outside of class, though. It is making me put myself out for new experiences despite the fact that I’d usually much rather be cuddled under my covers with a cup of tea and watching an episode of the Venture Brothers (with commentary) on my laptop.

And that spirit of “putting myself out there” lead me to agree to this:

I’m at about the one-minute mark.

So outside, yes, I think this class has lead me to be much more serendipitous with my approach to life. But in my writing? I think I’m still struggling there.

Part of my struggle definitely comes out of lingering ambiguity about how to “write serendipitously”. Am I doing that now? If not, what can I do to improve it? And, moreover, is that appropriate to do for other papers, like those for science classes? I want to write serendipitously in all my papers; I want to clearly weave my ideas and data into one cohesive paper that reaches a purpose, but do so in a way that’s entertaining and engaging for the reader. 

I think that part of the improvement in my writing during this class will hinge upon how much of my peers’ works I read. In listening to the Q&A with Zadie Smith, I noticed that fact that she considered herself foremost a reader, and after that a writer. By reading the other papers available to me, not just those assigned to me to by group, and analyzing what styles I feel best get the points of their papers across, I feel like my writing could take another step towards where I want it to be by the end of the class. That doesn’t even require as much effort as synthesizing comments and writing entirely new essays out of what I’ve taken away from my synthesis—all it requires is taking an hour or so, sitting down, reading, and thinking.

And I can do that. I can do that easily. But I still would like more help with my writing.

The feedback we’re getting is great, and I like where this class is going as a whole, but I’d really like to somehow spend more time talking about ways to improve my writing. I think that we don’t spend enough time on essays each week, dissecting them, critiquing them, and all that. Because of the pace of the class, I think that I’m lacking the ability to step back, take a breath, and look at what I’ve done to see how I can improve it. I don’t really think an extra day or two would be able to give me the kind of hindsight I’m lacking, but, sometimes, I just really miss the ability to walk away from something for an entire day and see if I still like it, or let a draft stew for a week before I decide I’m satisfied with it. The quick turnarounds—trip on Saturday, essay due Sunday—prevent me from not only taking a while to decide whether or not I’m satisfied with my writing, but also prevent me from reflecting on my experiences as much as I wish I could before the topic of the paper needs to be picked.

I know we don’t do rewrites in this class, but I think that’s a blessing and a curse. I’m glad I’m not stuck in bad-paper-Limbo for all eternity, but I’m also upset that I can’t change some parts of my papers that I desperately wish I could.