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A New Perspective

lksmith's picture

            At the beginning of the semester, I came into this class not knowing what to expect. I had an idea that it might be different from the other Emily Balch Seminars because the subject itself was set so far apart from the others, but until the first day of classes I had no idea just how different it would be.

            The activity we did on the first day of class, where we looked around the classroom to understand the space we would be spending our time together, can be used to perfectly explain my experience in the class up to this point. We spent the day looking at all the different aspects of the room in detail and placing them in context with everything else we found. The building itself has been around long enough that it has many layers of history that can be seen though observation. People noticed the designs on the fireplace, the shutters on the windows, parts of the walls that did not match up with the rest of the room, and plaques under the windows with names engraved of people that donated to the school. When we sat down and discussed everything that we noticed the class as a whole was better able to understand the space we were in and how every little piece added up to make it what it was.

            This activity, along with many other aspects of the class, showed me that there are endless ways to see or understand the same place or experience. In our discussion I noticed that many people had different perspectives on the uses of certain parts of the room and when they were added. Each person understood the room and its past in their own way with none better or worse than any other.

            Throughout all of the trips I have taken into Philadelphia this semester, I have tried to apply a similar process to the way I understand my experience. I pay attention to all the little details of my surroundings and then zoom out to allow my self to see them in the greater context, always remaining open to other interpretations of what I have experienced. Then when we discuss our trips together as a class, either through large group discussions or by talking to fellow students about each other’s essays, more pieces are revealed to me that I had not seen that alter my perception of the experience.  

            One of my favorite things we have done during class time has been talking to other students about their essays and hearing what they saw in my writing. The first time we did this it made me very nervous and uncomfortable because I was not prepared to hear what others thought of my work or to completely misinterpret what someone else wrote. However, the idea that everything can be seen and understood in endlessly different ways where none of them are “right” or “wrong” really began to sink in for me when we did this. Not only did it make it easier for me to share more meaningful comments about other people’s writing, it allowed me to see my own writing in new ways and on a deeper level. This has helped me be able to better understand what I do as a writer and what different games I play in my writing so that I can use those games and others to enhance my writing.

            This semester we have also played a lot in the assignments we have done and the discussions we do during class time. At the start of the term, I had a system that I always used to write my essays for school. I would create a strict outline of every single part of the paper and follow it down to the last detail. Every time, without fail. However, the prompts we have been given so far have forced me to break free from that formula and become much more playful in my writing. With each essay I have written for this class, I have felt myself becoming more comfortable with this playful writing and being more willing to commit myself to that style. Through this, the process of writing has become much more playful and enjoyable for me.

            The discussions we have in class are also very playful and help to broaden my perspective on the experiences I have had and the material we have read thus far in the class. Despite my efforts to keep an open mind and allow myself to understand things in more diverse perspectives, I tend to understand everything through a few limited and rather predictable lenses. In the class discussions I am exposed to the views and ideas of the other people in the class and this exposes me to perspectives that I never would have imagined before. This new level of exposure has helped me to broaden my own perspective in a general sense, allowing me to understand my experiences in a more meaningful way.

            In the rest of the semester I hope to continue to be playful and broaden my understanding of the world around me. I also hope to continue to grow and develop as a writer, as I feel that I have begun to do in the first part of the semester.