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Reflection on our meeting

Joie Rose's picture

What emerged during my meeting


“The past few months in this 360 has tapped a artery in me that I thought was long gone, buried under a web of academic muscle and dermis I have been meticulously constructing in an effort to stem what once flowed from me so freely, what I thought had no place in an institution of higher learning. I have always read in color, and once, I wrote in color too. Vibrancy and light gushing forth in hues that always mirrored what I had read last. What I read last though, before my first piece of writing was due in this 360, was Citizen. And the dull gleam of steely academic writing that I had paralleled for so long was washed away in the beautiful heartbreaking kaleidoscopic of Claudia Rankine’s prose. And as Citizen with my starting point I have accrued over these weeks and months a prism of my own, reflective of the emotive beauty I kept buried away for so long, because what place did it have in an essay constructed of black and grey and purple? But all the while, unbeknownst to me, it lived. Rushing and pulsing through that artery I had concealed long ago.”

-taken from my experimental essay


Each of the classes in this 360 asked me to examine myself as a learner and academic, as a full and complex, and many layered person and then they asked me to understand how this patchwork of who I am and who I have become can be applied to the difficult, volatile, tender, and thought provoking topics that we discuss in our institution of higher learning. And it complicated the way in which I learn, it gave the wire frame of performative rhetoric I so mechanically employ a shape and a form with crevices and curves molded over the thin sharp bones of my academic foundation. I wrote early on about this task, the task of finding a marriage between academia and emotion, the two sides of myself that I have spent most of my life passionately disregarding as entities akin to oil and water. Impossible to comingle. And I wrote about the barren jagged wasteland of my emotional self, the raw rough terrain that I had to drag grassy green academic thought (a realm of thinking in which I had always found safety) through in an attempt to grow flowers. At the time, I found, much to my surprise, that I could grow flowers. Still I find that flowers grow with the reasoned thought of academia and the fertile ideas borne of my emotional self. But my starting place has changed. My perception of academia and emotion has reversed itself in a way. Where academia has become something of the bare bones of my foundation, cold, callous, sharp and thin, but still so vital. And my emotion the fruit that bares flowers, the form that gives meaning to the steely structure of academic thought. Perhaps the reality lies somewhere in the middle. Neither academia nor emotion on either end of a binary, but instead a concoction of ideas that feed off of and exist because of one another.

While it was Anne and Jody’s classes that first asked me to examine my academic self through my emotional self, it was in Joel’s class, with my experimental essay, that I first found my footing in this new realm of thinking. It was my first experimental essay, borne out of the seeds of emotional and academic writing I had attempted briefly in both Anne and Jody’s classes, as well as the initial ideas gleaned from out first couple of polisci classes that allowed me to tackle Citizen in the way I did. In terms of both Anne and Jody’s classes it was a space for me to engage in literature, concepts and ideas in a way that I have not been exposed to before. As a student of political science and biology, I have learned through both disciplines to take a very ‘scientific method’ approach in understanding subject material. I had never taken and education or English class before, which became abundantly clear when I first tried to philosophize silence in Anne’s class during one of our first classes and neither I nor anyone else in the class had any idea what I was trying to say. In Joel’s first few classes I found my comfort zone, political science, the historical political theories that are woven together to help us understand why we are where we are today, and I knew how to discuss those topics in a politically analytical way. But as the readings in each class began to blur and blend together, as we became more of a cohesive unit and we learned how each person thought and interacted in different spaces I felt myself moving away from political analysis, allowing myself to explore ideas through different types of analysis that I cannot name, but that moved me into a space where I was not completely comfortable. I’m used to there not being answers, or to there always being more questions, but in scientific inquiry there is always a possible answer, a possible explanation. In Anne and Jody’s courses I felt more like I was in a philosophy class where we could talk in circles for lifetimes and never have gleaned an understanding of some of the root causes of specific institutions. Which is not to say that ideas without a conclusion are not useful. They are necessary and drive the work that breeds conclusiveness. What am I trying to say? I think what I am trying to say is that I felt shaky and uncertain in Anne and Jody’s classes because it was pretty far out of my comfort zone, but they both opened up new ways of learning for me, new ways of tackling a problem, new ways of thinking that have totally screwed me over in my senior thesis writing process, but have expanded my horizons, which I am eternally grateful to have been exposed to not only for my academic life but for my lived life as well. I brought those new ways of learning into Joel’s class, and they were certainly enhanced by the experimental essays that we shared with each other, but in the process, I began to feel uncertain of how to analyze the texts in Joel’s class. The title of my last experimental essay pretty much summed up the way I have been feeling throughout this 360; “The jumbled musings of a synesthetic white lesbian” was how I ended up approaching most of the texts and reflections I wrote in this course cluster. It was an incredibly positive and formative experience on the whole, and truly, these jumbled musings have been an unbelievably wonderful thing to be able to express.

Because it was through those jumbled musings that I have been able to grapple not only with academic text, but with my emotional, and traumatized self. We spoke in our meeting about how I have been trying for so long to shrink my traumatized self, to try to bear down on it and make it smaller, and smaller. Something that no longer defines my identity in every shadow I cast. But in focusing all of my efforts in shrinking that part of myself, stuffing it away like an oversized sleeping bag that never quite fits back into its stuff-bag, I accomplished just the reverse, and no matter how small the box became that I locked my ghosts away in, the effort I had to channel into it drained me of the rest of the many identities that make up who I am. This 360, in many ways, pushed me to open that lock box, to throw open lid and release the ugly black slick, to give space to the oily tendrils of silence that I spent so long beating back with my own silence. But here’s the thing. You need oil to paint. You need blackness to add depth to your colors, and the paroxysm-like experience I had when I first mixed these things together, the distress, sorrow fear, pain, bled into joyous pride at what I had produced. Flowers. Real flowers, vibrant and big and heavy and fragrant with a release that only comes after chosen defeat. This 360 asked me to dig up what I had buried, to unlatch that lock box I had been holding closed for so long that had forgotten what it was like not to strain under its fullness. And yes, it was painful, but it was also necessary. Because now that it is out in the open, I can see it for what it is, and finally, truly, begin to chip away at its mass, on my own time, at my own pace, and with purpose and reason. And for that, for having had the space to grow in that way, I am grateful.