English 131: A Challenge That Allowed Me To Grow

IMG_0990I was told that joining the High School Scholars Academy would help me know what it is that I want to do with my life. But I am almost done with this program, and although it has been a great experience, I am still not sure what I want to do with my life. For a lot of people, including me, this causes a lot stress. Luckily, through many lessons I have learned that the best way to combat this uncertainty in life is to try as many new experiences as possible. English 131 has been one of these new experiences in my life this past year as the course has challenged me to read, write, and face many challenges that I would never have done otherwise. The intensity of the novels, the seemingly irrelevance of the snail mail, and publically sharing my work to the class and beyond, has all allowed me to learn more about myself while also challenging me to grow as a person.

Swing Time is a novel that I originally looked forward to read, but, eventually, learned to hate. The density and realism of this novel proved to be something that I almost despised to read. In my own humble opinion, this novel doesn’t provide an escape into another world for the reader, but instead drags them into the boring life of an unnamed narrator. Along with its extremely unsatisfied ending, “She was right above me, on her balcony, in a dressing gown and slippers, her hands in the air, turning, turning, her children around her, everybody dancing” (Smith 453), I was left annoyed that I gave so much effort to finish it. This novel left me angry at the unnamed narrator because she chose to live a life predicated on the decisions of others, which is something that I struggle with in my own life and it pained me to watch someone go through the same motions when I saw the clear solutions to each of her problems. On the other hand, Serafina and the Black Cloak offers the reader a crazy adventure with lovable characters that I thoroughly enjoyed. Reading these two very different novels allowed me to gain more insight on myself, that would not have been possible if I didn’t pick them up. Serafina and the Black Cloak is a very easy read with simple black and white characters. As a critical reader, I enjoyed picking apart the plot for this book much more than Swing Time because not only was the storyline entertaining, but there were many realism errors that I could pick out easily, allowing me to dive deeper between the lines as this book was targeted for a younger audience helping me understand the mind and motives of its author, Robert Beatty.

Originally I had thought that the idea of writing a letter was irrelevant and unimportant, but I came to learn that Snail Mail has allowed me to explore something that I really enjoy. I love to make people laugh, and Snail Mail was another medium I could use to put this to work. I wrote every letter to my friend and classmate Lydia Black, and each one I tried to throw in many cheeky jokes for her to read. I loved it when she would text me about the letter telling me she laughed at it or that she thought my jokes were cute. Now, whether she actually found them funny or not, I have no idea. With today’s technology I still wholeheartedly believe that sending letters in the mail is irrelevant, but regardless I appreciate English 131 for taking me out of my comfort zone to try something I have never tried before and allowing me another opportunity to make someone smile.

Not only did the novels and the snail mail take me out of my comfort zone, but the critical essay I had to write took challenged me as I had to be critiqued by each one of my classmates. I eventually chose the movie Reservoir Dogs as Quentin Tarantino’s first feature film stunned me with how much I truly enjoyed the movie. I wrote my paper and was proud of it, but, per usual, I knew it had its flaws. Nevertheless, I turned it in and anxiously awaited the day it would be reviewed by the class. I know being able to take criticism is an important skill in life so I was very eager to hear what the class had to say. When the day finally came, I told my classmates to really go in on my paper to help me grow as a writer, but I was actually disappointed when the class went over my paper and they said it was great, but offered little useful criticism. I was disappointed because for the first time, English 131 inhibited my ability to grow and become better. I felt that the whole point of the critical essay was to be critiqued by my peers and I believe I was cut short. I was even more annoyed when I found out I had only received an A- on the paper that I was told was a great paper. Although my professor did explain the errors when it was handed back to me, I feel I didn’t receive what the full purpose of the assignment was.

Another aspect of English 131 was the ability to post my works to an online audience. through the use of www.wordpress.com. It provided a direct contrary to the snail mail I have criticized so much providing the relevance of the world that I live in today. It also challenged me by not only giving me a new medium to become familiar with, but also to give me another opportunity to become comfortable with sharing my works with the world. The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation” by Jean M. Twenge offers valuable information about my own generation, “… the more I talked to young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media” (Jean M. Twinge). The world is growing within the palm of my hand and instead of being sad that my generation would rather spend time online than outside, I try my best to adapt to this new world so I can become a leader of it. Becoming comfortable with any new medium online is not only a valuable skill, but a necessary skill to survive in the world changing around me, and I am thankful towards English 131 for showing me another was to share my ideas with the world.

In conclusion, English 131 has had its ups and downs throughout the semester, but it was another challenge that provided many ways for me to grow as a student and adult. Taking this class has helped me grow in the understanding of my self-awareness, and although I still don’t know what it is that I want to do with my life, I firmly believe that English 131 has led me down many paths taking me closer to my calling.

Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Mar. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/.

Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015.

In the novel Serafina and the Black Cloak, a strange girl named Serafina, who has been locked away in the basement of the Biltmore House, encounters an evil monster who has been kidnapping the children of the Biltmore. She is forced to reveal herself to the nephew of the Mr. Biltmore, Braeden, in order to stop the demon from causing anymore harm. But Serafina is forced to battle her own inner demons as she discovers what true friendship is.

Collins, Billy. “Snow Day by Billy Collins.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2001, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46707/snow-day.

The poem “Snow Day” by Billy Collins offers his perspective on the typical snow day. From the town shutting down to the children laughing and playing outside, Billy Collins illustrates his snow day experience within this poem. Not being able to go out out, Collins surrenders to mother nature and decides to stay indoors and relax.

Lucas, Jane. “Streetcar’s Unspeakable Desires.” 31 Jan. 2018.

In this review for A Streetcar Named Desire, Streetcar’s Unspeakable Desires” Jane Lucas offers insight to this story and why audiences enjoy the drama. Elaborating on the many different qualities of A Streetcar Named Desire, Lucas hones in on the relational struggles and how they are relevant to the world today.

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html?_r=0%2C

In the article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” Matt Richtel elaborates on how the world of writing is shifting and the old way of writing is almost dying out. With what some call “standardization”, or the term paper is making students bored because of the lack of creativity that comes along with the perfectly formatted paper. The new medium that is being created, such as blogs, twitter, and other social medias, allows the writer to create in way that is less structured and fun. Students love the direct feedback they have with their audience and that is something the standard paper lacks.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

In the novel Swing Time, by Zadie Smith, an unnamed narrator meets a girl named Tracey and they soon become very close friends. Their relationship grows through their passion, dance. Eventually their friendship grows apart as Tracey is able to keep dancing at a dance school and the narrator is forced to give up her passion. Eventually the narrator finds a job with one of her childhood idles, Aimee, and gets to live the rockstar life through her. Tracey and the narrator’s relationship dies off as they grow older, but it still is a heavy influence on the narrator’s adult life and affects every aspect of it throughout the novel.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Mar. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/.

The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” by Jean Twenge elaborates on the generational differences between the children and young adults of earlier generations compared to the newest generation that seems to be addicted to their phones. Twenge dives deeper on the statistics of the newest generation and how they go out and experience life less seemingly because of the amount of usage on these new devices.


Following Misery

Early in the life of the unnamed narrator she fatefully meets a girl named Tracey through both of their passions, dance. While growing up they would always compete trying to best each other, but when Tracey auditions for the opportunity to chase her dream at a dance school and the narrator is forbidden to audition by her mother, their friendship slowly fell apart. The narrator becomes angry with life and angry at Tracey for chasing the dream she so desires. The jealousy of Tracey chasing the dream that the narrator so wants, creates an unhappiness that stays with the narrator throughout her life.

The childhood relationship between the narrator and Tracey becomes a catalyst for this future unhappiness in the narrator’s life. Tracey is clearly dominant in this unhealthy relationship. Although it is exemplified many times within the novel, one particular case during a friend’s birthday party stands out in particular, “… we had argued over who was to give Lily our mutual present- naturally Tracey had won” (76). The word “naturally” describes the autonomic path that this relationship reverts to, with Tracey being on top. Because of this inferiority that the narrator constantly exists with when compared to Tracey, the inability to audition for the dance school implants jealousy and anger. After these years of constantly being bested, resentment and envy begins to spur against her once closest friend.

Years later, the narrator lands herself a job working for the dance icon and artist, Aimee, who she had looked up to during her own childhood. The narrator and her eventually become very close friends essentially creating the same relationship with Aimee, as she had with Tracey. This inferiority complex begins to brew within the narrator as she sits on the sideline and watches as Aimee enjoys rock star life. Surprisingly it isn’t just the rock star life that still provokes the jealousy within the narrator. Still running into Tracey while going to watch many productions, the covetousness displays itself. “… I envied and could not hope to create in my own body… there were thirteen women dancing in that number but only Tracey’s movements really mattered…” (347). Even years couldn’t take away the jealousy that had been instilled into the narrator’s life.

This unhappiness that has traveled with the narrator throughout her life finally manifests itself when she steals Lamin away from Aimee, who is madly in love with him. While Aimee begins to push the narrator out of her life slowly the pain and resentment from the narrator’s own childhood appear again. In order to stop herself from feeling this pain again she acts first and hurts Aimee by taking away something she loved. Not only did Aimee love Lamin, but the narrator was jealous of the affectionate love Aimee had for him. Before the hurt is placed on her she places it on Aimee by sleeping with Lamin. “… I think we both knew perfectly well that was passion existed between us was directed through the other person to something else, toward Hawa, or toward the idea of being loved, or simply to prove to ourselves our own mutual independence from Aimee. She was really the person we were aiming at with all our loveless fucking…” (421).  This act was not only to hurt Aimee, but also to get back at the anger life has caused her.

The unhappiness and jealousy that was created in the narrator’s life because of not following her true dream manifested itself finally when being taken out of Aimee. Her and Tracey’s relationship planted the seeds for this pain, not being able to dance was the sunlight, and Aimee was the farmer who unknowingly picked the poisonous fruit off of this vine. The novel creates an insight to the misery that is created in life when not following one’s true dreams. If the narrator had followed her own, then maybe pain and resentment would not be common themes within her life.

Work Cited:

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017.


Freestyle Soccer

I’ve always had this weird character defect where if I saw something on the internet that I thought was cool I would obsess over doing that particular thing. UsuaIMG_0101lly these urges only last a week but as I was serious about soccer at the time, the sport Freestyle Soccer caught my eye. I would see these Instagram videos of people doing insane tricks with a ball. The creativity, style, and seeming difficulty of these tricks intrigued me. It amazed me how someone could have complete control over the ball while doing tricks using every part of their body.

At first I had no idea how to do any of the tricks, so I created an account on Instagram featuring other freestylers, but that became very boring very quick. To fIMG_0331ight my boredom I started training on my own. I discovered how difficult mastering each of these tricks was, but quickly became addicted to learning them. I created my own account and quickly became involved in the community, making connections with freestylers from all across the country.

Over the last year and a half I have been training and slowly becoming better. I have created friends and relationships all over the country because of this sport and the community that lies around it. Although I have been training for this amount of time, compared to most I am still barely an amateur, and I need countless more hours of training in my driveway to become one of the greats at this sport.