English 181 has provided me with newfound skills and abilities that I had not even considered beforehand. Creating this very website was a learning process that I never expected to undergo or need, but forming my digital identity has felt like an accomplishment that I’ll be able to utilize for the rest of my life. Through this online presence, I’ve discovered new mediums and digital tools that I can exploit with proper digital citizenship. Recognizing the concepts of intellectual property, I’ve had the ability to explore new methods to generate my own work. The various Sunday Sketches have encouraged me to step outside of my comfort level and try things I’ve never done before. The image above depicts my work from Sketch 1: Avatar, where I digitally designed and created a personally representative avatar for this website. Through each sketch I found alternative ways to stretch myself. Whether it was digital design, photoshop, drawing, painting, infographics, or photography I composed several pieces of visual work and text in different modes and mediums. The combination of these sketches demonstrate part of both my visual thinking and rhetorical composition over the course of this semester. They have been extremely beneficial toward creatively expressing myself and discovering new techniques and styles to incorporate in my work.
Our first major assignment of the semester came in the form of the literacy narrative, an analysis of the key experiences that shaped the way we read and write. What I turned in was an adequate essay that vaguely touched on my requirement of acclamation from others to enjoy things in my life. I wrote that “I fell in love with not necessarily the imaginative worlds that I’d watch unfold, but mostly the feeling I got when I received praises from the masses about my skills and reading talent” (Original Literacy Narrative). Looking back at it now, this is merely a superficial observation that does little to truly emphasize the experiences in my life that led me to that point. As the semester continued, I was able to explore so many impactful novels about trauma and engage in great discussions that broke through the layers of these texts to get to the heart and raw emotion that each author was able to demonstrate through their stories. I felt inspired by the strength of authors like David Smalls and Tillie Walden who bore their scars and shared their own hardships. So when the time came to create my Literacy Narrative Comic I was able to recognize the importance of honesty and visual thinking in my work to express the true emotional journey. Instead of a surface level story I decided to open up about my past and the traumatic experiences in my childhood that truly drove me toward reading and writing. The emotional abuse of my father forced me to shut down from the world, belittle myself, and crave approval from anywhere I could find it. Constant self-deprecation and silence led me to fall in love with the escape of reading and made me feel as if the only form of expression I could have was through writing. Sharing such personal depths about myself was something that I had previously only done in a diary so presenting all my vulnerabilities to the world was challenging and extremely nerve-wracking, but liberating as well. I was able to sincerely uncover writing as a process as I reflected, edited and redrafted my work into my revised literacy narrative with a better understanding of the purpose and an authentic representation of myself. Now recognizing the importance of writing as a process, I’ll be able to utilize this tool in any kind of writing I complete in the future.
The most helpful tools for critical thinking and reading were the class discussions and the examination of the texts we looked at over the semester. Not only was I able to learn from the graphic novels we explored, but the alphabetic essays were vital in providing new lessons of analysis and evaluation of text. The works by Hillary Chute were especially beneficial to my understanding of comics and assisted me in fully meeting the critical thinking and reading outcome through my tracing pages assignment. From what I gained in the essays inspecting the elements of comics and class discussions, I was able to observe underlying patterns in the images and explain the larger meaning behind them in an analysis of it all. I recognized in my annotated pages of Spinning and Stitches that the authors experimented with duration and motion to allude to the repressed fears that control their lives. With David Smalls for instance, “the fetus is a recurring fear of his that can be seen in this moment as a metaphor for what his growth represents, which is an unknowing horror that is now chasing him through life” (Spinning into Stitches). The continuous emphasis on the single image revealed the importance of the detail and led to a deeper understanding of David’s emotional journey. Furthermore, I used my newly gained knowledge to produce my own argument during my halfa kucha presentation analyzing the representation of trauma and healing in some of our graphic novels. Composing an argument in a new style with constraints that I had never experienced before was quite the learning process. It demonstrated both my critical thinking and rhetorical composition as I investigated the necessary stages of recovery that could be seen in each text. I found throughout all the stories that it is impossible for people to truly recover from trauma in their life until they recognize, talk about, and take actions to deal with both the experiences and the emotions that come with it.
Now that this course is coming to an end and I step back to observe the work that I’ve completed, it’s easy to see the growth and development I’ve gone through as both a writer and person. Throughout my life I’ve lacked confidence in myself and everything I did. The trauma I experienced in my childhood shaped my ability to believe in my own ideas and it can definitely show through the work I produce. This is semester has been the first time that I’ve truly leaned into my work and portrayed an honest representation of myself and my thoughts. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and explore new aspects of my abilities and potential. As the semester continued, I’ve pushed through the barriers of my own head, become much more engaged in both discussion and my own work, and I’ve finally begun to built up confidence for the first time in a very long time. This course has been the first step in adding a conviction in my voice as a writer that I’ve never had, but will continue to utilize in all the writing I do in college and beyond. Similarly to Tillie Walden and David Smalls, my trauma had been the driving force controlling my life for far too long. The process of completing the literacy narrative recognized my trauma, allowed me to begin to deal with it, and put me on the path toward proper recovery. This first year writing class has taught me so much more than merely the learning outcomes. I’ve gained vital writing experience that I will continue to practice in order to improve myself and the work I produce.