A semester of reflection

WrSm:Toni Morrison & Reparations is a class that I didn’t necessarily have high expectations for at the start of the semester as I signed up for the class to fulfill the writing credit for gen-ed, not to learn. However, I was gravely mistaken as the class’s main focus on growth as a critical thinker delighted me and was reflected in the class epigraph. Our class epigraph is a direct quote from Song of Solomon, a book that contains many themes, one of the most meaningful of them being perspective. The epigraph “you just can’t fly on off and leave a body” reflects the power of perspective through the various interpretations characters in the book draw from these words. The epigraph is introduced by Pilot as she tells Milkman a story from her past. Pilot offers her interpretation of the meaning of the phrase as a statement of responsibility “if you take a life, then you own it. You are responsible for it.” ( 222) Milkman believes the quote was directed at her father who said it in the first place “Pilate! He was talking about himself… He was the ‘body.’ The body you shouldn’t fly off and leave.” (349) Pilate and Milkman both interpret the epigraph in different ways. Two different people look at the same phrase and fished out two vastly different meanings from it. Whether one interpretation of this sentence is better than the other is irrelevant. What matters is how people can draw different meanings from the same words as a result of their own perspectives and experiences as this is what makes the epigraph crucial to critical thinking. In my goal setting essay I interpreted the epigraph by applying it to course content to fully realize my goals for the semester. However, I now believe that Interpreting the class epigraph by applying it to myself and my own growth is the best way to self reflect. Viewing my growth and college experience through the lens of “You just can’t fly on and off and leave a body” while growth as a critical thinker is essential, you can’t just neglect past aspects of the type of person you are.

In order to reflect on my growth as a student an understanding of the type of student I was in high school is required. In high school a focus on getting good grades and having a good work ethic was not on my list of priorities. I found myself interacting with my peers and generally being a bit of a class clown. It wasn’t until my senior year where I began to grasp the importance of taking my education seriously so when I arrived at college my grades became my top priority. I found myself regularly studying more in one week of college than I would in a month of high school and I don’t think the margin is even close. Overall this has resulted in a significant improvement of my grades in all my classes but it has come at the cost of reduced social interaction which I used to thrive on in high school. Academic success is important but social engagement is just as important as it has a profound impact on mental health along with overall well being. “You just can’t go on off” is representative of my new emphasis on grades and “leave a body” my transition into a more self contained person. The improved grades provide me with a sense of accomplishment however it has become apparent to me when thinking about this epigraph that I can’t leave the type of person I was behind. I love meeting new people and making people laugh is one of my favorite things to do but I also want to achieve academic success. When reflecting on myself this semester it is clear that I should meet new people through increased social events or by joining organizations, while also focusing an appropriate amount of time on grades in order to maintain my gpa.

The class epigraph can also add value when I use it to reflect on my growth as a writer as the semester progressed. I believe that as the semester went on my ability to formulate strong arguments and to provide evidence for those arguments has vastly improved. This can be seen by analyzing one of my early writing assignments for Song of Solomon where I am asked to connect anything in the book with the idea of a palimpsest. A palimpsest is when something is used or altered in a way that makes it different but still resembles its origin history. If I were to do this assignment now, the first thing that would come to mind for me is the class epigraph, and how it seems to be remarkably relevant when the palimpsest in question is a person. In fact writing about the connection between the epigraph and the palimpsest seems quite obvious. Despite already being introduced to the epigraph I fail to mention it at all in my writing. I instead focused my writing on Milkman and how the hardships he went through as a child result in how he “loses all sense of self identity and self”. While several strong points can be made for this argument, I only briefly mention his nickname and the reason he received it and I do so without citing any strong evidence from the book. I’m looking at my past writing on Song of Solomon not to rip it apart but to gain value from reflecting on my growth. A palimpsest is actually closely related to the next skill that helped improve as a writer, rewriting my essay. After writing my first goal setting essay and giving it to Beth for feedback she highlighted a sentence in my conclusion paragraph and said “this is your thesis”. I was a little confused but I listened to her advice and I rewrote the draft with that as my thesis. When I was finished the essay looked vastly different then the one I first wrote, a Palimpsest. This writing strategy is one that I would have never considered doing at the start of the year, writing one essay is hard enough but two? But after seeing how much it could offer my writing It became a key tool in my essay for this class and helped me to develop my arguments even further. It also gave me the ability to use others’ feedback at an increased rate because I got to hear advice on my paper twice. 

The manner in which I have chosen to self reflect itself shows some form of growth on my behalf. Using the epigraph to reflect on myself this semester shows growth as it is a valuable way to look at my development that I would have never used prior to participating in this class. The epigraph itself isn’t specific to this rather the idea of examining yourself using an outside concept is what is so important. Reflecting on the goals I made for myself this semester and whether I fulfilled them is also related to this idea of outside reflection as the goals were made using the epigraph. My main goal I set for myself was to use the input of others to create new and interesting thoughts and opinions of my own and then apply those thoughts to meaningful topics. I believe I have achieved this goal as I have through diction with my classmates and instructor have created intricate arguments regarding the pieces of literature Song of Solomon and From Here to Equality. Although I have accomplished a lot to achieve inclusive thinking, I still need to continuously work with others and myself to develop new and exciting concepts and perspectives. 

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