The power of a song: A freshman experience

“Even my friends and family are drifting away

I feel anxious as time passes by

It feels like I’m all by myself

I hope everything disappears when I’m alone

I hope things disappear like a mirage

I hope things disappear

I hope my damn self disappears

I’m abandoned like this in the world

In this moment I’m drifting away from the sky

I’m falling…”

“So Far Away”- Agust D (Suga of BTS) ft. SURAN (translated)

When I listen to this song it makes me realize that everything I have felt since I got from Thanksgiving break is nothing new. Ever since then I have noticed so many things that started to change and not in the most positive way. My friends became distant and there was so much tension that I honestly didn’t know why things like this are happening. All my hopes of finding friends I can go to feel better have gone out the window and once again the feeling of being alone has come back to haunt me. Because of this, I was no longer motivated to do anything, to make matters worse it’s the end of the semester and I there is no way of stopping now, I have finals to study for and work that needs to be done. But then again, I asked myself, if I don’t have the motivation to do any work, what is the point of doing it if I wouldn’t put my all into it like I did before I left for Thanksgiving break? I felt alone once again in this cruel world and I had started to think that this was all my fault. I felt like I had found the reason why I am not so social anymore. All I wanted was to have friends and enjoy the wonders of college life with them, but I was starting to see that whenever I tried to put in the effort for a “stable” friendship, it all goes downhill. There was no point in crying over people who probably never cared in the first place (or at least that is what I thought), but at the same time I never really put in my part to tell them how I felt because I didn’t want to feel like a “burden”, so you can see how this gets complicated. So I didn’t really know what to feel any more at the time, I couldn’t say that I was completely happy nor was I completely sad, I was just stuck and I didn’t know what to do… At this point, everything was building up and my desperation started to get stronger, knowing very well that holding everything in was not going to change anything, I did the one thing that I never thought I would have the courage to do, which was reaching out for help. It was extremely hard opening up to someone but it actually helped me relieve so much weight off my chest and I for once felt the little bit of hope that was left in me I didn’t know I had.

In the same manner, the way a song can portray a bigger meaning through expressive lyrics like from the song from above, in literature, epigraphs can have the same impact when it comes to stories. Epigraphs are essentially one sentence or set of sentences in a story to introduce or give more meaning to what you are reading to give a sense as to what the author wants you to get out of the story through the basis of interpretation. An example of an epigraph from the book Song of Solomon is “You can’t fly on-off and leave a body”. Within the novel, there is a character that goes by Milkman, we follow his journey of self-discovery by going through many hardships, struggles, and a whole rollercoaster of emotions because of the people around him and the environment he was in, which truly influenced the type of person he was in the beginning. He has gone through this transition from being a man who wanted nothing but to be independent and only focus on himself and mostly having a love/hate relationship with his family, as seen on pages 68-69 in Song of Solomon which states “His action was his alone. It would change nothing between his parents. It would change nothing between them. He had knocked his father down and perhaps there were some new positions on the chessboard, but the game would go on. Sleeping with Hagar had made him generous. Or so he thought. Wide-spirited. Or so he imagined. Wide-spirited and generous enough to defend his mother, whom he almost never thought about, and to deck his father, whom he both feared and loved.” Seeing that Milkman didn’t have the best relationship with his parents, we can see how much of an impact that is bringing onto him, since he never really had that guidance of a father or a mother to inspire him to pursue a good life and make “rightful” decisions, he had to pretty much rely on himself to a better life. However, he doesn’t really know how to do that by himself so he finds himself lost and struggles to find his true self.

Just like Milkman, I am also feeling “lost” in the sense that I don’t really know what I am doing with my life. There are so many days where I question, why am I even here? Why am I feeling this way? For so long I have strived to make the most out of everything, I want to live a happy life with friends and family, to do my best for everything regardless of all these questions that float in my head constantly, but it is almost never like that. There have been multiple times where my overthinking gets the best of me and I lose motivation instantly. Reaching out for help has never been harder, my anxiety and depression have never been darker. But like they always say, within a dark tunnel there will always be a light at the end of it, all I need is to keep my head up and keep going until I reach the end of the tunnel and reach for the light that leads to my true happiness. Coming back to the song from the beginning, in the chorus, it says “Dream, wherever you might be/ It will be lenient/ Dream, you will fully bloom/ After all the hardships/ Dream, your/ beginnings will seem humble/ So prosperous will your future be.” Therefore, I have come to acknowledge that just because my world right now is not the brightest, it is important to acknowledge that these feelings do not last forever. I have the power to do something about it and I won’t be able to do this alone.

That one person who I can always turn to is my mom. My mom has always been there for me and it hurts so much that I can’t tell her everything because I don’t want her to worry more since she already has to deal with my younger siblings and other things. But knowing that my mom always believes in me whenever I don’t believe in myself somehow gives me the motivation to do better and that in the end she will be proud of me and support me through everything I decide to do with my life. I honestly don’t know what I would do if my mom wasn’t present for all those milestones in my life.

Despite having a very rough first semester of college, I can say that I have lots of room to grow. I have definitely learned many things about myself this semester and it is only the start. When I look back at the epigraph and what it means, I can surely say how much it applies to what I am experiencing in life right now. Even for Milkman, although the storyline is not so clear, it is clear enough to see that it did not take Milkman a short amount of time to finally see himself for who he truly is for the first time and to be the person he is meant to be and what it feels like to finally break off these chains that have been holding him back all this time once he realized that his great grandfather “flew”. For instance, in the book, it states “Oh, man! He didn’t need an airplane. He just took off; got fed up. All the way up! No more cotton! No more bales! No more orders! No more shit! He flew, baby. Lifted his beautiful black ass up in the sky and flew on home.” As for the quote, in order for Milkman to realize that it is possible to fly, he had to go through many phases of doubt, hatred, and pain to get to where he got in the end. In terms of the epigraph, he only discovered how to fly because of what he had to go through to realize what it actually means to fly. In the end, I had somehow built up the courage to reach out to my friends to get to the bottom as to why we were becoming distant and talk about what happened that lead to the tension that has built up after Thanksgiving break in the first place. I was a bit doubtful and didn’t think they would want to talk, but I had to tell myself that if I want things to be cleared I had to meet up with them and talk, so I had met 3 of them and the 4th one individually. After a long and deep conversation, it actually turns out that all of us thought the same about each other and it was all just a misunderstanding. We were all feeling down and anxious and we all wanted to reach out to each other but we all thought we were all busy and didn’t want to “bother” each other. This is why I could say the same about me in terms of learning how to fly, reflecting on who I was in the past would just make me stronger, as I leap into these next chapters in my life, it opens new opportunities of what I am capable of doing and unleashing the true potential I never knew I had. All these moments where I had self-doubt and had those instances where I overthink to the point where I feel like giving up, I have to remember that it is ok to feel this way because this would only make me stronger, slowly but surely I am learning how to fly, and once I do I would finally feel free.

Don’t try to escape your past, instead reflect on it and chase towards the future

In literature, the word “epigraph” takes a huge part in introducing and setting important themes that take part in a book or other manuscripts. Epigraphs are most commonly in the form of a short sentence or sentences that can also be seen or interpreted as a metaphor. Although it is technically a short sentence or set of sentences introduced towards the beginning of the book, they can also appear in any part of the book due to the fact that they also tend to have very carefully chosen words that summarizes the theme or set of themes that the reader will encounter as they read through the book which puts the reader to think about what that sentence may mean and how it will apply to what they are reading. An example of how we see this take place is in the novel “Song of Solomon” where the author, Toni Morrison makes her own epigraph to basically set what type of themes she is trying to set which can also be seen in many ways. Thus, enhancing the idea that epigraphs can be interpreted as more than one idea. The epigraph that is present in this novel is, “You can’t fly on off and leave a body”. Although the quote wasn’t really set in the beginning of the novel, it is definitely a perfect way of exemplifying and displaying the theme of “flight”. The term “flight” can be used to describe one of many things, examples include fleeing a situation where you or someone else can be in danger, or it can be just a way of executing an escape from something. Therefore, it is with the term “flight” that I want to focus on when I reflect on myself because even though at one point in my life, I happened to “escape” my dad due to unsafe circumstances and find refuge in a shelter, experiencing what it was like being in that shelter (and many others), I realized that even then I couldn’t run off from history because of all the people in the shelter who happened to have similar experiences like mine.

In regards to history, we can all agree that many people of color had the hardest times growing up as they experienced hatred, discrimination and violence at very young age. Things like this are what leads to very traumatizing things that, in a way, shape how the person grows up thinking. Unlike many fortunate people, I also didn’t really have “the perfect childhood”. My childhood consisted of many things that have scarred and traumatized me in ways that a kid shouldn’t have to experience during the “best times” of their lives. Regardless of these very dark times, I have learned and encountered many things that I probably would’ve learned in my teenage/adulting years. To elaborate a very long story short, there was one point in my childhood where my mom, my older brother and I had to escape my dad due to unsafe circumstances (meaning that my dad was a threat at the time) and we had to go through this whole process of getting into a shelter where we could feel more “safe” while we find another place to live. Even then as a kid (as young as 9-10) I couldn’t help but notice how many more people of color there were other than white people. Based on the quote “From Here to Equality”, on page 29, states “So while there were sharp differences in the black and white perceptions of the role of societal factors in perpetuating racial economic inequality, there was a sharp convergence on the role of alleged cultural-behavioral factors.” Being someone who has experienced what it’s like to live in 3 different shelters, this quote can basically summarize what it was like for me when I lived in these shelters. There were a lot of assumptions that went around people as to the reason why they were there in the first place without knowing what their story was. It was really hard to live in such an environment because I was really scared of who to trust and since I was a little girl at the time it just made it even worse.

Even as a kid I have grown up in a very “messy” household, accounting that my mom and dad both had completely different sets of opinions and ideologies among certain aspects of life. One of the main ones was about people of different races. This was a very controversial topic for my dad because he conspicuously did not hide his racist opinions and his stereotypes of different races and always thought bad of people regardless. But one of the main things he had a problem with were black people. He used to be (yeah, used to be) very racist towards them because he would always make assumptions and make a comment about every little thing they did. When I think about what my dad had said about people of the black community, it made me think about what the quote from “From Here to Equality ” was actually trying to say. I was under the influence of the words from the person I looked up to, I ended up being the “victim” of those ideas and it influenced me on what I tend to hold as my values for a long time even though I knew in my heart that it was wrong. Which brings me back to this quote from “Song of Solomon” on page 55 which states “Let me tell you right now the one important thing you will ever need to know: Own things. And let the things you own own other things. Then you’ll own yourself and other people too.” This quote makes me realize that in order to be perceived as someone who actually takes into consideration the life of others, I need to realize that I have my own thoughts to think about. I have always followed these toxic ideas from my dad to make him happy, but in the end it wasn’t making me happy. It was time for me to take charge and own my personal beliefs and live up to them without having to satisfy or have another person choose for me.

From my perspective, seeing these people in the shelter get discriminated against due to the circumstance of their background, skin color and many other stereotypes that have followed them for many many years, makes me reflect on everything that I have disregarded in my life. And because of these circumstances, since my family was not economically stable at the time along with many other people in the shelter(s). Which brings me to the quote Macon’s daughter Lena said in “Song of Solomon” on page 33 in which she states “What for? Those are white people’s houses,–Who’s gonna be living in them? There are no colored people who can afford to have two houses,” As for Lena, she gave me the idea that because I am not in the best financial situation, I shouldn’t expect much of obtaining necessities because I am a minority. I did not have the best opportunities compared to those people of higher class and things that I never got the chance to do. But it is because of these missed opportunities that I have learned and achieved things that someone of higher class would have never been able to understand. I live by these lessons of my childhood because they made me the person I am today.

Which is why I want to close this reflection with an acknowledgement that will help me improve my knowledge and understanding of the real issues that are happening in the world. In acknowledging these injustices, there could be change in many aspects of society. We are living in a generation where the voices of the people who have been silenced for so long take their chance and speak their voice, including me. The way I have never really focused on myself to explain how much these things actually affected me can also mean that I was also affected by the racial injustices because of still existing systemic racism but I never really acknowledged it. And yes, I can see things from other people’s perspectives, but what is most important is to see these truths through my own eyes as well so that I don’t have to fully depend on other people to have my own way of thinking. It is because I have started to think for myself that I have come more independent and started focusing more on myself than to have mentioned everyone in general. In the end it’s like I have come to say–don’t overthink to think for others when I can overthink to think for myself.