I can. I will.

As my first semester at college comes to an end, I once again find myself facing an obnoxiously bright screen in a dimly lit room, contemplating how I will conquer the challenge of self reflection. I use the word challenge because unlike in my first self reflection piece titled, Conformity and Creativity, I simply called out my high school for the role it played in shaping my pessimistic narrative towards writing in an academic setting. I now must be truthful in the steps I have taken to break free of the avoidant habits I have developed when writing thus far. 

Before entering college I did not anticipate that I would be majoring in English. The confines of my high school education led me to believe that I was a fiercely passionate history lover and I originally expected to go into college majoring in political science. Now don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy a good history lesson paired with a heated discussion and if I was ever to pursue a career in teaching I would easily choose to teach history. Nevertheless, as I reflect, I realize it wasn’t so much the history content that I enjoyed, it was the opportunities within the history classes to voice my moral and political opinions that were enticing. History gave me the safe welcoming outlet to be a free thinker that I truly craved, an outlet that I failed to find elsewhere. This pains me to say now because even though I am only one semester into my college education, I have been presented with a surplus of opportunities to voice my opinions, especially in writing intensive courses based in nonfiction literature. 

When I entered INTD 105, a general education communications course, I was presented with and asked to reflect on Toni Morrison’s epigraph for her novel Song of Solomon. The epigraph, which is given at the beginning of a novel to establish an overarching theme, stated, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body”. At a fundamental level, I believed the epigraph meant that it is important to take accountability for your actions. If you were to literally leave a body behind, there would inevitably be a price to pay whether that be guilt, jail time, or becoming a societal outcast, etc. So when I was asked how the quote, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” related to me, my mind was blank. In my eyes there was nothing to take accountability for. I did what I had to do in high school to secure my place at college, I made my family proud, I had not hurt anybody or left anyone/thing behind. How could Toni Morrison’s epigraph relate to me? 

At the time I did not need a definite answer for how the epigraph related to me, but in the following course lessons I was presented with a few more words to ponder. These words were, “harm, care, and growth.” Once again, I took everything literally pushing the words and what they could possibly mean to the back of my mind. It was not until I submitted my first self reflection essay, Creativity and Conformity, that the epigraph and words we had been repeating in class started to make sense. The reason I could not find a connection between the epigraph and myself was because I was looking at how the epigraph applied to external factors in my life such as my parents, family, friends, and high school.  I came to realize that I needed to apply the epigraph and the words, “harm, care, and growth,” in how I treated myself thus far. What was the overarching theme in my life? 

Now that I had a new understanding of how I should interact with the course epigraph, I started looking at the common trend in my writing intensive courses. I was newly self aware of the impacts high school had on my attitude towards academic writing and deep down I wanted to do better for myself. I wanted to write even when I felt I couldn’t, find ways to include my voice in my work and break the habit of abandoning written works that I felt took too much out of me. I wanted to embrace the struggle that came with producing well written papers. I wanted to stay focused. I wanted to tend to the body. I was tired of flying off. So why did I keep on flying? 

My struggle to buckle down and push through writing in academic environments creeped its way into all of my writing courses. I had stopped attending my INTD 105 course, almost completely losing the opportunity to self reflect. If it was not for a caring Professor McCoy who anchored me back to the course, I probably would not be writing this piece today. In my poetics class, which covered philosophy and poetry, I was always engaged up until I faced an essay I lacked confidence in. I slowly began to skip classes because I was not caught up with the essay that remained overdue for a very long time. Finally, my creative writing class. This class tested me on creative skills I had little to no practice in and my lack of confidence mixed with my satisfaction with doing the bare minimum in that course left me feeling like I had gained nothing from the course.

Up until this point, I did not realize it was never that I could not handle the course work given to me, it was the lack of confidence that prevented me from reaching my full potential. In high school I denied myself the opportunity to practice well written papers, and was denied constructive creative writing opportunities. This mixed with the fact that I was more comfortable articulating my ideas verbally rather than on paper started to lead to intrusive thoughts such as, “this is too much work, I can’t do this, I’ll finish this later,” that became so familiar that I was unable to recognize I was holding myself back. 

By acknowledging the power I allowed my intrusive thoughts to have over me, I was able to return back to the words,“harm, care, and growth.” For me, harm looked like doubting myself instead of trying. This meant telling myself I could not meet the standard of what a professor was asking for. I wanted to be a perfectionist so instead of trying to do my best,  I sometimes didn’t  try at all. Even when I did try, I allowed myself to feel like the work I produced was not good enough. This repetitive cycle of perfectionism and self doubt played into me missing due dates and classes which only perpetuated the cycle of self doubt. However, it was not all bad. Even in the moments where I wanted to quit, abandon an assignment, I still cared. I showed my care through responding when professors reached out to me asking if I was okay and why I did not show up to class. I did this by taking initiative and reaching out to schedule office hours to get feedback on my work. I sought out clarity and reassurance on my assignments, and when I did attend these office hours I got what I came looking for. I was told the only thing stopping me from succeeding was me. 

The reassurance I got from my professors helped and I am one thousand percent grateful for all the care they have given me. By showing care for myself in attending office hours and asking for help, I was able to publish my first work online. It felt amazing to receive love from my mother, father, and friends who all read the work I created. I was also able to score a 94 on the essay I was nervous about and a 91 on the finals. As for my creative writing class, I still did end up submitting work not of the highest quality, but I left knowing that I could and should have done better by taking more initiative.

Before I go, I would like to include a scene from Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon that I found interesting. In the novel characters Milkman and Guitar Banes, who were once best friends, randomly stumble upon a peacock. After realizing the peacock escaped from the zoo, Milkman and Guitar decide to capture the peacock because, why not? But before rushing off to capture the escaped bird, Milkman asks, “How come it can’t fly no better than a chicken?” Guitar then responds, “Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” (Chapter 8, “Song of Solomon.”) Throughout my process of self reflection I have come to realize that like the peacock, I have weighed myself down by allowing my defeatist attitude to control my work ethic. Moving forward I will use more words of affirmation to remind myself that I can succeed in anything as long as I put in the effort and keep myself motivated. I know there will be times I fall short of my goals and may want to give up, but I refuse to continue allowing myself to tell myself I can’t. I can. I will. 

The responsibility of your problem

through line: You are responsible for the problems you create, and a person cannot just run away from their problems.

We’ve spent the semester learning about the injustices experienced by African Americans in the United States. The two main books we have read are From Here to Equality by William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. From Here to Equality is a nonfiction book that examines the political history of the black reparations’ movement, the influence of slavery on the country’s progress, and the United States unwillingness to confront racial economic in equality. It also puts forth a proposal for African American reparations. Song of Solomon is a fictional book that follows the life and struggles of a character named Macon Dead III, also known as Milkman, an African American man living in Michigan. Through this main character, we see the problems African Americans faced in the early 19th century.  In this book, we also meet a character named Pilate, who is Milkmen’s aunt. She is known for her loving and selfless nature, even though she suffers from the same racism that has embittered Milkman. Through this character, we are given the course epigraph. “You just can not fly on off and leave a body.” She is told this by her dead father, Macon, after the birth of her child. She was feeling depressed and lonely after the birth, then “Clear as day, her father said, “Sing. Sing,” and later he leaned in at the window and said, “You just can not fly on off and leave a body.”. she interprets the message literally after receiving it. She sings to make herself feel better, then returns to the body she had left behind. Even though the book references an actual body, as readers we are able to interpret Macon’s words in many ways. Through the semester, we have been using his words as our course epigraph to set the theme for the class. We were tasked with giving our own meaning to his words. An interpretation that could be taken from his words is that a person cannot escape from their problems. This means a person could not and should not get away from their issues. Just like how Pilate says “He meant that if you take a life, then you own it. You are responsible for it.” You are responsible for the problems you create, and a person can not just run away from their problems.

Pilate’s words help strengthen the essays main topic of taking responsibility for the problems one creates. Many people need to take her words by heart in both the books we read through the semester and in real life. In the book From Here to Equality, the people who should follow her words are the United States government. Throughout the book, we are given examples of the United States government creating problems for the African American people and then showing the unwillingness to fully take responsibility for the problems they cause to the African American community, which has led to more problems for this community in the long run. Their solution to the problem is given through reparations to the African American community, but most of the reparation did little in solving the general issues of racism in the United States. This book shows a great example of what happens when a person or organization does not take full responsibility for the problems they have caused. In the book Song of Solomon, we are given the opposite conclusion where the character does take responsibility for the issues he has created. In the beginning, Milkman is an egotistical young man who makes problems for himself. One of the problems he creates is with a character named Hagar. The problem with Hagar is that when Milkman breaks up with her, he does it over a Christmas note instead of face to face. He does this thinking it would be less harmful, but this causes the opposite effect.  She tries to kill him every chance she gets. Not stopping till she dies of a “broken heart.” At the end of the book, when Milkman goes to see Pilate and tells her about his “inheritance,” he is forced to take responsibility for the death of Hagar. His taking of responsibility is represented by him holding on to the hair of Hagar.

Just like how the word helps Milkman, it can also help the reader of the story. I am also a person who needs to take Pilate’s words to heart. The problem for me was procrastination, laziness, and lack of motivation to work. At the beginning of the semester, I procrastinated and did not put my total effort into my work. When I first applied to college, I thought it would be just like high school with its many rules and strict attitude, but when I got here, I was surprised by the more relaxed attitude here. The first month of the semester, I grew to relax more than I did in high school. I found that I had more free time to myself, was able to hang out with friends more, and sleep in. The work was a little tricky in college than in high school, but it was not that much, and the assignments were always far from each other. These factors led me to become more relaxed with my work, causing me not to put my total effort into my work. This caused my work to suffer and not show my full capabilities.  I was not doing well in some of my classes. Instead of taking responsibility for my actions, I blamed this problem on a lack of time or distractions surrounding me. It was not until I realized that the problem was not the things around me but myself. This meant that the only thing causing me harm was my own action and attitude. Once I was able to take responsibility for my actions, I was able to fix the problem I was having and put more effort into my work. This allowed me to do better with my work and succeed in my classes. Taking responsibility allowed me to become a better person, student, and teammate. Taking ownership and responsibility for your problems is an essential part of anyone’s growth as a person. Essentially, this implies recognizing your responsibility in your own life.

I was able to take responsibility for my problem and was learn from it. This lesson was important in part the insistence of GLOBE’s desire that Geneseo students have the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and viewpoint throughout time. Globe meaning Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education is a framework for developing and measuring a comprehensive student experience at Geneseo.  Taking responsibility for one’s problems does fit in this framework of helping develop a comprehensive student experience at Geneseo because it helps improve the overall student experience at Geneseo. Once a person is able to take responsibility for their problems, they are able to put more care into their work and the overall community at SUNY Geneseo. Being responsible for the problems you create also connects with the Geneseo Learning Outcomes. It helped show the skills a student must demonstrate at Geneseo. These skills include Critical Thinking by thinking logically and trying to solve your individual problems, Leadership and Collaboration by being able to learn from past mistakes and improve upon them, and Creativity and Creative Thinking by being able to use creative ideas to solve the problem.

Using the course epigraph “You just can not fly on off and leave a body” and Pilate’s words of taking ownership and responsibility of your problem, this essay shows two examples of what happens when a person does and does not take responsibility for their problems. The first example shows that if a person or organization does not take responsibility for their actions, this only leads to more problems in the long run. Causing more harm in the future. The second example shows the opposite of the first example. It shows how a person is able to grow and change once they accept responsibility. I was procrastinating and not putting forth my entire effort at work. Taking responsibility enabled me to succeed in life and be scholarly. I solved my situation after I accepted responsibility for my conduct. The Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education is a framework for establishing and assessing a holistic student experience. Taking responsibility for one’s difficulties fits into this paradigm. When a person accepts responsibility for their problems, they are able to devote greater attention to their task. Taking responsibility is a necessary action in one’s life, and once a person is able to accept the problems they created, they are able to grow as a person.

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.

From your lowest point to your proudest moment

When entering new and often challenging environments many of us feel the need to hold on to what we have become accustomed to in our more familiar environments. Oftentimes this is met with even more challenges as we are encouraged to let go of past experiences and feel the need to conform completely to our new lives. There are evils in both of these ways of thinking. For one we need to be able to grow and adapt to new surroundings. And on the other hand, you should not have to let go of who you are and what has shaped your life so far. Life is all about finding balance. “I told you. Numbers. Balance. Ratio. And the earth, the land” Finding balance is a major theme in both Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and in From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century by William A. Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen. Song of Solomon’s epigraph “You just can’t fly on off and leave a body” means to me that you carry your experiences, good or bad with you throughout every stage in your life. From your lowest point to your proudest moments you can not separate those versions of yourself. In past essays, I have asked the question, if your body is the core of who you are, how can you ever get up and leave? And what does it mean to not be able to leave your body, does this mean you can never fully change? I argue that to grow as a person and to move past traumas you can’t simply escape them, you have to accept that they are a part of you. One can not fully change everything about your past but if you can learn to reflect from what you’ve learned you can grow over time.

Where we’ve been

This past summer I had found myself at a low point with my mental health. I have always been very conscientious of my health especially my mental health so this summer when things had gone out of my control I was devastated. I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and yet I have always been able to manage on my own. Two years ago I decided to get a therapist who I have now become very close to. My mental health was up and down but never too much to handle. July 17th, 2021 began the worst three months of my life. Imagine yourself in a pool, trapped below the water. You can hear everyone that’s above water clear but you can’t for the life of you get above water. There are now two worlds. Above the water where you used to live and breathe with everyone else. And then there is underwater. You are now living underwater unable to fully commit, or feel, or breathe. Depersonalization or derealization disorder involves a persistent or recurring feeling of being detached from one’s body or mental processes, like an outside observer of one’s life (depersonalization), and/or a feeling of being detached from one’s surroundings (derealization). I had felt like I had left my body. For three months of my life not only did my life full stop but so did the lives of my loved ones. Both my parents, my older sister, my therapist, and my best friend all dropped everything to watch me full time.

I would like to argue that one of Milkman’s lowest points in his life was what he did to Hagar and how that affected not only him but his loved ones. I believe that this bad behavior had stemmed from his childhood and other early bad behaviors. At the beginning of Song of Solomon, it goes back and forth between his father’s life and Milkman’s life. Through this, we can get a better grasp on just how the milkman had found himself in a position where he couldn’t help but hurt people. One thing that is worth examining is his overall treatment of women. He used Hagar until he didn’t need her anymore which led her to feel completely abandoned and in turn, she turned to rage and violence against Milkman. Looking back on his childhood he was over breastfed, this is how he got his nickname. He had used his mother. Even though his mother Ruth had chosen to breastfeed him for much longer than necessary he still became dependent on her. He had become dependent on women and not in a grateful way. He taught himself with the help from his father and his abuse of the women in his home, to look at women as coveted and useful tools that can be thrown out when not needed anymore. Including the events that led to Hagar’s death.

The idea of land and freedom held out a powerful allure for African Americans. As a result, thousands of slaves absconded from their owners and reached the British lines. Other African Americans escaped pursuing other opportunities for freedom, such as migrating to Florida (a Spanish possession), settling with Native groups, creating their communities on the fringes of American society, living as free people in the north, or migrating after the war to other countries. From Here to Equality’s chapter “Roads Not Taken in the Early Years of the Republic” begins with an examination of the steps taken by whites to harden the legal definition of “slave” in colonial America, making it a permanent condition. Enslaved African Americas were stripped of all rights, isolated, and differentiated from other groups of people. “Black enslavement could have ended with the making of the new ­nation.” Americans were given the chance to restart after the Revolutionary War. this was their chance to begin to repair the damage that they had done to the African American community and instead, they did nothing to help them. In 1776, approximately 25 percent of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the thirteen colonies were black, about 500,000 people. The first post–Revolutionary War census, conducted in 1790, indicates that over 90 percent of blacks in colonial North America were enslaved and a mere 8 percent were free. There were as many enslaved persons as there were free colonists in Virginia, and there were twice as many enslaved persons as there were free colonists in South Carolina; slavery was practiced in every one of the thirteen colonies.

Where we’re going

At the root of the words, repair and reparations can be the same thing, much like harm and care. But in context, it is very important to understand the difference, because those differences matter and affect other people. I was not in a position where I could completely repair the damage of those three months. I realized that that would be my life forever; however, I did get better. It took a long time, a lot of help from my loved ones, lots of sessions with my therapist, a couple of doctor’s appointments, and a new prescription but I got through one of the darkest moments in my life. Above all of this, I needed to learn how to handle this new version of myself. I was now a person had cant always jump back into life when things go wrong. Going to Geneseo was terrifying. I was still dissociated and I didn’t know anyone and of course, in the state that I was, I couldn’t always tell what was real and what was fantasy. Ironically I was not able to fly off and leave my body although that was exactly how my brain had made me feel. To get back into my body, I shifted my focus to school, specifically this class. I found that having a space to communicate with other students regularly was crucial in my success in not only this class but in finding my place at Geneseo. Having a ten to fifteen minute time cut out of class to talk with other students and hear what they had to say and how they had interpreted the lesson helped me in not only understanding others’ points of view but also in understanding my point of view.

Milkman had some attempts at reparations but only after Hagar collapses into a deep illness and dies. Hagar’s death can be traced to this cycle of flight and abandonment, by not only Milkman but Milkman was her last straw in a way. In her frantic attempts to improve herself physically for Milkams love, she gets ill and dies. Hagar thinks that she can break the cycle of abandonment only by transforming herself into a physically attractive woman and luring Milkman back. She had gone crazy after he left her and dies as a result of her exhaustion. Hagar loses her struggle precisely because she does not believe that she is deserving of love. Milkman understands that he must pay his dues for causing Hagar’s death. Part of this debt is having to carry Hagar’s belongings, just as Pilate carries what she believes is the old white man’s bones because she considers herself guilty of taking his life. Milkman carries the box of Hagar’s hair that Pilate gives him. In his willingness to do so he expresses his respect for Hagar’s deep love for him but also demonstrates ownership of her life. That is, he is now willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for his role in Hagar’s death. In doing this he can start his “rebirth”. The most important aspect of this rebirth is Milkman’s restored faith in flight, which he had lost as a child, which redeems him culturally and spiritually.

Something that is often missing from “reparations talk” is a specific plan for repairing past tragedies. One of the things that were considered missing in the respiration movement was a detailed program of reparations for black Americans. They had called upon the U.S. Congress to assert leadership and authorize payments to be made by the U.S. government. Many atrocities, indignities, and micro-and macro-aggressions have occurred in the well of American racism. “While it makes complete sense to seek recompense from clearly identified perpetrators when the entire political order is complicit, it is not sufficient for A Program of Black Reparations to bill individual perpetrators. The invoice for reparations must go to the nation’s government.” The U.S. government, as the federal authority, bears responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining, and enabling slavery, legal segregation, and continued racial inequality. Specifically, the invoice should go directly to the U.S. Congress, the legislative branch of the national government. The work for reparations has begun and the accomplishments are significant. That being said one of the major themes in _From Here to Equality_ is that they are not looking to “repair” but to find “reparations”. Meaning they can’t repair or fix the atrocities but can only help mend and heal those who are still affected every day.

Final self reflection

My first semester of college has changed me a lot as a person and a student. I have had to change my habits a lot while being here whether that be keeping my room clean for my roommate or having to keep in mind how writing in college requires more thought and care than what I did in high school. The course epigraph, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” from Song of Solomon taught Milkman, the protagonist, that we can’t run away from our problems and act like nothing ever happened because the problems will follow us. They will eat us alive until we step back and address the problem you are dealing with. My interpretation of the course epigraph now would be that I can’t throw myself fully into my new school and life without taking the time to step back, relax and make sure that what I am doing is healthy for me rather than causing me more stress and anxiety. The harm and care portion of this course brought me to that conclusion. My grades are probably the most important thing to me while being at college and I pride myself on having good grades and always doing the best I possibly can. I have come to realize that I have the ability to put too much pressure on myself to maintain good grades and the efforts I make, while I am putting care into my coursework, are harmful to me and my mental health in the long run. This experience has become eye opening to me in my first semester and I feel like I have the ability to connect it to many parts of this course.

My view on the course epigraph has been given a whole new meaning since the beginning of this semester. In my first goal setting essay, I said, “you cannot move on with life and forget about everything you have left behind,” (Goal-setting essay). While I still feel this to be a true interpretation, I have now realized how my views have changed throughout the first semester of college. It is important to not forget everything we left behind, but it is even more important to take a step back and prepare yourself for the changes you are about to face. As I said before, Milkman realized that we cannot move forward with our life until we address the things that are holding us back. During the story of Song of Solomon, Milkman and Guitar see a peacock and are talking about it. When Milkman asks why it can’t fly very well, Guitar says, “Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down,” (Morrison). The message I received was one of success. If you want to succeed, you need to find the best way to do so and get rid of any of the negativity you face. My negativity was the stress I put on myself time and time again that prevented me from reaching my best abilities during this semester. I put so much pressure on myself to get the best grades I possibly could, and I definitely could have achieved that in a much healthier way than I did. I would spend hours a day studying for a test that was a few days away. I would stay up all night the day before just to cram for a few extra hours. It may seem helpful at the time like I need to do this studying in order to perform the best, but in the long run I was absorbed with stress and anxiety. It affected my mental health greatly on top of the fact that I am already living a new life with people who I haven’t known for more than a few months. It was a big adjustment in general and adding that extra unnecessary stress into my life did more harm than good.

While I did experience many hardships in my first semester of college, I was also able to grow from the experience. Milkman was always focused on the past rather than the future, “It was becoming a habit-this concentration on things behind him. Almost as though there were no future to be had” (Morrison). I often found myself guilty of doing the same thing when I didn’t do as well on a test as I thought I should have, and it would affect my performance even more. I thought that even though I was so stressed all of the time, what I was doing would help me in the long run. Over the semester I grew to realize that overworking myself, while it occasionally may help my grade, does more damage to my mental health than any benefits it gave me and focusing on the past did nothing but stop my success in the future. I would stay up too late studying and be exhausted every morning, leading me to not do as well in my classes as I was capable of. I wouldn’t eat as much as I should. I would work out to try and relieve some of my stress but working out and not eating enough is never a healthy combination. I’ve grown to realize that what I tried the first half of this semester wasn’t going to work for me and wasn’t the best possible way for me to achieve what I wanted. I began to study more in advance for my tests. I made sure that I ate meals because good studying isn’t done when we have no food to fuel the brain. I continued to work out at the gym at school, but I no longer did that on an empty stomach, so it was more beneficial to me than hurtful. I started caring for myself rather than thinking I was taking care of myself and actually causing harm. My stress levels didn’t fully go away which can be expected by a first-time college student experiencing a lot of new changes, but they decreased significantly. I believe that the growth I endured during my first semester made me a better student and person as a whole.

Geneseo as an institution prides itself on the idea that from the very beginning students should, “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook overtime” (Nov. 19 Class Notes), and I believe that my experience this semester proves that. I began the semester off by doing what I thought would work best for me with study techniques and the way I was living in general. As the semester progressed, I realized that what I had been doing was no longer working for me and decided that I had to change my techniques. I took a step back from throwing myself head on into college life and thought about how what I had been doing to produce the outcome I was receiving was affecting me and whether it was helpful or beneficial. I had to change my ways. I could no longer wait till the last minute to get my work done or decide to cram a few days before my test and be fine. I had to become more responsible and put more time and effort into my work. Once I began to do that, the results I was getting reflected my efforts. My grades on my final exams this semester were better than any grade I got all year because I started studying 2 weeks in advance instead of a few days. Each day I would spend a few hours on each subject that I had a final in so that by the time the finals arrived, I was prepared and all I had to do was go over a few key concepts. I was well rested before each final as well which made a big difference in my performance. As in From Here to Equality, where “reparations” were made to slaves and families of slaves who lost so much, I made reparations to my mental health and my grades by taking different approaches and trying new things.

Throughout the duration of this first semester, I have grown a lot as a student and a person. I experienced a lot of harm, mistaken for care that I was putting upon myself. The long nights, bad eating habits, and hours and hours of studying that I thought was me caring about my grades and success as a first-year college student was actually hindering my experience and causing me harm. As a result of this though, I was able to grow and realize that what I was doing wasn’t beneficial to me and my success at all. I was able to step back, see how what I was doing was affecting me, and make the change that needed to be made in order to make me as successful as possible. Milkman’s interpretation of the course epigraph, “you can’t just fly on off and leave a body” (Song of Solomon), was that you have to take responsibility for your actions if you ever want to move forward. This gave way to my interpretation which I believe truly did help me this semester. In order to be the best version of myself, I can’t throw myself straight into the fire of college and wing it as I go. I need to step back, look at how I am handling myself, and make sure that it is helping me rather than hindering me.

Responsibility and abandonment

Before returning to Geneseo in the fall of 2021 as a sophomore, I completed the task of reading through the syllabi for my upcoming courses. When I approached the syllabus for INTD 105, a first year seminar that I would be taking as a second year student, it occurred to me that this course would focus its energy on the growth of the students in the class. The course epigraph, a quote from Song of Solomon that would suggest the theme of the course, immediately caught my attention. The epigraph for this semester’s course is, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body” – Toni Morrison. At first glance, this sentence was powerful to me and sparked my interest in finding out the context behind it. To me, I immediately correlated the epigraph with the harmfulness of abandonment. When I got to the first day of INTD 105, Dr. Beth McCoy introduced the syllabus to the class as a whole, including the course epigraph. She explained how that sentence would be relevant to our class from that day forward. From that day on, I have been using the epigraph as well as the other important course concepts, not only in INTD 105, but in the rest of my courses and outside of academics. The course epigraph has helped me grow not only as a student but as a person due to its influential message of owning up to your personal responsibilities.

As a second year student at SUNY Geneseo, I have not had a ‘normal’ educational experience in two years. My senior year of high school was cut short due to the covid pandemic, leading my first year at college to be modified in a sense. Having to wear masks everywhere,

restrictions placed on social experiences, and having half of my classes online was not ideal for my growth as a college student. These setbacks hindered my ability to hold myself accountable to all of my school work and responsibilities as a first year student. Generally, my approach to my education was not where it should have been, which needed to shift for my second year at Geneseo. When I came back to start the 2021 fall semester, I knew that I needed to hold myself accountable to my educational obligations. Even though this year has not been normal compared to past years, I have more responsibilities than I have ever had. All of my classes are in person, the workload is heavier, and my classes are progressing in difficulty. As well as being a student at Geneseo, I am also an athlete as a member of the Track and Field team where I have many responsibilities as well. This year we have normal scheduled seasons, meaning I am practicing everyday throughout the whole year. So, I am not only occupied with more school work, I have less time in my day to complete it. I knew these were going to be the circumstances for my sophomore year of college and I needed to shift my way of approaching academics, but I was not sure of how I would change my outlook on my school work. Fortunately, the course epigraph, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” gave me a new perspective on how to apply myself to my responsibilities as a second year student athlete at Geneseo. 

When Beth first introduced the syllabus to our class, she explained how the epigraph would be an integral part of our course throughout the semester. She also asked us to think about what we thought the quote meant to us at that point in time. Since we would be reading Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison for this class, the epigraph would play an important role for us. When we were asked to think about what the quote meant to us, I immediately thought of abandonment. At the time I did not know the context of the quote, whether there was an actual body that was being left or not, but I did know that leaving that “body” was harmful. I associated the quote with the importance of fulfilling your personal responsibilities. Because we had not yet explored the quote in its context, this made sense to me as it could be an ethical theme for our course. As we went on in the semester, the course epigraph continued to be present in our studies. We began to read Song of Solomon for the course, piecing together what the epigraph meant to us.

Throughout the book, flight is mentioned multiple times, both literally and symbolically. In each of these occurrences, flight is used as an escape from adversity. In chapter one, an insurance agent, Robert Smith, jumps from the top of the hospital wearing a pair of wings, taking flight for a brief moment before falling to his death, escaping his responsibilities that we learn more about later in the book. Then, scattered throughout the rest of the book, characters including Milkman and Pilate, often mention flying away from hard situations in a metaphorical sense. At the end of the book, Pilate is shot by Guitar as Milkman is next to her. Milkman realized how special Pilate was as she was dying because of her ability to fly. As he is kneeling next to Pilate as she is drifting towards death, Milkman grasps onto the realization that Pilate is special, “Now he knew why he loved her so. Without ever leaving the ground, she could fly” (pg. 336). He became aware of how Pilate was capable of “flying” without leaving anything behind.

When the epigraph is first mentioned in Song of Solomon, it is explaining Pilate’s dilemma after giving birth to her daughter. The father of Pilate’s child was not in their life after their daughter was born because of the advice he gave to Pilate. When Pilate was a young girl, her brother and herself ran away from home after their father was murdered and killed a man in a cave out of self defense. She felt guilty about this and her child’s father understood this. He gave her the advice of “you can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” causing Pilate to return to the cave as an adult and collect the bones that were still present. The last time the epigraph was mentioned was when Pilate had Milkman in her basement after he killed her granddaughter, Hagar. As Milkman is locked in the cellar, he is thinking about what Pilate had mentioned to him about flying off and leaving a body. He realizes that her way of thinking is all wrong as she is not actually carrying the bones of the man that she killed, but the bones of her own father. Milkman tells Pilate this and she is shocked. She realizes that she left the body of the man whose life she took and was carrying the body of her father who she missed dearly. After she comes to realize this, she leaves the room and returns with a box of Hagar’s hair to give to Milkman, so he has a part of the body that he killed.

Based on the context of where the quote, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body” is located in Song of Solomon, I had come to realize that in a literal sense, it means exactly what it says. Because both Pilate and Milkman had taken the life of another person, they needed to have a part of their body with them as a sort of atonement for taking their life. In a metaphorical sense, I have come to believe that the epigraph means that you cannot abandon or forget the things that you have done in the past and that you have to carry those experiences with you and grow from them. 

The interpretation of the course epigraph is deep in many senses, but is applicable to this INTD course and academics in general. In our course, there are many course concepts that go along with the course epigraph, including acting in good faith and caring for accountability to the course, yourself, and your peers. Using the meaning of the epigraph that I have established for myself, not abandoning past experiences and responsibilities and growing from them, I have been able to connect all of the course concepts and used them in all of my academic courses this semester. Because of the meaning that I have correlated to the epigraph, I have connected this meaning to the rest of the course concepts in order to hold myself accountable to all of my responsibilities, academically and personally. Having these notions in place this semester have helped me grow as a student by compelling myself to complete all of my work in a timely, effective, and good faith manner. 

Overall, taking this course and applying its epigraph to my academics has improved my role as a student tremendously. “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” the powerful driving force in our class this semester has more influence than one would assume based on its dynamic message of staying with your responsibilities and the discouragement of abandoning them.

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. 

More than a grade, a self reflection

Thankfully, the school semester has come to an end. This entire semester itself was an extremely new challenge for me and it also opened my eyes a lot. Transitioning from having my entire senior year and junior year through zoom and going to in person classes was all new for me. I haven’t remembered waking up so early to get ready to go to classes in person for almost two years. There have been quite a few experiences that have happened to me not only in this class, but in all my other classes in general and just the entire semester as a whole.

Now thinking back after this semester, there are definitely a lot of things that I wish I would’ve done differently. When the semester first started, I was so excited and I had such a flow and rush of energy ready to start classes. I had read some of the syllabi beforehand and took note of important things and due dates and assignments, and many more. I had such a high motivation for everything at this time. This was within only the first few weeks. I also impulsively joined a bunch of things and this was something that I definitely regret and you’ll see why as I get further into the essay. Having this huge spark of motivation lasted for a while, I was on top of everything and I went to class regularly and I was in a good headspace.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last too long for me. As we got a bit later into the semester, I noticed how I started slipping and I felt a little lost of what I was doing with myself physically and mentally. I wasn’t as attentive as I was before when it came to paying attention in class, I’d get easily distracted and just go into my own world and sometimes I wouldn’t show up to some of my classes for days and eventually weeks. I somewhat stayed on top of my work in certain classes, but not all.

The motivation I had in the beginning had faded so fast and I was so confused because I was so excited to start this semester and tap into new things and experiences. Everything just started becoming too overwhelming for me and I felt like I couldn’t really keep up. Along with suffering physically and emotionally, my grades also started to slip and that’s where I knew I messed up. For me, grades have always been a huge part of my life. Grades determine how I portray myself and how I see myself, for instance if I get just a single bad grade on one of my quizzes or assignments I tend to get sad and upset, and overall just disappointed. The thing is though, none of this pressure to have great grades came from my parents. My mom was proud of me no matter what as long as she knew that I did my best and tried my hardest, I had put this pressure on myself because I wanted to do good and I wanted to succeed. I’ve always tried to strive for being the best, so that’s why grades hold importance to me. And coming from being a straight A student in high school and getting barely passing grades in college it did something to me and it made me start viewing myself differently.

I’d have many instances where I’d just think to myself if I’m really smart and if I should keep going and sometimes I would doubt myself and think that it wasn’t really worth it. My grades came out to be terrible, it was either barely passing or it was a satisfactory grade. After receiving some of these grades I couldn’t help but think that I did this to myself. I had a bunch of bad habits that I picked up during my time here in college. I’d put stuff off to the last minute, or I just wouldn’t do some assignments at all, I’d pull all-nighters to study for an exam or quiz just to end up not passing it the next day, or I’d prioritize some classes over others. For example, I did this with INTD which I’m not proud of and I’m glad that Beth was an understanding professor. I told her that what I was doing was intended to be done on purpose, and I was struggling terribly in my other class that I put so much effort and focus into that one class all my grades started to suffer with me and looking back now, It’s something that I heavily regret because if I had managed my time efficiently I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Even though my grades this semester are extremely terrible, and it’s more than likely that I’m going to have to retake some of the courses I want to use this break and this time to help figure out what my intentions and plans are for next semester. And I want to focus on what I did wrong and where I went wrong and how I shouldn’t do it to myself again. I also want to be more efficient with my time and not prioritize one class over all the others because looking back from this, it was one of the biggest mistakes I could’ve made. I want to use the spring semester as a fresh start for myself not only academic wise but also social wise. I did notice that in some instances, I tended to be closed off and I wasn’t really that close with many people in some of my classes. I feel like if I were to be close with a good amount of people, it would help me in the long run. I’ll have people to study with, someone to go to incase I need help on an assignment and the teacher confuses me even more, or just some else to talk to about the class itself. I have many plans for myself in the spring semester, and even though fall was not my best I know it doesn’t define who I am as a person. I know I can do better, and I will do better.

Untitled

Song of Solomon is a novel that starts with a death, ends with a death, and details the life of a bewildered, ignorant protagonist in between. The character of Milkman spends most of the book stumbling blindly around fictitious circumstances surrounding actual historical events, while characters like Guitar and Hagar are used to represent the actual struggles that surrounded segregation. Milkman at all but a few points is unaware of how poorly others are being treated because of his father’s wealth, and this shows through in his interactions with Guitar, and this is eventually why their friendship sours. The course epigraph, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body”, represents a few different ideas throughout the book, but the one that is returned to most is the idea that even when reparations are in good faith, one can’t ignore the crime done. This is seen when Milkman tries to leave Hagar the first time, and she is so distraught she feels the need to stalk him. When Macon Sr. refuses to forgive his wife for her father’s actions, and her inability to part with the dead man. Most importantly, the idea of being able to forgive and forget is the dividing ideology between Milkman and Guitar.

Guitar experienced horrible things from a young age and was introduced to the idea that apologies can’t always reverse the harm that was done. Milkman never experienced a significant enough loss in his youth that this idea could be imparted on him, this is what leads to the fracture in their friendship. From a reader’s point of view, it might be easier to condemn Guitar and glorify Milkman for the way that he sees the world, but it is important to understand why Guitar thinks the way that he does. By the time that he decides that the only way to combat oppression is with the eye-for-an-eye policy of the Seven Days, he has already received more harm than any one person ever should have to suffer. I don’t mean to condone his actions, but it is important to see him as a character in pain and not just a vengeful plot device. That is something that stuck with me even now, weeks after finishing Song of Solomon. If there is something to take away from this book it is that fictional characters can represent struggles that were all too real for people that faced harm and reparations in bad faith time and time again. There is no understanding of how that might feel without actually experiencing it, but there is no way around seeing what that does to a person. It’s a sad fact of life that this happens to all too many people, and most of the time someone’s first response is a surface-level judgment. If there’s one thing I’d like to take away from reading this book, it’s that.

After the conditions of isolation last year, I came back to campus this fall excited for a chance to find that “college experience” that so many of my friends and family members felt sorry that I was missing. One of my biggest goals for this year was to distance myself from feelings of isolation I had last year, so it’s not hard to understand why a course epigraph of “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body” felt hard to connect with. In all honesty, I still can’t say that I’ve taken this epigraph completely to heart, and it has completely changed my life. Even in this essay where I’m supposed to be writing about how I’m so much of a better person than I was 15 weeks ago. I’ve just been trying to continue progressing through my education without addressing this fear of future unhappiness. However, there is one thing that struck me as applicable to my own experiences, and that was the way that Guitar dealt with his trauma. I’m not going to make any sort of comparison between the gravity of the two, but I do think that trying to understand the tragedy of a fictional character with an all too real origin story might provide a little insight into how seriously I think about my issues.

When I was first asked to write a goal-setting essay at the beginning of the semester I took the prompt to heart. In all honesty, it was partly because I tend to get very enthusiastic about starting projects and then procrastinate the bulk of the work until 48 hours before it is due, but also partly because it forced me to confront a scary truth that I didn’t (and still don’t) necessarily want to address. Although I feel like I’m enjoying my time at Geneseo, I still do not know what I want to get out of my time here. I’ve heard the litany of reassurances that “I shouldn’t worry because most students change their major ”, or my personal favorite, “You should just do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. That is stupid, everyone’s hobbies have to change at least at least a few times every few, and I know that mine will continue to change every few weeks. As a high schooler, I wanted to major in geology my junior year, and Biology the next, but by the time that I applied for college I decided I wanted to study political science. It isn’t that I won’t be good at whatever I end up doing, it’s the fear that in thirty years I’m going to wake up one day in twenty years and decide that whatever major I graduated with was a forty thousand dollar mistake. With that said I appreciated being able to express something that I felt was a pretty personal issue, but at the same time, I’m still not sure how I can do anything to prevent that fear from happening. I feel like all I am doing constantly is trying to fly on off from the way that I lived last year.

Although this year feels light years away from the experience I had last year, I still have things that I have tried to change. Although they’ve not huge, I’ve been trying to participate in my classes with good faith. I’ve been showing up, trying to do the readings, and participating when asked. With my goal-setting paper, I tried to express the frustration felt last year and to express how I felt like I wanted to avoid the same issues this semester. I still don’t know what I’m doing here at Geneseo but after a semester that hasn’t felt like a coffin, I’ve been able to make more friends and connect with people experiencing the same crisis of faith I felt last year. In that way, it’s a little comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s here feeling the same way that I am. That’s something that I would have continued to miss the importance of online, and it’s somewhat comforting to know that it’s not something that I have to suffer in silence about. Milkman and Guitar are almost similar examples in that sense. Although he doesn’t understand how he would go about it, Guitar understands that this isn’t an issue confined to his personal experience, and for that reason, he feels a sense of comradery that Milkman isn’t able to. Milkman, on the other hand, is blissfully ignorant of the problems going on around him which works better for him in the short term but by the time he is an adult and he has to come to terms with the way black people are treated in the U.S. in the 40s it hits him twice as hard and he loses a friend in the process. Milkman and Guitar represent conflicting ideologies in their older age, but it’s important to remember that they shared enough common experiences in their childhood that they were friends in the first place.

Even though situationally, these characters aren’t going through very similar struggles to my own, I can draw lessons from the way Morrison concluded their stories to better solve my issues. One thing I learned from this experience is the skills that Geneseo says GLOBE is supposed to provide (the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time”) aren’t necessarily something that you learn, but the manifestation of a lot of time thinking about how to confront the problems in life that one generally shoves to the side. Most problems are eventually unavoidable, and that’s part of the stress of having to deal with them, but that’s part of the beauty of the thing. It’s a unifying experience for everyone going through them, which makes it a little bit better for everyone involved. That’s at least how I’ve come to think about it, and it’s something less tangible that I’ve tried to improve with this semester. I don’t know if I’ll hate myself for the academic decisions I’m making now but at least now I know I’m not the only one thinking like this. The best part about college is the people, and as long as we’re all suffering together it makes the future a little less terrifying.

New beginnings

In Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the main character Milkman struggles with finding himself in his life. He goes from being a selfish and reckless teen to a compassionate young adult and many people can relate to the problems that he faces in life including myself. At the beginning of this semester, I was given a course epigraph that stuck with me for the rest of my semester.“You just can’t fly on off and leave a body.” As a result of reading into this epigraph and keeping it with me for these past couple of months, it has indeed helped me grow. Struggling the first couple of weeks with the workload I was receiving along with trying to find my place on campus was challenging to say the least. Fortunately, I knew that I couldn’t give up on myself. If this epigraph has taught me anything, it’s that no matter what challenges you face, you can’t give up. 

Coming to Geneseo was something new and intriguing for me. Being born and raised in NYC was always something that I enjoyed growing up. After being there for many years, you often get tired and want to experience something new. Going into my senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to leave the city for college, and with the support from my family, friends, and teachers, I was able to do just that.  It was very tough coming here and getting out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have any friends when I first moved in because I was the only kid from my high school to come here. I went from living with my family and seeing them all the time to living with someone I never met beforehand. Moving from a big city to a small rural place was tough but I knew that I could overcome everything I was feeling and make it seem like home.

Starting off the semester was a real challenge for me because I had to get used to this environment while also getting used to the workload. I am not a big reader so when this semester started and I had to read several chapters of textbooks and books every week, it was hard for me to focus. Due to COVID and being online for the last two years of high school, my studying and work habits became non-existent and I knew that I needed those things in order to succeed in my first semester of college. Something that was refreshing to me was that everyone was experiencing this as well. There were so many people who were here at Geneseo for the first time even if they weren’t freshmen. So many people are getting used to the place and trying to find friends. It took a couple of weeks to get my new studying strategies going but I was finally able to get through that barrier and push on. Something else that I struggled with this semester was being away from my family. I am the oldest of 5 kids and I have always been around my family so when coming to Geneseo and seeing them be together without me was tough. When classes first started, they would always call me and I would always call them but as time went by and I began to get more comfortable with my surroundings, I was at ease. I went from thinking of Geneseo as my college to Geneseo becoming my home away from home. 

During this semester, I learned about harm, care, reparations, and growth and these four words have meant something to me. As a freshman in college, it is hard to see your growth in just one semester but after being reminded by some family over the break, although you may not see it, we are always growing. Fortunately, I was allowed to grow as a writer and figure out my writing style which I immensely enjoyed. This semester was also the first time that I worked on a collaborative essay with other people and it went well.

As students take this writing seminar course, they often wonder why it is necessary and it becomes a burden for them. Honestly, taking this course helped me. Reading Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and William and Darity’s From Here to Equality has helped me grow as a writer. Reading about Milkman in Song of Solomon and seeing him grow from a teenager into a respectful adult helps me appreciate what college can do for me. We all have people and even events in our lives that have helped shape us and for Milkman going back to where his family is from and being able to heal his wounds, as a result, helped him grow into the compassionate adult that we see at the end of the book. While there are some good quotes in Song of Solomon, there is one other quote that stuck out to me after the course epigraph, “Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Many people come to college and expect to return home being the same person they were before they left. However, to grow as both a writer and a person, you need to let go of the past sometimes. In my final year of high school, I had to let go of some people that were holding me back from being who I was. It is important to remember who you are and to not change for one person but it is ok to let go of things to grow to become your true self. 

This first semester at SUNY Geneseo has taught me quite a lot. I have learned that not everyone grows up the same; not everyone will be your friend, and to have a fun time in college, you have to MAKE it fun. College is all about finding out who you are without your parents. It’s about starting your career and it’s about becoming who you are. College can be a fun experience if it makes it fun. These next four years are years that can change your life for the better or the worse. Just like in Song of Solomon, everyone will find themselves eventually, you just have to be patient and wait for it.