♪♫♪ Between the wreck there’s heaven sent, between the choice I’d rather have / And at the end a chapter goes, and now the finish is the start…
I’ve always wanted to fancy myself a good writer. But whether I actually am remains in question. What do I actually write about that really means anything? The more and more I write — for academia purposes, for applications, for rote memorization, for myself — the more I find a dearth of anything meaningful or significant in my own words.
Could I offer a panacea for any of the ills in the world? Would any of my frazzled scribbles ever reveal deep, probing secrets that would astound you, render you speechless through just spots of ink on a page? Could I win your heart by being slyly coy, devastatingly honest, deeply heart-wrenching — and then warming — putting into words that spinning, slaphappy sensation?
And now I’m just splashing flamboyant words on the page just because I like the sound of them in my head. Captivation. Desiderium. Hopelessness. Entrancement.
In standardized education, they told me “everything you write is an argument.” Every word, every sentence on the page is meant to bedizen some brilliant crux of insight and sagacity — with the ultimate goal being to align every word to the mindworkings of truly just one person — the grader, the one and only who will deem whether the slew of words I have strung together on the page is adequately congruent to whatever tedious prompt was placed in front of me.
If so, every trite and dazzling sentence is marginalized into a single letter or number on the page, telling me if the toil deserved a worthy grade. If not, my words are criticized for not adhering to XYZ, or for not reproducing an overly simplistic thought on something I honestly preferred not to think about to begin with.
In first grade, they start you out with “paragraph structure” — I recall the formulaic groundwork laid in the form of a cartoonish burger. Top bun intro. Lettuce, meat, and tomato detail sentences. Bottom bun conclusion. A place for everything and everything in its place. Something to make E. E. Cummings cringe. From there it graduated to sophomoric five paragraph essays, where you learn to expand your continuous drivel from three sentence to three paragraphs. Then came in-class essays, when you learned that surely your best work would come with the growing apprehension that comes with the soundtrack of a ticking clock.
These writings simulated a test to me—the same as any fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice exam, the words that ended up on the page were only answers that were predetermined and pigeonholed to be right or wrong. To elicit the correct response, spew the expected words. I was very good at that. On in-class essays, research papers, written responses, I could regurgitate what was anticipated and what needed to be heard, even at the expense of my purer and unfiltered thoughts. Everything was spit out in the orderly fashion, never deviating from full, cohesive sentences, from complete, developed sentences, not a single Oxford comma forgotten.
In the nadir of my despair I felt I was losing my ability to write for the sake of writing. What was it like before, I wondered, spilling words on pages that are senseless, redundant, chaotic…simply for the sake of it. Everything needs proofreading, rereading, rewriting, restructuring—and in the end, the product in its rawest form is decimated. My very thought process is in a constant state of editing.
I remember a time when I felt there existed was a seamless connection between the drabbles circling my mind and my fingers clicking on a keyboard, and I was never deterred by any amount of green or red squiggles on the page. Scrawls lined page after page after page of notebook paper as my pen bled dry of the undistilled kaleidoscope of memories, daydreams, imaginations floating in my head.
I try to call this back now. My old practice of writing, typing, flowing with minimal disturbances. I always wanted to fancy myself a good writer. Whether that is or ever will be true might always be in question. But I will not deny myself the outlet of catharsis that words offer me — even if the only mess produced is incomprehensible. And this is because I am frightened, terrified even, that my stream-of-consciousness fluidity has atrophied, and my vast tessellation of feelings has decayed to a husk of what I remember it to be.
There is a good chance that I will never be as creative or eloquent as I seek to be. I might never eschew a perceptive thought, make someone doubt a deep-seated belief, make somebody unwrap and then rewrap their mind around my musings. My words couldn’t divulge to you any riveting secrets. They can’t permeate your mind, layer by layer, with wafts of insight. They can’t make you fall in love with me. But there is solace in this soft incandescent glow of my laptop, and these faded wrinkled pages of my journal, and the fact that these quiet musings may one day serve to amuse me or bring a crinkle to my face.
…Why is the finish now the start? ♪♫♪
(Chapter 2 – The Joy Formidable)
Sarah Lee is a junior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.