As summer ended and senior year started, once again I felt the struggle of trudging through English class. Although I generally receive high marks, most of my writing felt bland and simplistic. Whenever, a new writing assignment was given out, I, like most other students, shivered at the thought of writing it, possibly spending hours on one assignment as the rest of my homework was put aside.
Reading on the other hand seemed like a completely different matter. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read the books, it’s just that I had no real interest. Who cares about Meursault going insane due to his cigarette craving and lust? So what if Stephen Dedalus felt guilty about his sins? To me, reading was like a form of torture. As I flipped the page, I’m bombarded by another page of words and I am yet again forced to reluctantly strain my eyes and my brain.
Gradually, as the year went on, I noticed that I was spending less time on my English assignments. I spent less time thinking about writing and I somehow was able to string my thoughts together so that they flowed like a long, elegant ribbon. The continuous pounding of the keyboard became sentences that I would never have written in the past. The results previous years of high school English classes were finally starting to show.
I became accustomed to my writing technique. I’d toss any formatting guidelines or page requirements until the very end, focusing entirely on my writing. I looked back on my clumsy freshman papers that lacked thesis and had poor syntax and passive tone. The words were the same, yet, they were woven together in a comprehensible manner. All my thoughts were relevant and, more importantly, I became more confident in my writing. As my confidence grew, my voice found its way onto my words and I was able to enjoy writing for the first time in years.
My reading was still subpar compared to my writing. My classmates were able to read as if it were no problem at all, yet I found myself taking hours more to read the same material. One day, the mention of a social commentary, Ghettonation, piqued my interests. As I read it for my outside reading book, I found myself engaged and wanting to read. Why was it that I was so willing to read Ghettonation? I soon realized that it was because the themes introduced in Ghettonation were relevant to me. Knowing this, I soon applied the idea of personal relevance in reading and my reading ability soon grew alongside my writing. My preferences in reading did not change much but I was still able to find ways to write what I wanted to write. As engaging or full of passion that Hamlet or Meursault may be, I’d set him aside in my mind for other, perhaps overlooked characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or Raymond. I did not take on any assignment knowing that I’d hate it, struggling with conflicting thoughts and working in frustration. Reading any form of literature was just a matter of honing my interests and close reading. While I was interested in Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy, I was also interested, perhaps even more so in Rosencrantz telling King Claudius that he is in the center of the wheel that is Denmark.
This idea of relevance is central to my growth in appreciating literature. Why was I in English class in the first place? Was it only because it is required by the school board and I have been taking English classes every school year? It would be foolish if this were truly the case; I would have been better off not taking English class at all. I now worry less about my actual grade and care more about the relevant knowledge that I carry, and will continue to carry, in my mind.