Final Reflection: An Exploration of Identity, Vulnerability, and Authentic Storytelling
I’ve never self-identified as an effective writer, so I have committed to turning my weakness into a strength through daily maintenance. I do this by working as a reporter and editor for The Daily, writing across genres in English classes, and regularly contributing to a word document called “Reflections” that’s now 60 pages and counting. I hoped that Honors 345 would provide an outlet for constructive feedback from my instructor and peers as well as a safe space for me to use creative non-fiction to write about personal topics. I strive to bring honesty and vulnerability to every piece of writing, but I worried that it would read as feigned or inaccessible to someone who didn’t know me. What is the acceptable course of action for writing a three-page paper that captures my authentic story when I’ve struggled for so long to see myself as valid, let alone my story?
Regardless, my best writing focuses on sharing aspects of my identity and identifying clear connections between the prompt and my life. I call people out on their privilege and biases, myself included, and often include commentary about people’s well-intentioned words that are often coupled with destructive actions. My writing process is a little bit rough around the edges (just like me), but I strive to string together my stories into a narrative that authentically captures my struggle and survival. Still, my writing is less brave than I am. I approach it with some caution because I don’t want to make any assumptions about other people’s perceptions.
Despite these efforts, I lack confidence in my writing and remain receptive to feedback or suggestions for changes. I am filled with gratitude that these people and stories can help me see myself more clearly. Julia has helped me recognize jumps in the prose and opportunities to clarify my internal monologue for the reader. For example, in my midterm paper about my break-up, she suggested that I include more of my internal commentary about how I responded to Riley’s words. Moreover, she knew I often led with humor as a coping mechanism, but she reminded me that I didn’t have to pretend to be completely healed after losing something that mattered. She also validated my choice to share a personal struggle, which was really integral to helping me feel like my story was worth telling. In response to her comments, I intentionally added more stories about our relationship that led to our break-up, and I strived to help the reader recognize how my values were demonstrated in our interactions.
Ultimately, I wrote 4 memoirs that were rooted in the places I call home, pieces of my identity, and important relationships. I started with a paper about third grade, which still stands out as one of the most pivotal years of my life. The memoir describes my roots at a small Montessori school in Federal Way, and it chronicles my pursuit of higher purpose and acceptance from others by describing a conversation with my teacher that is later flipped when I say that I hated her. For my second paper, enter a different part of Federal Way: my house. That little corner of the world on top of 307th St. never really felt like home, but it certainly fronted like one with its perfect physical exterior. My interactions with physical objects and a fictional character in this space reveal more about my relationship with my family and reinforce the sentiment that a house isn’t always a home. The midterm paper, which was revised for the final, is easily my favorite thing I’ve written this quarter. Who would have thought that a breakup could be such rich grounds for understanding my own values and ability to forgive and care for others? I outlined the conversation itself through dialogue, but also the moments in between and how the landscape itself has changed, and keeps changing, because of our interactions. I am proud of myself for being vulnerable and letting myself feel love share something so genuine and personal. My last short paper explored cultural appropriation in my own life, and how that came up when I was celebrating a wedding with all my family members. I hope that my writing inspires empathy and helps others feel a little bit more connected or validated.
So, who am I? Definitely still messy, but I have more clarity about my identity. I’ve realized that life is more than identity/choices/relationships/trajectory and a perfectly linear life. I can be defined by the moments when I can learn to call people out, make room for people who have never quite felt welcome in the spaces they inhabit, and identify connections with my classmates. I’m not at the end of this journey to own my identity as a writer, but this story continues on.