It was a typical Wednesday morning when my morning ritual began: get dressed; grab my morning cup of coffee and begin my commute to campus. It’s not unusual to see me rambling out the door, my hair dripping wet from the 10 minute shower I managed to squeeze in, aggressively holding onto a series of sheets of papers all while avoiding the hot splatters of coffee exploding everywhere because like always, I forgot to close my thermal shut. This is me as a student and for some time, I let it be the only thing I was.
Going into college was not by any means necessary, easy. I was all alone in a place I barely knew, hours away from my friends and family, miles away from the vibrant and colorful city I called home—Brooklyn. Naturally, I would often find myself extremely homesick. Before my time as a college student at Geneseo, I had always been a pretty decent student so just imagine my surprise when it was time to turn in my first analytical critical essay to my professor, work I had been rendered to believe was “A”— or at least “B”—quality work back at home, and instead received a two page long commentary and feedback from my professor all indicating my lack of proper literary sophistication.
‘Promising ideas but poorly executed. Your paper contains a number of grammatical and mechanical errors. Perhaps consider visiting The Writing Learning Center. Good effort. C+.’
To which I responded with a defeated and frustrated sigh. What the f*ck is going on? I thought.
I was no longer seen as witty or bright, my work was now instead, the quality of an amateur. By then, I had already decided that I would be the college student that could write fluently, all while approaching literary theory and criticism with maturity, grace, and refinement. So, I acknowledged my professors constructed criticism and used it as a mechanism for improving the way I articulate my ideas. Over time, my professors began recognizing my improvement and I could finally feel validated as a student.
It would not be until the Fall semester of 2018 where I would find myself awkwardly sitting in a classroom, enrolled in a course titled “ENGL 431: Conversations: Blackness, Love, Justice” instructed by Professor Beth Mccoy. That first week she talked to us about rocks. “What’s your favorite?” she asked the eager classroom to which the majority responded back with a blank stare all demonstrating our unfamiliarity with the question. “What does that have to do with the class?” I silently thought to myself. Soon after we were all made aware of the blog posts we’d have to compose, giving us full autonomy over what we could write about as long as it connected back to the class in some sort of level. Easy, right? Well, not so much. Before this course, I had never been given so much literary freedom. It made me feel uneasy, uncomfortable and anxious. For so long, my voice or “ethos” if you will, had muddled into a composition of utter non-existence. Although all my professors had urged us about the importance of finding “our voice” and wanting that vividly manifested in our writing, they only really seemed interested in one. They wanted the kind of voice that Kiese Laymon best describes as the kind that sits “with its legs crossed, reading the New York Times.” That was the voice I had learned to speak with because that was the one ‘education necessitated I lead with.’ I had been writing and speaking with this voice that I had barely noticed that my own individual and artistic voice in my writing had been lost. Professor Beth Mccoy helped me find it.
It was thinking about the final essay prompt that I internalized my own growth as a student and as a person. It was then that I realized the importance of the story that every person has to offer. We all have a story to tell, but it takes great confidence and belief in the significance of our individual presence in the world to really feel like our story is worth sharing. That is why I would like to share mine.
My name is Cindy Castillo and I am a young Latina woman that believes in the power of storytelling. I am the daughter of the most hardworking woman I know who has never wavered in her belief that I can achieve what I set my mind to even when I failed to see it. I am a sister, a friend, a student, a writer and an artist. I am a woman who refuses to get lost in the crowd even when my tremendous home of New York City demands it. I am one who refuses to feel small and insignificant and who is not intimidated by the warm tan color of my skin. I am not intimidated by failure, nor do I longer fear it. I believe that everything great comes with a challenge. I believe that if your dreams seem easy, you aren’t dreaming big enough. I’m a fast walker and I probably drink an unreasonable amount of coffee for my own good. Without the creative freedom that Beth Mccoy provided us this semester, I might have never felt confident as a student, learner, or person. I realized that learning could be fun, that having difficulty in a task was okay, that I was not alone, that my story was worth sharing.
When we were presented the task of crafting a Final Reflection essay, professor Mccoy instructed us to keep in mind GLOBE, which establishes that Geneseo students should “gain practice in the ability to reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time; to make personal, professional, and civic plans based on that self-reflection.” This opportunity to self reflect was something I had never personally self prioritized. I had been so consumed with trying to be a good student that I had lost track of all the other various qualities that make me the multi-dimensional person that I am. I am more than a Geneseo student and this course helped me really set that in stone. (I hope you enjoy my play on words here)
As I write this self reflection essay, I can confidently say that I most definitely struggled this semester. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a hard time, other than the fact that it sucks. I not only struggled due to my insecurities as a writer this term but also because I had to deal with the loss of a loved one and with my own personal medical problems with my auto-immune system that often confided me in bed or required long trips to the doctors. I am not going to lie, I was ready to let it get the best of me and I most likely would have if I had not been encouraged by Beth Mccoy to persevere. I never thought my professors or instructors would care so much about what happens to me outside of the classroom because so often when I tried communicating to my superiors about the problems I was having, they often appeared uninterested and after a while I stopped trying.
This course required me to be more vocal, to be more confident, to THINK. I would have never picked up N.K Jemisin’s Fifth Season on my own but I am content that we were introduced to the intricate novel sequel. I was able to connect the many topics I am interested in like art history, immigration (In Response to Jose Romero’s The World of Children: Immigrant & Orogene Bound) and the impact creating has in our society…on how it unites us.
Links to the posts mentioned in this essay: