We’re All Struggling Right Now: A Goal-Setting Essay

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”

This epigraph, along with the nature of ENGL431: Conversations: Octavia Butler & Social Ties with Beth McCoy, leads us to create habits of thinkING about our work rather than relying on the ‘talent’ of essay writing. Although I am thankful for the English department being so strong at Geneseo, it is easy to fall into the idea that peers are smarter or more talented than myself. I’m sure everyone has felt this in some aspect of their life; if not the major, a hobby or a skill. It is so easy to just give up. What I am learning, maybe later than I’d wish but not too late, is that creating a habit is just as easy as quitting. Instead of being discouraged, we are encouraged in our class to just continue. Practice. Think. ThinkING. Talent is not a continuous process. I believe that the epigraph reminds us that practicing something everyday is more important than hoping to be good at something. If we were to only trust our initial strengths, we would never grow and learn new things. If we only waited for inspiration to write, our words may never see light. We would never change — a quality that we have been witness to as being very dangerous. We should also remind ourselves we do have talents; but instead of relying on them we must share them with others. This is essential to bringing people together. By observing and learning from each other we can strengthen both our own expertise and our relationships with the people around us. 

    I am acknowledging here that as I am writing this essay on continuing to grow and learn I’m turning this in late. More than late. It is incredibly difficult in this global pandemic to continue to find motivation. If you’re reading this, please try to keep going. Keep the thinkING going. If not for you reading this, for myself. It is not our time to give up yet. 

Learn and Run!” From Octavia Butler’s Dawn

Another epigraph that has been presented in the syllabus of our course. Similar to the previously mentioned epigraph, Butler is expressing that we must take what we learn and apply it to our life. Create that habit mentioned prior. Continue the thinkING that is pushed. It is not enough for us to learn and keep this knowledge stored. We all can learn so much from each other. Learning is never limited to the classroom. This is apparent in Dawn when Lilith is forced to learn and run. She must learn from a new alien planet after her world is ruined and literally keep going. Easier said than done, using knowledge to connect with others is one of the greatest ways that humans can find a relationship. We should not only allow ourselves to educate each other, but be willing to listen to others when they want to teach us something new, even if it is indirectly. 

“I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body  through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” -Octavia Butler, Imago

This epigraph, the third and final one, is the one that sticks with me most. I quite literally used to go to a spot near a creek in my childhood to get away from the then-stress; if only I could revisit this spot now in a time of stress among us all. I believe here that the seed is strength. We have to tell ourselves that we will get stronger. However, we have to treat our minds like a seed. We grow with nourishment — in this case knowledge — and time. People famously say that life is short, but life is quite literally the longest event we will ever endure. True change, true learning, and getting better all take time. When we try to rush these things we become obsessed with stress and overwhelm ourselves in an effort to get by. This has been the ultimate struggle for me. It circles back to the idea of habit; a continuation of the self care we need. Small changes in the beginning can make us feel better instantly. Think about it — a bedroom looks so much cleaner after just making the bed. We all can start a journey to a better self by making the smallest changes in our habits. Make productivity and happiness an every day routine. 

This semester, my goal is to make it. The end is so incredibly close; it is not time to give up. Every day is another battle, another due date. I want to be able to say that my last real semester here was still a good one in spite of the pandemic.

If anyone is reading this — I hope you can soon find the motivation and strength. If you’re doing well, keep going. We’ll get there soon. 

Knowledge: How it brings us together

I have found that the way in which we connect with others says a lot about what brings us together with other people. Personally, I find myself being able to connect with others through my experiences as well as using our differences and similarities to push whatever relationship I have with them. For example, one thing that brings me closer to others is culture. Whether it is one that I consider my own, or one that I seek to know more about, culture intrigues me. 

Below are a few images of what brings me and many other families of Dominican culture together, a typical countryside home and food. 

A “campo” styled home in Dominican culture
el fogon dominicano | Comida dominicana, Fogones, Ciudad de santo domingo
Food made by “fogon” is more sustainable and tastes better. Dominicans tend to cook food this way for special occasions or if its their only way to cook.
A “campo” styled Dominican kitchen

What really brings us together is the shared idea that a simple life is a good life as long as you have what you need, food and some sort of company. Of course, there are other ways I become closer to others such as:

  • Having a shared goal 
  • Spending time together and making memories
  • Physical objects that relate to our relationship
In my first class with Dr. McCoy, African-American Literature, she gave us these beads and some yarn. If I remember correctly this was the first time I heard the term “through line.” The yarn provides a “through line” bringing these beads (individual ideas) together.
  • (And) Their interest in helping each other. Meaning we are actively finding ways to be better for each other and be better for the world.

While those are specific to me, there are more general ways in which others can be brought together and are done so through different subject areas and disciplines. For example, Humanities allows us to understand human society and culture. This is done through art, philosophy, history and literature. Science on the other hand, brings us together by allowing us to understand how we work and how other things work in a more concrete manner compared to Humanities. What is interesting about both is that when combined, Science Fiction is brought to the picture. This genre explores how we come together with ideas/objects and other beings beyond what we know. It the pushes us to question whether humanity is capable of doing so (come together) as it is something we continue to struggle with. Historically, bringing people together can be quite difficult due to our differences. Based on what I have been reading and doing since the course’s beginning, some critical questions that have come up are the following:

  1. How do I learn? What do I learn? And most importantly, what do I do with what I learn? 
  2. What kind of habits do I hold that are no good for me? But also, what kind of habits can I do to better myself and be better for others.
  3. Using questions 1 and 2 , I then ask myself if I trust what I learn and put it to use for any good.

Learning and the urge to learn is not always related to wanting to be closer to someone or a concept on a physical and emotional level. Sometimes what we seek is to understand them/it. And at times that is what we need at base level, to learn AND understand it. But what do we do with the information we learn, the things we notice? Knowledge is power because it can be put to use and action, if it is put to action it can make a difference. This reminds me of a class epigraph from Dawn where Butler writes “Learn and Run.” The purpose of learning is to use it. Learn, then “run” with that information, take it somewhere, don’t just leave it for you to have. While reading this epigraph multiple times I noticed I had to tweak it a bit to fit what learning also requires, reflection. Personally, I believe learning is incomplete without reflection. When we reflect we slow down. It allows us to notice what is easily lost if we just run. In one of our forums we had a discussion on noticing and noticing again. In a sense, we were put to run in the same place, with the goal, at least mine, to take notice twice. Doing so allows us to notice what we could have easily missed the first time. In my first response, I write:

 “Regardless, once you notice one thing, you start to notice other things as well, you become more conscious towards others and self conscious in a philosophical matter by trying to actively be more observant and take a note of things you could have not seen before.” – To the Forums! 3: Noticing

and  when I  encountered the text again I came to an additional understanding that:

 “We sometimes limit our experiences to just human experiences when in reality there is more than just us.”- To the Forums 4: Noticing Again

Being able to notice is crucial when we are trying to understand and learn but we must also actively notice and learn about what is outside of our interest and lifestyle. We see this happening in Dawn where Lilith is trying to teach others how to be sustainable on Earth. While the goal is to learn a different lifestyle not only for the sake of their own, when it is time to run, Lilith is scared. She had previously learned to work with and learn from those different from her, the ooloi. However, she believes that she is not on Earth but a simulation. Her perception of her reality makes it difficult for her to run.  Without running, Lilith is not putting her knowledge to practice.Trusting what we see can be difficult because we know oftentimes our perception can deceive us. Ultimately, wow we see things matters because it shapes how we feel about where our knowledge takes us, which is the run in this case. Is it a difficult run or an easy one? Slowing down (reflecting) during our run allows us to gain energy to continue running (share our knowledge with others). If there is something most us non-runners know is that running is hard, like actually. I then became interested in ways in which we can connect actual running with how Butler tells us to. Outside magazine has a list of running tips that I felt were applicable to the process on learning and noticing.

  1. “Strengthen Your Whole Body”/ Strengthen your mind and knowledge
    1. Don’t just focus on what you have learned. Try to find ways you use all of your knowledge  to strengthen/sustain what you have just learned?
  2. Run More Hills/ Challenge yourself
    1. Sometimes the knowledge that you carry can be heavy and difficult to run with, but it strengthens you. 
  3. Stretch and Refuel Immediately Post-Race/ Slow down 
    1. Reflect!
  4.  Don’t Run Injured/ 
  5. Make It Social/ Engage with others
    1. Share what you learn with others, it only makes the run more fun
  6. Visualize Success/ What you know matters!
    1. Can you see how what you know can cause change? 
  7. Find a Routine, Then Stick to It/ Practice what works for you
    1. How we use or present our knowledge is up to us. Find what works for you. 

That last running then brought me to another course epigraph:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi” 

Out of all epigraphs, this one is my favorite. I think this one brings a rigid tone that the other ones don’t have since they seem more freeing and peaceful. In attempts to find a connection between this epigraph and what I have been learning in class it felt like this epigraph somehow clashed with what I have been learning offering a both/and. In the epigraph the habit is “continued learning” which in this case is a good thing. But habits are dependable, and sometimes they are not good ones like having a fixed perspective. I come to admit that this is something I struggle with. Because

“I think of perspective as something that is fixed and attached to a person rather than something that may shift.”- To the Forum 2: Good Faith 

I then came to learn that 

“our experiences as well as perception of others often construct a “fixed” idea on what exists and how it exists. Whether we try to deny it, facing it is a way to recognize that it is not necessarily a bad thing, but that there are ways in which we can reconstruct those perceptions into ones where we hold ourselves accountable. Jerry Kang gives us a few examples towards the end of his talk:


Immaculate perception/ implicit bias

Explicit racism only in the past/ subtle discrimination right now

Don’t be a hater/ be wary of ingroup love

It’s not my fault/ we are the problem”-To the Forums 6: Implicit Bias in Dawn

The epigraph suggests a more positive outlook on habits while our discussion content allows us to see otherwise. The issue here is how we often miss the fine line between a growing habit and a fixed one that is bad. Nonetheless, growing and expanding our horizons (perception) is a good feeling when we see it in ourselves, but even a better feeling when we see others do so through us. Another course epigraph by Butler describes this exact sensation. A character (who I have not learned of yet)  “chose a spot near the river. There [they] prepared the seed to go into the ground. [They] gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of [their] body through [their] right sensory hand. [They] planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after [they] had expelled it, (and) felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” 
Having good practice and knowledge allows you to trust yourself to watch things grow on their own. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and let things take its course which is a form of leadership and leaders bring people together. In Dawn the ooloi are trying to transform Lilith into a leader in order to bring the remaining humans together by helping them learn how to lead a new life. This is quite interesting considering how earlier in the novel, Jhadiyah, an ooloi, says that humans are hierarchical which led to their downfall. In To the Forums 5: Allegory anf Rejuvination I mention how

If Yertle the Turtle wouldn’t have the urge to be the ruler of all he could have just been happy with being the ruler of the pond. However, his selfish needs made it difficult for others to live a comfortable life. “

What both pieces show us is that leading does not require hierarchy (Yertle the Turtle) but a goal (Ooloi). A good leader is able to appreciate “movements of independent life.” Learning to lead others is just as important as leading yourself. My goals are to slow down, ask myself questions, to be an active learner and find use to what I learn.

The (I’m)possible

Before going into the reading, we must know what an epigraph is. According to the Lexicon, epigraphs are short quotations or sayings at the beginning of a book or chapter that suggests its theme. Many books have used them and some of us would not think twice about it. The epigraphs are the author’s way of conveying something such as a theme or tone for the readers. The epigraphs get me to think about the connection between the books to society. An epigraph that could represent this is from Octavia Butler’s book Dawn, “Learn and Run!”. The connection that could be seen is that in society, some jobs would ask the interviewees for a couple of experiences before being employed. However, the interviewee might not have the experiences needed to meet the requirements. So what they would do is to learn while they work and to run with the job position. To me, Butler has wanted people to connect in a way so that they could try to understand their surroundings and perceive the world through a different lens of life.

The previous epigraph reminds me of a section from the same book, Dawn. It states that “The Oankali had removed her so completely from her own people–only to tell her they planned to use her as a Judas goat” (Butler) In the story, they have seen how humans reacted when they are confronted by the OanKalis’. They tried to kill them and to escape the room that feels like a cage to them. This also could be connected to the situation that we are living in this modern time. I am talking about the coronavirus pandemic. Being in a time where citizens would look up to the person that they believed to be getting the situation under control, (for example, the president of the US) only to have the person that they trust to say or show something that could lead them to their doom. For example, being told from higher-ups that science is fake or that masks do not prevent the virus from spreading. Then to have seen all over the news or hear from neighbors that people are suffering and dying from this new virus that some citizens just do not show any unity or support to delay the spread to anyone from a young child to an elder.

Another way that the epigraphs get me to think is by the connections to me. Another epigraph is from Butler’s other book Furor Scribendi; it states,  “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.” This means to me that inspiration is useless to have. To have inspiration is a shot in the dark, and sometimes it probably is not going to be used completely throughout. This relates to me, as someone who gets side-tracked, the inspiration(s) that I may already have received in my lifetime weren’t always seen to the finish of whatever I have been inspired to do. Which led to me forgetting what I was doing then doing something else. For talents, they can let you go as far as you can but only if it correlates to the talent(s). While with continued learning, it could bring you much further and could bring you much more success and more paths to walk along on. Also, it helps develop a habit for the person. For example, when I was in high school my English teacher taught my class how to further our explanation by using these simple sentence starters, This means…This shows…This proves. This became wanted by us in all our essays to come. This led to it becoming part of my habit whenever I write an essay for anybody. Due to that, I have allowed others to understand my way of thinking whether it short or thought out.

I am not the one who likes to ask questions, nevertheless critical questions. In terms of goals, I would say that a goal I have is to find more connections that could make books more related, even though Butler is already doing a good job making us think about the smallest reaction and subconscious thought that anyone of us could have when reading the stories.

Goal Setting Essay: Setting the Right Habits, and Continued Learning

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice.”- Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi’. When I first read through the syllabus, I recognized that there was wisdom in these words, but didn’t stop to think about them. Over the course of the past month or so, however, that has changed, in large part due to my own failings. I’ve always been the type to rely on inspiration over habit, and have never been good with time management or organization for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned, over the course of my academic career, that there are certain factors that make these things harder for me. My ADHD, for example, doesn’t exactly help me when it comes to making and sticking to a regimented schedule. Despite this though, it is clear to me that at the core of my issues with organization and time management is a failure to adopt the right habits. 

I have mentioned this before, but I’m studying from home this semester rather than on campus, and consequently find myself juggling school-work with a job for the first time in my life. I used to think that being able to successfully balance these two responsibilities required a level of self discipline that one either innate had, or didn’t (and to be fair, if I’m being honest, I probably would’ve put myself in the “didn’t” category, but I really like my job, so I decided to try and make it work). I now realize that this isn’t the case. It has nothing to do with discipline, and everything to do with habit. I need to find a way to start setting habits for myself of planning out what work needs to be done in any given week well in advance, and working on it throughout the week, rather than sticking to my current habit of waiting until the weekend to complete all my coursework because I can’t seem to force myself to do anything productive after coming from my job. Of course, much of this is information I knew before. Even while lying down in bed while succumbing to laziness and allowing myself to wait another day to begin that week’s coursework, I know what I’m doing is stupid, and that I’m going to regret it later, but as almost anyone can tell you, breaking a habit is difficult. 

I’ve tried on numerous occasions to get more organized, be more disciplined, and manage my time better, and almost every attempt has failed. I used to tell myself that this was just a sign that I could never be organized, or disciplined, but I think I’ve always known that the real reason is that habits take time to form, and almost always require a stretch of time where you must intentionally perform the habit, however unpleasant, without it yet being automatic. This excruciating span of time in which you must deliberately choose to perform the habit despite your id begging you to go do something less difficult, and more fun, is the part of the process where I always failed. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I can change this. I don’t know if I can succeed where I’ve failed before. What I do know is that now more than ever, I want to. I was in the Toni Morrison class, I’ve seen firsthand how thoroughly rewarding this process of “continued learning” and collaborative thinking can be, and I would feel terrible if I squandered this opportunity to participate in that process again. In the past, when I’ve tried to work on these skills, the only motivation to do so that I had was the fear of my grades suffering, and while the fear of failure can be a powerful motivator, it is one that has only ever worked for me in moderation. If I feel it for too long, I eventually become numb to it. As such, all my past attempts to better my organization and time management skills have been superficial and short-lived. I’m hoping that this time around, now that I have something I truly value on the line, I can muster up the effort to succeed. This, of course, is all talk, and I’ll have no way of knowing if I can back it up with action until I truly see myself changing, but I want to record my intent now, so that I have something to look back on when I find myself struggling. 

“Learn and Run!”- Octavia Butler, Dawn. Honestly, this feels like it could very well be Butler’s message to anyone reading Dawn. This novel started out agonizingly slow, but from the second we meet Jdahya onward, it felt like the pacing was suddenly moving at breakneck speed. I think there’s another way of interpreting this, though, and it’s one that I believe helps fit the context of the novel a bit better. I think learning and running in the context of Dawn can be seen as one and the same. Lilith, and by extension, the reader, are thrust into a world where they know next to nothing, and find themselves struggling to play catch-up in a new world. This process is made all the more frustrating by the fact that, sticking with our running=learning metaphor, Lilith is a tortoise in a world of cheetahs, learning incredibly slowly compared to Oankali, to the point where it clearly frustrates not only Lilith but the Oankali themselves, which is big considering how few emotions they seem to display in the first place. We see this frustration on the part of the Oankali the most on page 74, in a conversation between Lilith and Nikanj: 

“‘We humans… if we don’t use a language, we forget it.’ 

   ‘No. You don’t.’ 

   She looked at its tightly contracted body tentacles and decided it did not look happy. It really was concerned over her failure to learn quickly and retain everything.” 

Nikanj seems literally incapable of understanding how humans can’t remember everything they learn, and while we do later learn that it can genetically alter humans to be capable of this, it seems to be frustrated that this isn’t naturally the default for them, as it clearly is for Oankali. I’m really curious to see how this will play into the story going forward, as Lilith will undoubtedly continue learning at a much faster pace (almost as if she’s gone from walking to running),  and I’m curious to see to what extent Butler will attempt to accommodate the reader (much like divine accommodation in Dante’s Divine Comedy) in order to allow us to take all the information in while still giving it at a rapid enough rate to make it believable that Lilith wouldn’t be learning more with her new and improved memory and learning capabilities. 

“I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” –Octavia Butler, Imago. There were two things that immediately stuck out to me when reading this quotation.

My first thought was that this is clearly from the point of view of an Ooloi, as indicated by the reference to the narrator’s “sensory hand”. This both intrigues and worries me. While I would love to find out what goes on inside the head of an ooloi, I also feel as though a bit of how fascinating they are comes from their inherent “otherness” and the fact that they, as the furthest removed of the Oankali sexes from humans, seem to exist somewhere just beyond human understanding. I worry that, in trying to show us their thought process in more detail and from a first person point of view, the Ooloi will be simplified in some way, losing some of the nuance and uniqueness that makes them so interesting in the first place.  

My second thought was that “tiny positioning movements” is an excellent way to describe not just independent life, but also learning. We, as learners, (especially in the field of literature), are constantly exposed to new bits of information and unique perspectives that challenge our existing views, perceptions, and beliefs. Ideally, we learn from this exposure by adjusting, or repositioning, our views, perceptions, and beliefs accordingly, in response to the new insights we gain and the new perspectives we’re shown. This process tends to happen little by little, in ways that tend to seem “tiny” when looked at out of context, but can provide a huge boost in understanding. I think we’ve already seen a bit of this in Dawn, as twice now, we have been shown evidence of Oankali learning based on their experiences with Lilith. The first time is when Jdahya offers Lilith the opportunity to die swiftly and painlessly rather than become part of their experiment, which seems to go against everything the Oankali value, leaving me to believe it was a response to Lilith’s absolute disgust at the isolation and humiliation the Oankali inflicted upon their human subjects. The second time is when Nikanj is unsure how much to tell Lilith about what’s going on, and ends up asking her directly if she needed to know what it just told her, to which she responds that she did need to know, and Nikanj seems to accept this response with a weight that implies it will heavily affect how it deals with humans going forward. These moments seem to be small “repositionings” in the Oankali characters’ perceptions of humanity, and what they value, and I suspect we’ll see more moments like these in the coming chapters.

Everything follows a pattern, even in the craziest of times.

Perhaps it is egocentric, or simply lazy, but the quotations immediately got me thinking about my self and my own life currently. In the beginning of the semester, I felt confident and prepared to overcome the changes COVID-19 has created. Online classes, limited social interactions, and most places closed down would be no problem for a naive junior excited to be an adult and live off-campus in a house of his own for the first time! This was the case for approximately a week or two. Then, I dropped off and reverted back to my old habits. My work ethic is still a tremendous work in progress. In High School, I was smart enough to avoid being a good student. Only in college, when the work load became harder and more abundant and my motivation did not change did I realize something needed to be fixed. Unfortunately, this is what I revert back to when I get behind, and where I am currently at during this time.

“Forget talent. If you have it, fine.” This portion of the Butler quote reminded me almost exactly of the version of myself that was previously mentioned. I was a naturally smart and perceptive kid, so I did not have to do the readings, the homework, the classwork, and my grades would not show any of that because I could figure most of the tests out. I had the talent, but I did not realize that I had to do something with it. Within the same quote, Butler says “A habit is more dependable than inspiration.” Alternately, this quote spoke to my current state, and the state I would like to achieve in the future. I am slowly building the habits that make a responsible student. As an education major, I think this is an incredibly important thing to accomplish. How could I go into a classroom and expect my students to put in hard work and dedication, if I never did that myself when I was in their position. These habits will also carry over to things far outside the education world and as a 20 year old, the habits I form now could arguably be the most important habits of my life. I am still young enough that I can make a change, but old enough to realize what changes need to be made. Because, I fully understand that bad habits can form just as easy (if not easier) as the good ones. I believe that we, as humans, live in patterns. As we saw in Dawn, Lilith could reproduce her “daily” routine with almost no effort due to the amount of times she was tasked with repeating it; she could even predict what would happen. Once she was finally free from her single room, it was difficult for Lilith to adapt to not being imprisoned. In our own, less severe way, the Corona virus has imprisoned all of us. Of course, we have the free will to leave our homes, but there is no denying that it has taken away our normal way of life. I have noticed two patterns within myself during this time. As simply as possible, there is a high and a low. My highs are great; I am motivated and ready to use this time of isolation to improve myself and come out of this period of semi-self-isolation as a better version of myself. This perspective of my attitude was the first three weeks of school. Then, and now, the lows are taking over. I am going through the motions, doing what I have to do (and sometimes less) to make it through. Luckily, I have learned what these mentalities look like and have seen the patterns that they follow, so a new high is just around the corner.

“Learn and Run!” has been a recent mindset that I possessed long before reading this quote. Instead, I usually say “all of my friends are smarter than me.” I do not mean this to self-deprecate, as I have already stated, I am perhaps too smart (and humble!) for my own good. Rather, I say this with the same intentions as Butler. I see what my friends are doing. Friends who are personal trainers, computer scientists, medical and law students, and engineers all have pieces of information to share with me. Perhaps everything they share with me will not result in me being the worlds first muscular-doctor-lawyer-engineer-scientist, but instead they let me into their worlds. The second half of Butler’s quote “and Run,” is then up to me. Usually, I will run. Learning is one of my favorite activities, because everything has unknown sciences and reasoning behind it. A conductor does not simply wave their arms at an orchestra, but rather there are cues and messages with almost every movement. Observing, noticing, and (sorry for the plagiarism!) thinkING are far more important aspects of interaction than the favorite, speaking. Speaking only gets someone so far, and speaking is the easiest interaction to present yourself with whatever façade you chose to don or not don. When I am meeting someone for the first time, as much as I am listening to the words they are saying, I watch them; I observe them. How are they standing? Do they appear comfortable with themselves? What are they wearing? What stories do their physical appearances tell? I do not use these observations to manipulate of judge the person, but then I am comfortable and confident enough to properly speak with them. Now that I know about the person, I know how I can connect with them, how I can form a bond that I want to form. While I am not able to feel seeds growing in the ground, I do believe that these are also sensory receptions.

I have been noticing, observing, thinkING, most about myself. Not because, as much as this essay may beg to differ, I love to think about myself. Rather because if I do not understand what is happening within my own life, I cannot expect to understand what is happening elsewhere. I have a lot of growth to do. I know that the work is not too much, but I need to build the habits that I want to have in order to be the best version of myself. I have the talent and the potential and every other attribute that could go to waste if I continue in this low. Of course, lows are okay to have, we are all human. But actively trying to get out of these lows and improve myself has been the goal and will continue to be the goal. I have my intentions set and I know how to achieve them, now I need to run.

Goal-Setting Essay

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”

“Learn and Run!”–Octavia Butler, Dawn

“I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” –Octavia Butler, Imago

In my English 431 class on Octavia Butler, the concept of thinkING is always urged by professor Beth McCoy. With Octavia Butler being one of the main focuses of the class, understanding and thinking about her writings is crucial. I consider thinkING to be more of an action rather than just a simple thought process. When thinkING, you can be more cognizant about your thoughts in terms of expressing them in an easily understandable yet intellectual level. ThinkING is to expand your thoughts rather than just state them. The above epigraphs are encouragement for our thinkING on what we have read and learned so far in the class.

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent” (Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”). This epigraph could not be more relevant for a first year student taking an English 400 class, especially when it comes to goal setting. In terms of forgetting inspiration, I agree with Octavia Butler that habit is more dependable. It does not matter if you are lacking in talent or a natural born prodigy, the way to succeed is through hard work and dedication. Inspiration is fleeting, hence why most writers experience “writer’s block”. Habit, the urge to continuously work to become better, is not fleeting, but constant. Octavia says “continued learning is more dependable than talent”, and by that I can only begin thinkING about how she means that through absorbing new information and working to improve is far more reliable in terms of skill than simply being naturally talented. Natural talent comes without hard work and effort. As someone who is fresh out of high school, a goal to set would be to continuously work and strive to have writing that belongs in a 400 level class. I did not come into this class believing that any natural writing talent I concocted in high school would serve me well, but rather to improve and build off of the skills I already have. To make improvement a habit.

“Learn and Run!”(Octavia Butler, Dawn). Another epigraph from Octavia Butler, this time not as lengthy, but still possessing a deeper meaning. Learn and run? To learn and run, meaning, gather all the information that one possibly can from an experience, situation, class ect., and continue on through life with that knowledge stored away in your brain? With the concept of “thinkING” playing such a major role in this course, to “learn and run”, how can the reader take time to truly THINK before acting with this new information? To “learn and run” effectively would be to digest the text/reading and be able to have an in depth conversation with peers, classmates or professors on the topic provided. A student oriented goal that can be created from this epigraph is to be fluid in ones ability to think about information and then create conversation from the topic. Being able to learn and understand and carry it with you throughout your life.

“I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life” (Octavia Butler, Imago). Octavia Butler’s words in this epigraph can have a reader think about the concept of care. Octavia plants a seed, picking the optimal setting and care (“nutritious coating”) before planting it. Soon after, life. Nothing can grow without care. One may also think that this epigraph is an allegory to Octavia Butler’s own work. She nurtures her writing, and when it is published it is brought to life in the eyes of the reader. A lot of this English course emphasizes care. Care in one’s reading, work, thinking and most importantly one’s own self. My interpretation of this epigraph is that something can be brought to life with the proper nurturing. From a student’s prospective, especially when it comes to setting one’s own goals, being able to take time to care for yourself can be most important on the path of growth. In the class discussions, care for accountability is often emphasized. To understand, acknowledge and address one’s own growth as a student producing work.

The majority of these epigraphs take into consideration the importance of growth. Hard work is more notable than natural talent. Only through continuous, diligent hard work can one improve beyond just natural talent. To learn and run (not to be confused with learning and wanting to literally run AWAY) is to absorb information and then be able to move onto the next awaiting challenge. Growth is only apparent after care. It should be a goal amongst student’s to desire growth in every aspect of their life, whether it be personal or academic. Octavia Butler’s epigraph require thinkING to understand the many different underlying meanings that a reader can conjure from her writing.


“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”

SUNY Geneseo’s environment is conducive to the development of academically appropriate habits and to continued learning. I appreciate the structure that college courses give me, and know that this structure partially molds my work. Even so, there is a tension between needing structure and needing to develop sustainable methods which work in lieu of the college. To continue learning for the rest of my life, my habits should not rely on grades or deadlines when those measurement tools are scarcer outside of the education system. Moreover, I do not wish to only be self reliant regarding tasks which are obvious and mandatory. It is my hope that by becoming intrinsically motivated (while continuing to be externally molded), I will gain the ability to thoughtfully choose activities which will extend my learning beyond the collegiate sphere. I intend on doing so by forging stronger interpersonal connections between myself and my peers.

Octavia Butler’s Dawn follows Lilith Iyapo as she adapts to life with the Oankali. After her time with Jdahya, her guide into Oankali culture, Lilith continues to learn. Kahguyaht “turned her over to the child, Nikanj” and states that Lilith “‘will teach [Nikanj] about [her] people and it will teach you about the Oankali’” (Butler 55). This imperative folds Butler’s “continued learning” into the structure of Lilith’s life. Imperatives help me to do work of which I can be proud. For example, with our discussion posts, the instructions are detailed: I know their due dates, that there ought to be a throughline in my writing, and that it should “[be made] clear how it connects to larger course questions and concepts” (McCoy). These rubrics strengthen my writing in the sense that I write consistently for these discussion posts, and generally know when my writing is adequate. I can edit my own work because I know what is being looked for. By this metric, I have long since developed a habit of writing, because I do the work whenever I have this scaffolding. My motivation is strong for these classes, as what I must do to succeed is obvious. However, this habit is weak in that I have been writing around these classes. I often find it difficult to be intrinsically motivated in spite of my habit of “write essay, submit essay” because I am often more worried about receiving poor grades than being proud of my writing. Since my writing process often feels secondary to my grades, SUNY Geneseo has become my academic bastion. Lilith is in a similar situation of being dependent on the Oankali, Nikanj in particular. 

Continue reading “Extrinsickness”

Connecting People In and Out of The Classroom: Lessons of Consent, Acceptance, and Good-Faith Through the Lens of Octavia Butler

Although we are coming together as a class where we are reading the same texts and having discussions about our interpretations and experiences, it is essential to use what we learn both through our education and individual experiences, and share our newfound discoveries with others. I think the most important sequence of concepts to be learned from Professor McCoy’s course, ENGL 431-01, and many other English courses is first to set goals for what we would like to learn, share our learning among our peers, and then to run with these takeaways and see how far we can go with applying these ideas to our own lives outside of class. The three epigraphs that Professor McCoy has established for this course all have to do with the act of growing through our learning, and bringing our thoughts and ideas to life in areas where our knowledge can be beneficial in changing the way we see issues that are discussed in the sources we are diving into throughout this course, including affirmative consent, implicit bias, and demonstrating good faith. 

In our group discussion “To the Forums! 4: Noticing Again,” there were many exchanged about the complexities of consent, especially at Geneseo, including efforts being made to increase awareness about sexual harassment and how it can be stopped. In relation to “Womb” in Dawn, something that Lilith stood out to me: “Even her flesh could be cut and stitched without her consent or knowledge” (Butler 3). This reminds me of many horror stories I have heard of my peers being taken advantage of and manipulated without their consent, and sometimes even without them having known what actually happened, as they may have been in a physical state in which they could not provide proper affirmative consent. Forced interactions will never be beneficial, but when done so in a mutually affirmative manner, we can move towards these connections that have the potential to bind us together. It is important to learn from these mistakes and “run” with them, which is one of our course epigraphs, as said by Butler to “Learn and Run!” in Dawn, so that we can improve upon these mistakes for the better and prevent a future of our society that is similar to what Lilith experiences throughout the various Awakenings. Something that Jdahya says in Dawn stood out to me and led me to some thoughts about how Jdahya’s interactions with Lilith relate to our work in Professor McCoy’s class: “‘I can only say that your people have something we value. You may begin to know how much we value it when I tell you that by your way of measuring time, it has been several million years since we dared to interfere in another people’s act of self-destruction. Many of us disputed the wisdom of doing it this time. We thought … that there had been a consensus among you, that you had agreed to die’” (Butler 15). Jdahya and his people make the assumption that humans like Lilith were purposely trying to destroy themselves, when really, all humans make mistakes that they can learn from and work together to overcome. Jdahya goes on to explain to Lilith his relatives’ confusion when he says “We didn’t know what to think when some of your people killed themselves” (Butler 19). I think that these weaknesses, mistakes, and areas in need of improvement are what bring and bind humans together in the strongest ways. Without these downfalls, we wouldn’t necessarily  have as much of a reason to confide in and learn from each other.

Implicit bias is one of the most prominent themes throughout Dawn and another basis for my critical thinking and the goals I hope to achieve from this course. In Jerry Kang’s TED Talk “Immaculate perception,” he explains implicit bias by doing an exercise with the audience in which he wants them to read words that identify colors on a screen, but ignoring letters of the word and focusing only on the colors the words are printed in. He goes on to say, “The whole point is that any two concepts that are tightly associated in our brains we can actually pair together very quickly” (Kang 5:50). This relates to the implicit bias that Lilith shows towards Jdahya, assuming that he might harm her in some way if she were to sleep: “She lay down herself, wondering whether she could relax enough to sleep with him there. It would be like going to sleep knowing there was a rattlesnake in the room, knowing she could wake up and find it in her bed” (Butler 21). Lilith even goes so far as to refer to Jdahya as “Medusa,” a mythological creature having a negative connotation, thus being reflected onto Lilith’s perspective of Jdahya and his relatives. There is a mutual misunderstanding between both Lilith and Jdahya because instead of getting to truly know and understand each other, they continue to make assumptions about the other. At one point, Lilith asks herself, “Why couldn’t she just accept him? All he seemed to be asking was that she not panic at the sight of him or others like him. Why couldn’t she do that?” (Butler 25). Lilith’s thoughts here go along with my overall goal for this course which is to come out of it as a more open-minded individual, who also encourages others to pursue their own version of being open-minded, wherever this is applicable in their own lives. I think we live in a society where people are so concerned with themselves that they become ignorant of issues that affect them, whether they want to admit it or not.

As told by Adichie in her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” it is necessary that people regain the necessary power to change a “single story” that marginalizes a group of people and instead recognize them for who they truly are. Africans are included in the many groups of people who are marginalized in society and therefore have created pieces of important literature to shift the perspective to accommodate themselves in a way that will lead to inclusion in the world. Overall, there is a feeling of belonging that is associated with literature because of how it defines us personally and not how society chooses to label us. This TED Talk raises the question of “who gets to tell which stories?” Adichie addresses what happens when a “single” story is told and how she has experienced this in her life. This is a very useful talk as it addresses the dangers of what happens when a story is told in such a way and how it takes away from the authenticity and reality of one’s experience. I think that this goes along with the ideas in our course of “meeting people where they are” and “asking questions instead of presuming.” 

When Jdahya says that the Oankali trade themselves, Lilith asks “You mean … each other? Slaves?” Jdahya responds, “No. We’ve never done that.” Lilith asks “What, then?” and Jdahya says “Ourselves.” (Butler 25-26). In relation to the idea of growth within this course, I think that we “trade” the individual experiences we have with each other so that we can learn and grow from them. We each have our own “independent lives” as Butler discusses “positioning movements of independent life” in one of our course epigraphs from Imago. By sharing our own interpretations of the world and people around us, this can bring us together.

I have learned that the way we engage with literature from very early on in life and as we grow older, impacts the ways we see the world around us, as well as ourselves individually. The best way we can reap the potential of literature is by using good-faith practices that make us vulnerable to reconsidering various points of view that may not match our own and may end up causing us to change our beliefs and values. By making ourselves more vulnerable in this way, we are bound to learn more about others and ourselves through the way we interpret literature, ideally in a respectful, courteous, and open-minded manner. There are still some ideas in question that I have left to figure out throughout the rest of this course, and even after the end of this semester because thinking and learning is an ongoing process. There will always be newfound issues to contemplate and viewpoints to consider.

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, July 2009,


Butler, Octavia E. Lilith’s brood. New York: Aspect/Warner Books, 2000. Print.

Kang, Jerry. “Immaculate perception.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, January 2014,


Learning to Adapt

Firstly, I want to talk about consent and choices. Dawn is exemplary of how intertwined the ability to make choices and the ability to consent are. Lilith has been placed in a position that she did not consent to, which means any choices she is presented with are not truly her own, especially in the controlled environment of the Oankali ship. For example, early on Jdahya gave Lilith the choice to end her life by touching his tentacles, which would cause him to involuntarily sting her. Lilith “chose” to keep living, even though she didn’t understand why she wanted to.  This is shown when she says, “Oh god…Why didn’t I do it? Why can’t I do it?” (45). This demonstrates how in her circumstances she can’t really make decisions that are actually what she wants to do. 

Continue reading “Learning to Adapt”

Habit is Key

Octavia Butlers’ words became an unwanted archangel on my shoulder who showed up abruptly reminding me of my duty to myself. Octavia Butler is an African American science fiction writer who is the subject of the course, Octavia Butler and Social Ties, that I have been taking at Suny Geneseo. After a weekly Sunday announcement from my professor, Beth McCoy, who teaches the course, I found my insides turning and curling into a ball of frustration, mental blockage, and embarrassment. Beth McCoy makes a point to emphasize care for our course and aims to help us grow as strong writers and thinkers. She does this by offering extensive and elaborate feedback to our class discussions, encouraging her students to unpack their thoughts and to apply feedback, to what we have learned to our next class discussions and assignments. Her routine Sunday announcement one weekend had been a commentary on the progress she had been seeing, I believe her exact advice was to work in small increments versus large ones and to slow down when writing versus “one procrastinated intense whoosh.” I felt like someone had ripped the covers away from my eyes while watching a horror movie, I felt exposed and forced to look at how I’ve been dealing with this course. Horrified to see that I was not living up to the goals and changes I had set for myself at the beginning of the semester. At that moment is when Octavia Butler’s words came back to my mind. At the top of our syllabus, Beth McCoy copied quotes by Octavia Butler’s “Furor Scribendi” where she stated that “Habit is more dependable” than inspiration. Inspiration is fleeting constantly changing, and “continued learning” is more dependable than inspiration or any talent. And with such reminders, I was forced to look and confront my habits both good and bad, but mainly bad

Procrastination. The constant putting off work was something that became ingrained in me since the beginning of my college career. It didn’t start out as deliberate, but the more the years went on, classes became less of a priority throughout the day and other issues replaced it, like, my job as a residential assistant, my executive positions on clubs and teams, dealing with issues and problems back home, and then, there were classes. As many college students experience, each year is something different, and as I mentioned in previous class discussions, I’m still figuring it all out. Work schedule, sleep schedule, times to devote to what, and when. I am now realizing that although much of what I do on campus is important to me, they are excuses, they are becoming excuses. They are becoming buffers between me and my work more often than I care to admit. Most importantly, these aspects of my life are slowly coming at the expense of my growth. They were and can be ways to distress, but recently they have been distractions when things get too hard.

 In Octavia Butlers Dawn, the main character, Lilith, who wakes up on an alien planet after the world has been destroyed by her species, human beings, is forced into trying to adapt to the newness of her life. She is surrounded by creatures she finds repulsing, and when she mistakenly harms the land of the planet, which is a ship that is alive, she is criticized by one of the alien-like creatures and is asked “‘How have you managed,’ it asked her ‘to remain so promising and yet so ignorant.’” Even though the alien-like creatures in the novel hold a different agenda when it comes to the exchange of what the human species can do for their evolution, I found the question had hit home, just like Butler and Beth McCoy’s advice had. The reason why I have remained so promising and yet so ignorant is that I’m deliberately self-sabotaging my own growth. Both in this course and not. It’s as if I’m choosing to stay downhill because the hill looks a little too steep. Thinking has become hard, and because I have put off the workout, my muscles have gotten weaker. Not only have they become slightly weaker, I now have to think about a thousand other things, and I have to adapt to everything happening around me that is constantly changing, similar to how Lilith has to adapt to her new alien environment. The state of always having to adapt and think creates anxiety inside of me that urges me to find comfort, when I actually should be moving to action. My comfort does not always equal productivity. But I say these things, not as excuses anymore, but as recognizing these are habits that I need to work on. I get really inspired to work when an assignment is due the same night I started, but such inspiration causes so much stress, and as Butler said, it’s fleeting. I have to get into the habit of working slowly, taking my time, and really thinking, work out those muscles. I am really grateful for the opportunity to grow as a writer, I just have to work on seizing the day.

7 Easy Ways To Beat Procrastination

Here are some ways to beat procrastination!