Following my recent trend of posting some of my academic writing, I thought it would be fun to go retro. The below work was the first paper that I wrote in college–my freshman year of college, 1998. To fully appreciate its content, I believe it essential to share some background.

While I may  be working on my Ph.D., my academic focus was not always so peerless. My grades in high school were exemplary, though the impetus for academic achievement was athletics. The expectation set by my parents since middle school was that if I did not earn A’s and B’s, I could not participate in organized sports. I participated in a different sport every season–it was my passion. Thus, I did well. 

However, I have never been a proponent for standardized tests (even less so now). My beliefs strongly drive my actions, and I thought it was equivalent to cheating to prep for the SATs and the like. Further, as long as the score I received was acceptable for the school I had desired to attend (I only applied to JMU), then mission accomplished. JMU required that I take two SAT IIs as part of the admissions process–it did not state any minimum score requirements for them. 

I had stayed over a friend’s place the night before my writing SAT II, completely forgetting that I had to take it the next morning. My mother came to my rescue (to my agony at the time), picked me up and drove me over to the high school to take the test. As we all know that hanging out at a friend’s place might as well be equivalent to little sleep, I was tired. All I remember is that the first essay was supposed to be something pertaining to Princess Diana…before I fell asleep a paragraph into it. It was a good nap–being woken up once the exam time had ended. My score was in the 4th percentile–as in only three people out of every 100 did worse than I did on the test. Subsequently, upon acceptance into JMU, I had to take the equivalent of a remedial writing course for entering students.

The class primarily consisted of international students. I had attended a strong high school in Massachusetts, and took an AP class taught by a professor who had us read 28 novels during the course of my Senior year. Further, we had to write three page position papers every week. And never has my writing been evaluated as critically–even now as a PhD student–as it was in that class. To this day, that class has been the most influential in my writing development. 

The big project for the semester was to write a two page paper that encapsulated yourself as a writer. I wrote it after the first class. There was no real purpose for me to be in the class other than the fact I had done poorly on my SAT II writing test. Unfortunately, my professor required that I continue attending the class–since we were expected to work on it throughout the semester, I intentionally made mistakes that I would later fix. It was difficult to take the paper seriously. Therefore, the final product was sarcastic and bitter, and I chose to play up the stereotypes that Southerners place on Yankees. The paper reflected my thoughts on the class…and reflected my sarcastic tendencies as an eighteen year old when I rebelled against authority. While I have always been one that will meet responsibilities–I tend to communicate my thoughts on those I find ridiculous. This was such an occasion. Maybe the last sentence says it all at the time 😛

As a mild disclaimer, some phrases may be considered inappropriate or insensitive to others. Please remember this was written by an 18 year old in 1998, within a pre-9/11 world. A kid with less life experience than the man today. I find it good to revisit past writing, and see my past perspectives–to help appreciate the journey more…  

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Myself as a Writer

What do I think of when I think of myself as a writer?  Actually, I have never had thoughts about my writing nor do I honestly care to do as such.  I do, however, have a strong inclination as to what others who have experienced the eighth wonder of the world—my writing—probably think of it.

An individual, who has the honor and privilege of viewing my writing, usually acquires presbyopia—a visual condition that does not allow his or her near vision to be in sharp focus.  If one does survive my cryptic, eighteenth century style handwriting, he or she will probably recognize my pragmatic, sarcastic, and satirical use of language, which often leaves the desired effect upon my contemporaries when read aloud.  Unfortunately, those in higher standing (a.k.a. teachers, professors, and parents) often express a reaction not congruent with that of my contemporaries.  Actually, the reaction from those higher in the societal infrastructure of the United States are quite the opposite.  These people who often consider themselves my intellectual superior—though in actuality, only my superior in age—seem appalled by the lack of diplomacy in my works.

For example, I once had to write an essay on one of my teachers for an English class assignment.  Being an honest and caring advocate for education, I felt it was my duty to inform my English teacher of the farce that was under the employment of the school system.  In my essay, I expressed, in full detail, the Chemistry department’s shameful state of disrepair as a result of this teacher’s incompetence.  For some peculiar reason, my English teacher deemed it necessary for me to write another essay on a different teacher.

I believe that my writing is the direct result of being brought up in a backward, old seaport in the great region of this country known to all as New England.  For example, if someone walks up to a stranger and says “hello” to them in this quaint state of Virginia, it is likely that the stranger simply, and politely, answers back.  On the other hand, if a similar scenario occurs in the scenic city of Gloucester, one of two things likely happens.  The stranger will either answer the individual with a courteous, sincere statement such as “whea’s ya keepa” or “what ah ya smokin’ ya quea?,” or he or she will ignore that person altogether.

For this reason, I am cold and impersonal.  The mean streets of “Glousta” have parched my heart.  I enjoy portraying myself as a tough, northern wise-ass in contrast to that of the soft, laid-back southern boy.  Whenever possible, I try to incorporate the frigid demeanor and acidic tone of my upbringing into my writing.  It blankets my insecurity and gives me a false, but ever present, sense of confidence.

I might never delve any deeper into my writing as I have currently, but from this self-analysis paper, I have two observations in reference to my writing style.  First, my writing is of the highest quality.  Second, if one has read up to this point, he or she would already know that my writing is of the finest quality and that I should be exempted from this class.  Of course, taking this class was inevitable.  Everyone must pay for past sins, including me.  This is my purgatory.

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