Preparing to write this, I looked back over all of the essays that I turned in for CTW 1 and 2 and I am kind of amazed at the difference in my writing. I sound like a completely different person. In a way, I am kind of a different person than I was when I started college. Coming from an international school in China where I was somewhat divided from real life as an expat, the transition to being a full and equal part of my surroundings was by far the biggest change for me. It’s kind of an interesting feeling.
Suddenly being a fully integrated part of my surroundings took some adjustment but I have always found that I work best when I understand how things work and why things are the way they are. Accepting things for the way they are is not always something I can live with, I like knowing why. So when I sat down in CTW 1 and the first question we were asked were something along why do you think you are happy (after filling out that happiness questionnaire) and being pushed for a real answer not just the surface level stuff, I had a feeling I would enjoy this class.
I found that as we progressed in the course material, we started reframing the question of why. We would talk about something we had read or watched and ask ‘what’s with that?’ We framed normal things like packaged turkey in ways that reveal the absurdity of them and asked ourselves and the class ‘what’s with that?’ ‘What’s with that’ is how I framed my essays, how my life outside of CTW 1 and 2 started changing and how I will question things going forward.
Picking a topic for our essays was probably the hardest part of this class. My constant struggle was finding a ‘what’s with that’ topic and actually being able to talk about it in an essay instead of having to write a book to do it justice. That being said, I probably still could have written a book about each of my essay topics as I went down the rabbit hole of whys and how comes. Exploring specific topics from a more narrow perspective and a very specific lens gave me more power to actually write compelling stuff though because I could talk about the entire thing and still have a little creative room.
(What The Hell)
The most difficult essay topic I wrote about was probably my most recent one about Whey protein. Up until that point, we had asked ourselves ‘what’s with that’ and written five essays on different topics revolving around the idea of food, so writing about a similar topic in a different way for the sixth time seemed like it would be impossible. Using a culmination of my experience gathering primary data, I thought it would be best if I collected data right from the source, the SCU gym, so that I could be qualified to talk about Santa Clara as a whole. Throughout the course of writing my five other essays, I found that simply being somewhere relevant and asking questions to a random selection of people was the most effective way to get data that was related to your subject. I tried doing surveymonkey surveys with a huge variance in results that I was expecting. Maybe it was more accurate, probably it was, but my arguments were stronger when I my hypotheses were proved. I guess this is very much me lying to myself like Dan Ariely writes about in The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (Ariely) and I’m glad I can identify it so when I do research in the future, I know how to keep my bias out of it.
What we learned in CTW also had some real applications to my life outside of the classroom. I did make improvements in my writing for other classes because of my developing writing process, but that aside, our conversations and readings were pretty convincing. One section in particular from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer changed my entire diet for nearly two months. It was a description of chickens being slaughtered in a soup of their own feces and how that liquid soaked into the meat and helped weight that chicken down. It makes me gag just thinking about it again. I not only cut out chicken from my diet, but all other meats too for nearly a month. I became vegetarian for a month because of a ‘what’s with that’ experience I had in a class. There haven’t been many times that I’ve learned something in a class and changed something in my life because of it.
I must admit that I am eating chicken and other meats again, but because we thought about it critically and exposed the absurdity of something we take for granted, I am more aware of what’s around me and that leads me to question other things in my life. This ‘what’s with that’ attitude I’ve learned in CTW 1 and 2 has gotten me into some pretty interesting conversations. Just recently in my Christian Traditions class, a question I asked my professor at the beginning of class ended up being a Leither-esque class long discussion. I realize I may not be qualified to talk about everything but I’ve also sharpened my skills on becoming qualified or at least qualified to talk about one specific thing in depth with primary and secondary research I have conducted. Going forward, I see myself asking ‘what’s with that’ a lot more, not only out of a personal desire to know why things are the way they are but because through this class I’ve seen a need to know for my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of people around me.
Seeing how much I have changed and grown in the last two quarters because I asked why things are the way they are, I have absolutely no idea what I will be after the next two quarters. As I continue to get a feel of my place in this still new environment that I am a part of, I will keep trying to put things in ways that make take a step back for minute and ask: ‘what’s with that?’
Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. 1st ed. London: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.
Chicken Coop. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. 1st ed. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown & Company, 2013. Print.
What The Hell. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
What’s Up With That. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.