When I first learned that I would have to take another English class in college I was honestly angry and frustrated. I was never a writer or enjoyed English too much growing up, and in high school, I often dreaded the writing essays and reading books. However, contrary to my personal belief, most people would tell me I have good analysis on things and would make a good English major. Even though I disagree with this statement, I find that English is important and teaches us lessons that often times gets overlooked in other classes.
When reflecting over my two quarters in CTW I realized how much I learned in such a short span of time. I learned about so many things that I would not have known about if it weren’t for this class. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to think about issues that I often turned a blind eye to in the past. I also was able to explore my writing style beyond the boundaries of a three-point essay and five paragraph essay. This made me realize that I do have a voice and good ideas to write about. I enjoyed the creative freedom of this class, and it taught me that when you look at the world around you it is easy to see the issues we tend to make abstract in the classroom.
In this class, I learned to look outside of my lens and tried to keep an open mind to the perspectives of others. This class focuses on critical thinking, and sometimes that means looking into the perspectives that you don’t necessarily agree with. I think that sometimes this can be changed especially when you are constantly around people with the same perceptions and outlook as you. In a sense, I think I learned to look for the thing I would have never dared looked at before. I think that my last essay is an example of this. I chose to write about Gay Conversion Therapy which is something I would never do in a million years. The idea just came to me when we talking about self-deception and honestly while reading The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. It made me realize that dishonesty is all around us, and we tend to lie to ourselves about everything ranging from exercising to our own identity.
To me this essay represents much more than being gay or not, it is more about how we chose to use dishonesty as a means of conforming to society. These men would be forced through horrific therapy talk sessions and even in some cases electroshock therapy just because they couldn’t change their sexuality. Most of the time the only way they got out of it was by lying to their parents and the therapists saying that they were heterosexual.
Learning about this made me angry and wonder what parents or church would do this to someone. That’s when my critical thinking cap went on, and I started to realize the complexity of the issue. I started to do research on all the domains that covered the issue of conversion therapy and began to realize that even though the law and biology support being gay the social ramifications of being gay is a whole other story. I really learned this in an interview I conducted on Reverend Father Ricardo Avila, was is a gay Episcopalian priest who talked about being gay and Christian and the internal dilemma it creates.
“… I had to come out or die. I put it that way because I was that miserable I was like I can’t do this anymore”- Father Ricardo (Nelson).
During the interview, I learned about the realities of being raised to hate who you are because you are gay and having to lie to yourself in order to realize that the lying could literally kill you.
This made me think into other topics I wrote and learned about this year like factory farming and human trafficking. Both of these issues, much like conversion therapy, are not talked about in our society and are often not kept in the forefront of our minds. I honestly never thought that factory farming was as bad until I sat in front of a computer and watched the PETA “Meet your Meat” I couldn’t eat meat for a week after that. I was shocked that the meat I ate was treated with no dignity and was forced to live in unimaginable conditions. I was disgusted that I could not open my mind to an issue that was happening literally right on my dinner plate. However, I think that these realizations for complicated issues like these often make us doubt our humanity and our morality. We question why we do the things we do and why we continue justifying them.
This idea makes me think about a quote that Sister Marilyn, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who we interviewed for our podcast project about the story we read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin and human trafficking.
“If you can put your head in the sand and avoid it, then it isn’t there. So you can negate it by just turning away”- Sister Marilyn (Nelson).
This quote really stayed with me because it made me realize the controversy of these issues isn’t necessarily the fact that they are immoral and awful, which they are. It’s we, the bystanders, choose to not do anything about it. It is easier to pretend that it doesn’t happen to us and move on. This is terrifyingly easy because if it doesn’t concern us then it isn’t happening. It is so easy to be in our own little bubble and completely ignores the rest of the world that sometimes we lose sight of ourselves. We lose sight of our purpose and what we are supposed to be doing. In a sense, it is dark issues like factory farming and human trafficking that remains us of our humanity because it shows us that we do have compassion for the animals and people suffering in the world.
So what can we do?
Well, sometimes I just start by taking a deep breath and realize that issues like gay conversion therapy, factory farming, dishonesty, and human trafficking aren’t going to go away overnight. We can try to do what this class has taught me instead, remain open, open to listening to the stories of others no matter their perspective. This is EXTREMELY important because without empathetic listening we lose the narratives of people that could make us realize that our world is bigger than just our little mind and body.
This brings me back to where I began with this class, confused, scared, and a little hopeful. Having knowledge and awareness doesn’t always make it better, but it makes it real and tangible which I think is really important. That now I know the importance of listening to the narratives of others because stories are how we connect to issues and make them relatable. So now I reflect on one of the first assignments that I ever did for this class that honestly inspired a good portion of this blog post-David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech: This is Water.
We sometimes live in a bubble and controversial issues force use to burst this bubble and realize that sometimes we don’t know what the person is going through so be kind.
Keep an open mind.
Nelson, Nicole, et al. “Interview with Marilyn about Human Trafficking.” 13 Apr. 2018.
Nelson, Nicole, and Ricardo Avila. “Interview with Father Ricardo.” 4 June 2018.