When we are young, growing is something that we can’t help but do. At first, our growth is entirely visible. I’m sure that almost everyone can relate to having an older family member they rarely ever see exclaim at the sight of them that they’ve “gotten so tall!”, or that they’ve “changed so much!”.
The same process of involuntary, organic growth can be seen in Percival Everett’s I am Not Sidney Poitier. From the moment of his unusual birth, Not Sidney was ridiculed and pushed around by others. Other children would call him names like “elephant boy,” and many would physically abuse him due to his atypical name. Not Sidney eventually overcomes such taunting and torture by outgrowing it. That is to say, Not Sidney physically grows and starts to tower over his peers, making it difficult for them to hurt him, at least physically.
However, once Not Sidney’s physical growth is complete, he does not appear to exhibit growth in other ways. In fact, Not Sidney seems to be more of a picaresque hero, in that he represents a fairly static character who does not develop throughout his misadventures, despite how transformative a reader may perceive these instances of adversity to be. Perhaps Everett chose to stabilize Not Sidney’s character in order to demonstrate just how difficult the process of growth can be, for while many believe that challenge represents the perfect stimulus for growth, challenges can instead prove an impedance to the seemingly unavoidable process.
This very idea could be seen in the members of our English class, myself included, especially in the early days of the semester. The class was met with the daunting task of writing 10 blog posts by December 1st (which is now around the corner). Moreover, this project had no specific prompts or hard due dates. The content and completion of these posts were entirely up to us, which was a novel concept for me, at least. Though I am a junior in college, I had never dealt with assigning myself my own prompts or due dates before, which made it easy for me to become intimidated by the characteristics of the blogging process.
Of course, there are other aspects that made the process of blogging a challenge. Not least of which is the fact that our blogs are open to the public to read and that they are subject to grading and therefore criticism. I know that these two prospects instilled the most fear in me and caused me to do the most stalling. However, the fear and stagnation I felt impeded me from writing and posting blogs and thereby prevented me from growing. The growth I coveted was dependent upon my ability to overcome this fear and just create so that I could, in turn, receive feedback, apply it, and develop as a thinker and writer. Granted, this was no easy feat since this type of growth is not as effortless or organic as the unconscious progress of physical growth.
Furthermore, achieving this type of growth can be hard and perhaps even painful since, speaking from experience, exposing oneself to criticism and accepting said criticism requires an immense amount of vulnerability. Additionally, consistent effort must be exerted in order to meet and go beyond the critique. Moreover, developing and supporting one’s own ideas, nevermind connecting them with class material can be headache-inducing; it is only through practicing this process that one can get better at it and thereby grow, despite the difficulty.
English 203 challenged us, and, though it wasn’t always easy, our class has grown immensely in the process. To me, this growth is evident, as when I read the blogs of my peers I find myself impressed with not only the skill with which each post is written but also with the “juice,” to borrow Darby’s term from a few classes ago, that each post contains. Though I can’t quite remember how Darby defined “juice”, I take it to mean that our posts are now bolder, clearer, and more insightful than when we began.
While fostering this kind of growth isn’t easy and is something that one really has to strive for and work at, I believe it is extremely important. This type of growth is not mandated, though I believe that each member of our English 203 class has the capability and drive to develop further as writers, as thinkers, and as people.