My journey alongside Not Sidney and Vlepo

Reflection is a part of life that most, including myself, tend to skip over. Personally, when I look back on my life, I tend to not think deeply about the events that have occurred, since I can not change the past. But after this class, I have a new outlook on reflection. Now I believe to move forward one must look back. The irony of this statement is not lost on me, but in order to become a better writer, and thinker, one must look back at our past performances and think about what they did well and what they can do better on. So now, as the semester comes to a close it is time to reflect on my time in English 203. 

Let me set the scene for you. It is my first day of college classes and I am walking into my second ever class. The day before I found all my classes but I gave myself 15 minutes to make sure I was on time even if I got lost. I walk across campus and into Welles but through a different door I went into last time. I am lost, but somehow wind up walking into the class and sit down in the fun wheely chairs set in nice, organized rows. Then, our professor enters the room and tells us to make a circle and I get war flashbacks to every socratic seminar I have ever had. Already nervous, she tells us about class and the blogpost assignment and I am on the verge of a breakdown. But it gets worse, she asks us to get into groups and look at one of the course epigraphs on the board. Now this is not the epigraph I chose to work with but I feel the suspicious pants mental breakdown really highlights how far I have come. See, as the semester went on, new and strange things no longer phased me. I now merely see them as a new opportunity to learn and grow. 

It is here that I feel it is necessary to clue you in on the epigraph I have chosen from Percival Everett’s I am Not Sidney Poiter; “Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere. I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” I have chosen this epigraph because I feel as though I am reflecting alongside of it. As I reflect on where I am, so does Not Sidney Poiter. Although he is reflecting on his life and I am reflecting on a 15 week period, I still find myself making the same existential connections. So much has changed in my life over this 15 week period. I have discovered a sense of independence that everyone told me about but I did not quite understand. This independence is both in and outside of class. Academically I was never told by my parents to do work, yet something about them being there pressured me to work. Over Thanksgiving break is where I really saw this. They could be asleep, but just them being there made me work. I wrote 2 blog posts, my application essay to the school of education, brainstormed for this essay and finalized my final paper for INTD 105. Basically, more work than I have done in a while. It was at this moment that I realized how being alone had affected me as a student. Which I think relates to “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY,” because I discovered a new, less productive version of myself in that moment. 

The quote, “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY,” can also be used positively. This is more specific to English 203 than just me academically. I feel I have grown as a thinker and as a writer. I am going to share what I wrote about my concerns about this class going in on one of the first days. My concern was that I was not going to be good enough. Walking into this class, I was overwhelmed by the in-depth answers everyone else had, meanwhile I was just pulling things out of thin air. I had no clue what I was doing, and it appeared everyone else was confident and smart, which are not things I would have ever used to describe myself as going into my time here. I was still confused as to how I could have possibly got in, and was still licking my wounds of being rejected from a school at the same level. But as time in this class went on, I found myself realizing that no one truly has it all together. I went on a journey of self-discovery alongside Not Sidney, and Vlepo and ended up more confident in myself as a thinker and as a writer. 

Not Sidney started his journey to find himself after dropping out of high school. After this moment he went on both a physical and mental journey. On his way to California to where he grew up and his mother’s grave, he was stopped by a cop and was sent to jail. Although Not Sidney started his journey to reflect on his past by visiting his mother’s grave, he ended up reflecting on memories with his mother throughout his journey of escape tethered to a racist white inmate, Patrice. Sidney also reflects on his life and past whenever he makes a major decision. For example, when he decided to enroll and drop out of college he reflects on what he has gone through and whether or not he truly wants to do those things. When it is suggested that he goes to college, he thinks deeply about his past history with school and if it was really worth his time to go off to college. Not Sidney decided to go to college because he “wanted, for whatever reasons, to be near people [his] own age.” Not Sidney decided that even after all he has gone through, he still wants the college experience of living in a small room with a stranger and meet people with similar interests from classes, clubs, greek life, etc. 

 Not Sidney’s reflection here about going to college can also be drawn back to the epigraph. Not Sidney went to college to make connections and find himself, and he similarly went back to California to find himself. Both times he came up short of truly reaching self-discovery, because there is always more about yourself to discover. I learned that through this class. I discovered so much about myself and how I can make deep connections within all texts, and really add to the conversation. For example, in I am Not Sidney Poitier, Not Sidney makes a remark about Sidney Poitier never being able to be in a sex scene like he was in with Agnes. This moment was a jab towards the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 which prohibited African Americans from being filmed in any romantic way, especially with those who were white. Although Agnes was not white, you can argue that aspect still applies because she had a lighter skin tone than Not Sidney and was discriminating against him for being too black, imitating the unfortunately common relationship between blacks and whites at the time of the code.

Not Sidney was not the only character that developed and reflected alongside me this semester, Vlepo also went on this journey. In Percival Everett’s Frenzy, Vlepo acts as a less than human being that’s sole purpose is to serve the Greek god, Dionysus. Vlepo sporadically asks questions about why he exists, and strives to have a “normal” existence. In a conversation with Dionysus, Vlepo is given insight on who he is; “‘What is the matter, my friend?’ I looked to him but offered no response. ‘You, Vlepo, you represent the human middle. It’s not much of a life, though, is it?–representing a thing…The body is a scattered thing, my small friend. But a life–’ He paused to allow sight of the sun. One needs a life.’ ‘I need a life,’ I said. ‘I would like one.’ ‘And so you shall have one.’ Dionysos closed his eyes and warmed his face to the sky. ‘When?’ I asked. ‘Always.’” I find the discussion to be an important one in terms of reflection. As a unit, the two of them reflect on Vlepo’s existence and discuss his purpose. After Vlepo communicates that he wants to have a life, Dionysus gives Vlepo a body so he can have the life he wishes. Vlepo has other conversations like this one where he reflects on who he is and what his purpose is, but this is one of the more major ones. 

I find myself connecting to Vlepo when I tried to find my balance of school work and having a social life. I think this connects to, “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it.” in the epigraph because both Vlepo and I are trying to connect the dots of life. Vlepo was trying to connect what he represents to life, whereas I am trying to connect and balance the two aspects of myself. This class helped me understand my need for balance between these two aspects and I am very thankful for that. For example, over the weekend I allow myself to have one day that is work free to spend time with my friends and stay sane. Without this day, I would over stress and quickly run out of steam causing my work to suffer alongside my mental health.

All in all, my reflective journey through this semester was not walked alone. I went on the journey with not only my classmates, but Not Sidney, Vlepo, and of course the author of those works and the epigraph, Percival Everett. The epigraph really proved to me the many different ways I have grown over the course of this semester. But the growth does not stop here. This is only the beginning of my time at Geneseo, and I still have so much life ahead of me to learn from. Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

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