Learning Who I Am

Walking into any class on the first day of a new year is nerve racking for most. Dr. McCoy’s class was no different until she walked in and told us to discuss a “suspicious” pair of pants. I knew this class was not going to be like any I have taken before. Within these past few weeks I have learned that we are encouraged to focus on learning and thinking rather than memorizing and grading. We are to focus on our minds instead of our brains. 

Of our course epigraphs, the quote from Percival Everett’s I am Not Sidney Poitier, stood out to me the most. The quote reads, “‘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 couldn’t point out exactly what I liked about this particular epigraph when I first read it. I read it over and over again, attempting to find its meaning when I realized that part of what Percival Everett was trying to say is that we search for a meaning in everything when everything is seen differently by each person. This brings my mind back to our discussion of the world threshold, of being in two places at once while also being nowhere. Everything has multiple meanings, so does it really mean anything besides what one thinks matters? 

With this being said, I also realized that different parts of this epigraph had me thinking differently. Everett writes, “I came back to this place to find something…to reunite if not with my whole self, than with a piece of it.” His words remind me of the foundations of this class. We are encouraged to focus on the process, not the product of our writing. Though this is the first thing I am writing, I think this method will teach me about myself and how my mind works when I believe I can just think and write instead of worrying. In one of our readings, a previous student, Laura Skrzypczyk, says that “Maybe we just need someone to say, ‘this is what we hope you’ll get out of this college experience, but these are some alternative possibilities that can happen. That’s the reality. And we’re here for you if it does!’” This similar way of teaching that Dr. McCoy has introduced has me looking forward to learning about myself through process and not judging myself with the product. I think about seeing where I can go when I am not already thinking about the end. I remember when Dr. McCoy said, “Don’t focus on the horizon, because the closer it gets the farther it moves.” 

The second part of the epigraph that sticks out to me reads, “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.” Percival Everett writes that his character sees themselves one way while the people around them see a different person. This sentence makes me think of how we all think about things in a different manner. It brings me back to the class discussions about how differently we all can view texts. As a class we were told that just because we do not understand something does not mean we are lesser than our peers, and in fact, we are likely not alone in our misunderstandings. Through our discussions we have learned that there is no “right” or “wrong” because we learn through ourselves and through each other. 

As a whole, this epigraph deals with learning about yourself and how it is okay if you never quite know everything. It is also okay to grow and change and “not be yourself today.” This is the way I feel we are encouraged to think about ourselves, our writing, and our learning. This brings me to my goals for this semester, and the main one is to actually get into this way of thinking. When writing this post I have caught myself asking if I am writing enough or stressing about what to add. I think this is the way we have been conditioned to think, but when approached with a new way of thinking I have realized that this conditioning does not result in a deep understanding. My goal is to get to know myself better through writing and thinkING.

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