“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.”
During my first two weeks of Beth’s English class, I focused on this epigraph that came from the novel I am Not Sidney Poitier, by Percival Everett. We had to talk about what our chosen epigraph made us think about. At the time, I didn’t even know what an epigraph was. According to Cambridge Dictionary, an epigraph is “a saying or a part of a poem, play, or book put at the beginning of a piece of writing to give the reader some idea of what the piece is about.” Now, here I am at the end of the semester, with increased knowledge, and I will continue to discuss this epigraph because what I had once believed was the truth, turned out to be entirely wrong. As a writer, I think it’s important to reflect on how I’ve grown as an individual with the different pieces of literature we read and discuss the factors that led me to alter my beliefs.
As a human being, there have been many situations that put me in a tough place where it was hard for me to admit I was wrong. Sometimes, I’d rather suffer than hear a simple “I told you so”. When I started working on my first blog post, there wasn’t anything that grabbed my attention and excited me enough to talk about. Looking back on the words I said, I can conclude that I was remarkably incorrect on where the epigraph originated from. Although it was academically, I was being put in a spot in which I had to accept that I stated wrong information. This was a turning point for me as a writer because after this incident, I became more of an open-minded person and someone who was able to admit their wrongdoings. I made an assumption based on what I had read just to later realize that the epigraph was nothing like I had once assumed. My initial understanding of this epigraph was that the words spoken were said by Percival Everett, not Not Sidney Poitier, who was the main protagonist of the novel.
As the days went by, and we were introduced to Not Sidney Poitier, my original interpretations and thoughts had drastically changed. As I skimmed through the novel at the beginning to increase my background and what we were going to be reading, I saw the epigraph. A lightbulb immediately went off in my head and I was instantly reminded of my very first blog post. After we completed I am Not Sidney Poitier, I began to gain a better understanding as to why these words were spoken by Not Sidney. He was connecting back to what he had once known and accepting his name Not Sidney Poitier. He states, “I have learned that my name is not my name” (Everett 234). The first time reading this line in September, I skipped by it because there wasn’t a connection to be made. When we were divided into groups to make a collaborative blog post, we were able to use these words to focus on the importance of names and the labeling that occurs because of it. We were able to take multiple examples and tie them together to form an argument.
After discovering that I had been wrong in my first post and after working in groups on a blog post, over time, I tried to pick a concept that connected all of the different works we did in class because I realized that if I did this, I could create a better structure for my posts and it would prevent me from making assumptions on little information. One approach I was able to take was with the term “intertextuality”. As defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, written by Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, intertextuality is “The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because… and so forth” (215). Throughout the semester and as I wrote blog after blog, I constantly used this term as a starting point. I believe that if I use intertextuality over New Criticism, which “…based their interpretations on elements within the text rather than on external factors such as the effects of a work or biographical and historical materials” (287), I can make connections to what I read and gain a better understanding of others and literature.
When I first enrolled in this course, I was hesitant to speak up in class on the topics that were being discussed. I didn’t have the intelligence that I do now to confidently raise my hand and give someone feedback or give my own opinion. I didn’t even know what I wanted to achieve by the end of the semester. What was I going to take away from these stories we were reading and these movies we were watching? Everything had a purpose. Each class we were able to take what we learned and connect it to something we had done previously or even our own experiences. As the days went by, I was able to generate a common theme that life is all about connections. Literature is all about connections. By being able to retain multiple views on the world and what you’re doing, you can simplify the tasks and expand your mind to more ideas and intentions. In one of my recent blog posts a few weeks ago, I had pointed out that it is hard to avoid intertextuality as a writer and reader because of our surroundings as students. We want to make comparisons between what we know and what we learn.
It’s important to have conversations and make connections in life because had I done this when I chose to use this epigraph for my first blog post, maybe I would have been able to unpack the epigraph in a way in which my mistakes could have been avoided. Mistakes are supposed to happen, especially in college, and if I wasn’t able to correct what I had said, I wouldn’t have been able to grow in the way that I did. Since then, I am able to see the world more clearly and use this circumstance to guide me in the direction to improve myself as a writer and even as an individual.
I have taken the little things from inside this classroom to the outside. When I’m talking to my friends, for example, I frequently use the term I have come to love, as said by Beth, “unpack”. If they state something that baffles me, I tell them to unpack what they mean. Something so simple and straightforward, ended up having an impact on me. It’s the little things that will change you as an individual and open up your own mind.
“…yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself”. I set my standards low. I don’t expect the most out of myself as a way to avoid getting disappointed. This line stuck out to me in August in one way, and today it says something different. I know that I am always able to do better than I believe and people have continued to tell me this throughout my life. There are so many people out there that know me a different way that I know myself because other people set higher standards. This class is a perfect example. I had the people I needed in order to help me be successful. I used so many different pieces of literature to form valid arguments and connections in this world. This epigraph is only a part of all of the work that altered my perception in this class. It stuck with me this whole semester, which is why I had to end with it too. It opened my eyes in the world of writing and because of it, I have become someone new, someone better that can see the world in a way I couldn’t before.