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The Last Journal

For now


            On one recent occasion, a thought that was, for some reason, particularly intriguing, occurred to me.  I can’t remember what the thought was, aside from the fact that it was not particularly related to anything I have studied of late in school.  Regardless, my first reaction was, “That would make a great English journal!”.  My second reaction was, “Now why, exactly, would I want to write about that?”.  This is when I realized that it’s time for me to reflect a little on what writing means to me today, and how this has changed over the past year.


            At the start of this year, writing was, for me, a way of conveying my thoughts on a given topic.  Somewhere between then and now, it shifted from a way of conveying thoughts to a way of thinking.  Looking back, I’m not really sure when this transition took place; fairly early in the year, I believe, but I’m not sure exactly when.


            Today, I have scheduled my life in such a way that I can’t justify the time required to sit down and write stuff unless I have some “need” to write it, such as an official assignment.  If you had asked me at the beginning of this year if I would ever want to just write, just to put down thoughts on paper simply for the fun of it, I would have almost certainly said no.  Today, I might just say yes.  Certainly, given the requirement, I have today any number of things to write about.  This can certainly be seen in the motley collection of journals that I have written this year.  Some of them have certainly been more or less on some academically-oriented topic, but others have had little relation to that which we have discussed in class.  Given the specifics of the journal assignments (which essentially boil down to “Write Something”), these journals were my best opportunity to think about some specific topic, and to see what my views would be should I choose to express them.


            So why this change over the past year or so?  I don’t see an approaching answer, so I’ll look at another comparison.  Last summer, we were at a bookstore in San Francisco, during one of the last weeks of our year-long trip there; while there, my dad suggested that both my brother and I pick out a book to read.  Well, if I’ve heard of a book, I’ve usually read it already, so in search of something new, I asked my dad for a suggestion, and he pointed me towards a little book called “Walden”.  Over last summer, I glanced through the first few pages of Walden, but I really couldn’t make head or tails of the thing, so I soon put it aside.  While reading it this spring, in contrast, I immediately understood and, incidentally, agreed with at least the basic messages of the book; I’m sure that, upon re-reading it, I will understand even more.


            Ah, an answer at the end of the tunnel!  Unfortunately, it’s no simple answer, but then again, what is?  I think that a whole series of things, things that only happened this year for the first time, encouraged me to actually start thinking about life for once.  Returning from a far-away place, with a very different feel and set of customs, I was shown in great detail the differences between two places, and especially two school systems; these differences were, to say the least, quite thought-provoking (incidentally, I’ve finally come to the considered judgment that the school in California does a better job as a school; underlying its whole philosophy is, to a much greater degree than at DS, the do-what-you-do-because-you-want-to ideal that was emphasized in this English class.  My current goal is to figure out how to bring that feel back here, although I suspect it’s not quite that simple).  Also, this year, I have pushed myself, testing my own limits, farther than I ever had before; I have had a much heavier course load this year than in years past, and I have taken on several more after-school activities.  And I’m going for even more next year.  “Why?”, with regards to this situation has been a major question on my mind of late; I’d say that certainly qualifies as thought.  And then there’s this English class.  This was, I believe, the first such class in which I was really forced to think philosophically.  Without the influence of this class, forcing me to always keep my mind open to ideas other than those of the math/science disciplines that I would normally have focused on, I certainly wouldn’t be writing this journal today.


            Certainly, the purpose of writing has changed a great deal for me over this past year.  Earlier in the year, I decided that I would conclude the year with a journal describing, in great detail, how to write the perfect paper.  I’ve since realized that this is an impossible goal; the perfect paper does not exist, if only on the grounds that there is no universal constant “perfect”.  But in the spirit of this goal, and in line with the subject of this paper, I will contribute this advice: Write about something that matters to you, and convey, and process, your beliefs and feelings within your writing.  That’s what I have ended up doing; it may not always make ideal reading, but at the very least, it has been good for me as a thinker and as a writer.