The subject matter of how I have grown as an English major came across my mind most recently as I have received decent to really outstanding grades on my essays, reflections, and short paragraph papers.  Despite the easiness in my ability to write, however, I additionally found myself dumbfounded as I, or we, were introduced to a more concise and detailed form of writing during the course of English 190. Initially, I felt perplexed and even a bit of discomfort in realizing that there was now a new system of writing I needed to level up to.  The reason behind the discomfort was not because I did not think I could reach such a caliber of written works, but instead it was because I knew it required me reaching deep within in myself and taking hold of all tools that had been handed down to me throughout my English Major journey. It would also require a unique type of carefulness when articulating all content, from the top of the introduction towards the end of the conclusion.  Most importantly, I knew that my professors had gotten to know me, my style of writing, as well as my capabilities and that, of course, I could no longer do minimal work -my ethics as a writer was now being observed more intently. In addition to the actual system of writing I have attained, and still had yet to acquire, the literature I have come to know also became the key to helping broaden my horizons. Altogether, the professors, the authors, and the content  found within the literary texts have all been extremely useful in helping me gain insight on the world and all of its diversity, as well as foresite in helping me understand what my purpose as a future instructor entails.

Having decided to return to school back several years ago was a choice that was not difficult to make; more so, it was a critical one.  Being as I had begun having children at a young age, I was involved in a lifestyle and cycle that kept me intellectually stunted. However, writing, as well as my love for communicating in a way that naturally required critical thought, never left my thought process.  It was actually what saved me. At the age of 30, I left the dire circumstance I was in, and began a healing process that would require much more than just having fled it. It required that I re-record all that I thought I was incapable of; and one of the first goals I decided to embark on was returning to school.  Choosing the English major was never questioned; I already knew that it was the subject built for me. Thus, the journey began; and although I was coming in later as a grown adult, and had to began essentially at the very beginning of the English prerequisites diagram, I was not deterred. The local community college is where my English seeds were planted, and where my roots are currently.  Everything was a learning process -from having to learn how to type up my essays by way of MLA format, to truly understanding development, organization of essay writing to, but most importantly, how to write a thesis. Just as I had to learn the basics of writing, I began healing along with those basic fundamentals, layer by layer.

Eventually, and almost immediately, my capacities as a writer and academic began to shine through.  Within a year of schooling, I would apply to become an English tutor, as all of my grades thus far in the English department, consisted of A’s and B’s.  This too became another healing mechanism in addition to a self-teaching method in helping me understand all the intricacies of writing. In having to empathize with the students who were coming in and trying to relearn the basics of writing, or for those who were already at a higher level, it made me learn the importance in obtaining different points of view.  In addition to that, I learned how to become more tolerant as well. There was a diverse set of people coming into the tutoring center who had their own set of barriers: students with learning disabilities, English language as a second or third language students, recently released incarcerated students, mothers returning back to school after being gone for over a decade, and so many others.  Through that experience, I knew that much even more that the academic setting was my home, and that teaching others was my calling.

In 2016, I would graduate with an AA in English, and wait on the response from UC Merced, to see if I had been accepted.  A few months later, I received an email stating I indeed had. I was full of excitement as well as elation. And, I must admit, I was also quite nervous; but once I began here at the UC, there was no going back.  UC Merced would now become my second home. At this point, the healing process was at a remarkable stage as the roots I had planted at the local community college now had grown and flourished into a full bloom of confidence and well developed skills.  It was a great feeling being in a setting where others were of the same major, and that we would all basically be traveling through our journey together. Also, to be able to have more focus on the English study was an amazing experience. The first class I took was with Dr. Brakow in Medieval and Renaissance culture and literature.  I could not think of a more perfect way to commence my understanding of the English roots. I loved learning how poetry has been timeless, and even the content within it and the social issues written it those works have been timeless as well. While at times, I may have found myself confused at the language, or the heavy metaphors that were difficult to decipher, I eventually came to accept that I was not going to be able to fully understand it all and that that was okay.  However, what is important is that I take the time to critically analyze the content and its historical connections. The process is what helped me in interpreting other reads, and other literary texts because if I could survive reading medieval and renaissance works, I could learn to understand almost anything.

I found it important to place myself in an area as a reader, or audience member to some of the texts, in a way that removed myself from feeling a bias or even a personal problem with the content.  Indeed, many, if not all of the earliest of writers were either colonists, or campaigned for the colonization of a land, group, or culture they deemed unworthy or beneath them. It is not to say that I do not find it important to interrogate such works in a way that is peril in giving back voice to those who were silenced, but more so that I was able to interpret the texts in a way that allowed me to understand the social construct at the time they were written.  It made me understand the importance of applying my own personal historical lineage to my works. I am a person of color, a Chicana and it is important that I campaign for women of my same background, but also overall that I utilize my own personal experience and journey as a returning academic and give it back to my community. It is also important to resist and interrogate what is considered normal; to truly “read between the lines” of all that is being communicated around us, at an even more obscure advanced way.

Well, here I am about to graduate from the UC Merced. I want to say, “I made it,” but it is deeper than that.  My initial purpose in returning to school was to heal and recondition all the damage that had been done to me, and the some I had done to myself.  At some point in time, I forgot that I was trying to heal. I guess it was because, at some point I had finally reached that goal. The scars of my past give me strength and inspire me to talk about them.  Yesterday, I sat alone thinking to myself about my beginnings as an English Major, I realized that I went from having the passionate desire to learn and absorb all that was being given to me, to now having the well earned capacity to mentor, teach and help guide the current as well as future generations to come.

-Marcy Martinez

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