Tag Archives: learning

Those Moments we Understand Books the Best

I’ve spent a lazy weekend unwilling to even start studying for finals, but as I wasted time today I re-watched the Masterpiece version of Jane Eyre¬†from 2006.

Jane Eyre (2006)

Now for those who don’t know Jane Eyre is probably one of my all time favorite books. There are few others that can reduce me to such utter happiness when I read, make me smile and laugh and cry all at once. And watching the movie just reminds me so much of the book I fell in love with all those years ago.

Now I think Jane had a special meaning to me this time I watched. I’m leaving to go off to France next semester leaving behind my college to go study abroad. And while I’m certainly excited and looking forward to the whole thing, another part of me is saddened at having to leave behind the place I’ve grown so familiar with over the last two and a half years.

And in finding myself in this situation I’ve constantly found myself sympathizing with literary characters like Jane as they leave their familiar homes behind, the places they’ve come to know and love so well over a significant portion of their lives. I feel like Jane leaving Thornfield, Harry leaving Hogwarts, Lucy leaving Narnia, Oliver Twist being forced from the Brownlow’s.

That’s not to say I don’t want to go to France, it’s merely that I dread leaving the place I’ve become so familiar with. I have a loving home back with my parents to be sure, but something about college has just really clicked for me. I have learned more about myself than I ever dreamed I would, have met wonderful new friends who support me in my growth, and have simply found a place I can only describe as home.

And to be sure I’m embarking out on a grand adventure. But I’m like Samwise Gamgee heading out of the Shire, a little wary to leave the place that has been so safe and good for him all his life.

He looks at Frodo on the first little bit of their walk and says:

“If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

The road ahead of me is still so shadowed, unknown. I feel in many ways like I’m setting out without a map, no concept of what might happen of where this journey might lead me. But I know if my books have taught me anything that even if the road will be hard that it will be worth it and that this new stage of my life is going to change and shape me.


So I cling to my books right now in hopes of comforting myself as I set out. It’s moments like these that I feel like I truly understand why literature exists in giving us a sense of shared human experience and understanding for our struggles and fears.

I suppose I should warn you dear readers that I will possibly be taking a break from my blog for a while as I study abroad. I need to focus on learning the language and shouldn’t spend too much time using English. I will probably start a blog about my travels though and will be sure to announce when that’s up.

But regardless I still just wanted to share that brief moment of happiness in recognizing the way I see literature in my own life and the hope I have as I head out for my grand adventure. To all friends from my new “home” at school, just know I will miss you. I feel like Harry leaving Ron and Hermione, or Lucy leaving Mr. Tumnus. I will miss all of you, but I will be back one day for sure. And I look forward to sharing with you the adventures I’ve had in my time away. And since I can’t take you with me I take the hope books have given me about friendships, adventures, and everything else. To my followers, don’t give up on me yet. I’ll try to keep this going as long as I can.¬†

So, what ways have you seen parts of your favorite book in your own life? What hope do characters give you?

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Take the Criticism and Learn

I stride briskly through the crisp autumn air, the coolness stinging my face, making my hands curl tighter around the crumpled paper in my hands. My eyes water, and I sense tears coming though I do my best to hold them at bay. I let out a foul curse and continue on trying to ignore the blue and black markings all over the paper, all over my work.

It’s only nine in the morning, and I’m already about to cry. But then again, I’ve never really experienced this feeling before. And it’s awful. I’ve taken heartbreak and rejection. I’ve lived through being ignored and being used. But I’m not sure I can live through this. Through utter and complete criticism to a work of writing.

This? This is Journalism class. This is my discovery that not all forms of writing are created equal and though I can succeed on many playing fields, the world of news is a whole different world where my enemies feel a heck of a lot stronger than most.

All my life I’ve been told what a spectacular writer I am. I remember back to elementary school when I was one of two people in my class selected to go to a writing conference because I showed obvious talent. I remember to junior high when I came out with the highest grade in my regular English class and was transferred to accelerated the next year. I remember friends begging me for the next chapter in high school. I remember pulling off A’s on my hardest literature class essays. But for once in my life no one is looking at my work and applauding.

The paper is a mess, words scrawled everywhere, things crossed out, commas added. And if that wasn’t enough my peer editing group had to critique my work aloud, voicing to the whole world what was wrong with my article. I felt my face heat up, felt defensiveness take over. I tried my best to nod through the criticism even as tears started to try to escape. As the professor announced the end of class, I grabbed the article and ran for the door.

Perhaps I needed to finally know what it felt like to not be the one with the best work. Perhaps this worthy lesson has shown me something. I have always advocated for trying new things, and I did. I branched into journalism, and in doing so learned that I cannot be talented at everything.

I don’t want to sit here and sound like I’m whining about how I can’t write journalism. Certainly it is an admirable talent, and I would be delighted if I had natural abilities to produce news stories, but as I don’t I must be satisfied with what I do have. I have written four novels in my lifetime, keep a blog, have tried my hand at a variety of types of fiction, have even branched into nonfiction on occasion. I rarely get a bad grade on an essay. I have been blessed whether I like it or not, and to simply know this is the wrong form for me is in some ways a pleasant surprise. I think it would be exhausting to be good at every form of writing.

As I stand looking out at the trees of campus, feeling the tears slowly disappear and resolve take over, I know I learned a few simple truths. Every writer encounters criticism. To be honest I’m bad at taking it in general. But the main thing I learned today is that we all face it at some point in our writing lives. No matter how talented we may seem on the surface, every writer has an Achilles’ heal. And mine is journalism. And so, I’ve learned what not to pursue in my career. And I gladly leave this craft to writers far more talented than I.


Filed under Writing

Wishbone: My Roots as an English Major

What’s the story, Wishbone?

My love of literature started at a young age. Though I didn’t realize it at the time I was fascinated by many of the books of the canon. Even before I could read myself I already knew stories like The Odyssey, or Tom Sawyer, Romeo and Juliet, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Pride and Prejudice. But of course at such an early age I wasn’t reading, instead I was watching.

My favorite show as a child was Wishbone, a PBS show about a Jack Russell Terrier that uses classic literature to relate to the adventures of his humans. My family didn’t have cable so for the most part I was stuck with public television or movies. But I didn’t mind too much, it gave me more time to play rather than absorbing screen entertainment. As a result of my few choices I usually was presented with the opportunity to always watch Wishbone. And that started me down the path of loving stories.

I will never forget when I started reading those books for myself. Remembering how they portrayed things in the children’s version always gave me great joy in rediscovering the stories as an adult. It was a new angle, a further dimension to the thirty minute episodes I used to watch. It was a great joy to get to read my favorite stories again.

Alongside that Wishbone’s example of applying literary lessons to real life was one I would continue to value for years to come. When I’d be scared for a presentation at school I’d remember brave heroes I’d read about in books and use them as an example of what I wanted to act like. When I was bullied for being a book nerd I’d remember Hermione Granger and how her cleverness paid off in the end. If I struggled to find comfort in my circumstances I’d think of Sarah in The Little Princess and how she always found ways to be happy, and in turn to share happiness with others. Books are full of inspiring people and circumstances and thanks to Wishbone I learned some of what it means to apply a book to my own life.

So, here I am years later as an English major, continuing to read and write. I hope one day I can share with others that love of books that I first gained as a child. I know my own children will grow up with books all around them, constantly being taught that when life gets hard a book can be a great friend to keep you company.

Thanks for all you taught me Wishbone. I miss you!

Where did you learn to love reading? What childhood memories stand out to you? Did anybody else watch and love Wishbone?

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