Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Self-Expression and Writing

One of the most important skills to learn is writing. No matter what type of writing one does, no matter how developed or undeveloped one’s writing skills are, and now matter who one writes to, writing is one of the most important forms of communication. Writing, like life, is an endless form of education, one that can continually be built upon or changed. One’s writing process follows one’s growth.

My service experiences at both the Esperanza Center and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School haven proven the power of writing. At both of these educational institutions, writing is highly encouraged as an important learning tool, as a necessary means to a complete understanding of different subjects.Writing helps the Cristo Rey high school students learn the Spanish language just as it helps the adult ESL students of the Esperanza Center appreciate and relate to the English language. Although many try to avoid writing and the written form of communication or try to avoid the process of writing one’s thoughts down, a process that can be both stressful and long, it is a process that leads to a deeper and clearer understanding of the writer as an individual and of the subject pursued. I completely understand where the Cristo Rey high school students are coming from when they are reluctant to jot down their ideas or express themselves on paper (especially in a language they are only learning) and I also see how difficult it is for the ESL adults to feel comfortable writing in a language that is not their own, in a language that does not readily express their true identities. Everyone at one point in his or her life struggles with writing, whether it be for educational reasons (such as not understanding the language) or emotional or developmental reasons, such as a reluctancy to express exactly what one thinks, feels, or comprehends. Some even struggle with situational reasons, such as not being able to write or being discouraged from expressing oneself.

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat presents a number of personal, life-changing experiences relayed by members of the Haitian community. Each story and each history is different yet all the stories provide a sense of sadness and nostalgia that is hard to capture in only words. Reading the stories is a journey in itself for the reader feels a number of emotions and pictures a range of unfamiliar images that invoke new understandings of the people telling each story. It is hard to imagine what the writers of each story must have felt or how they even went through with the process of writing down each memory, a process that must have been very difficult for the individual involved.

However, writing can provide a feeling of comfort. It is much easier to accept a part of the past when one can write it down, when one can completely express the emotions involved and the ideas that arose from these emotions. Writing for acceptance is therefore a form of a travel or a form of inner development, a process that allows the individual to connect with the images and the feelings that he or she remembers the most and to give these thoughts and memories a permanent form, a form that the individual is at liberty to reread or to completely toss aside. Writing, in this sense, becomes a process for one’s own benefit, a process that cannot be forced upon a person but is rather chosen and recognized as a step towards self-realization. The understanding that one gains from writing can be liberating for it is an understanding that one has the power and the ability to express his or her self, the power to make this form of expression private or public, and the power to learn and grow from the overall process. The characters of Krik? Krak! gain, through writing, the power over themselves that they have never had as well as a new perspective and appreciation for their horrible pasts.

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