It's a gift when a former student shows up. It's an even more amazing gift when they show up in your life and share what's up. And it's even more precious and privileged when a former student reflects on the time you spent together, and surfaces some semblance of what was happening in their brains, hearts, beings while they were in your classroom. "Privileged and RARE,"I say!
The following is an email from former North High Writing as Performance Student, Michelle Berry, that arrived recently and sort of blew my mind. Ms. Berry is currently at St. Thomas doing her thing, and being amazing. Her mind and journey are gifts to me, to us all, as she courageously moves and makes visible her process and passion as writer/ traveler/ witness. Here, she shares a journal reflection on "Why She Writes," or rather, "Why Writing Matters."
Love to her! To all!
Hey Miss B. I hope this email finds you in exceptional condition. I am here at the University of St. Thomas further pursuing my education in print journalism as well as international studies. My classes here are wonderful. I am taking Theology, Philosophy, Intro to Justice and Peace and English. My English class is so great. Today we had an essay due: a journal reflection on "Why I Write". Instead I titled mine "Why it matters to me." I have attached it to this email because I think that you will find it very interesting. Miss B. I could never stress to you the importance of your class or the influence you and my classmates had on me and my writing. I am ever so grateful. Please write back (as I know you will Email Queen). I would love to know what's going on in Borgy's world now a days.
Forever your beloved student,
Michelle N. Berry
I sit there. I am still and quiet. I am observant. I am intrigued. And above all else, I am convinced that “that place” is where I want to be. He has inspired me. I need to find my voice. She has lit a fire within me. I truly do have something to say… or more so, a story to write.
The seed of passion was implanted in me in a typical, North High School classroom: A few windows (we were a fortunate class to have those), plain white walls and a feeling of lifelessness. But for some reason, only in this class, there was life. We had created it and it was established in our thoughts. It was in my “Writing as a Performance” class that I really took on the title of “Writer”. It was only in this class, that I was empowered by the students around me. Their feelings, their words, their stories… They were thought- provoking. It was there, in that dull, public classroom that I was able to express my most private thoughts. My mind became adaptive to escaping her own thoughts, and exploring the thoughts of the minds around her. It may be a foolish thing to say, but she is a pro at jumping back and forth between other people’s minds.
I may never be able to express to you all the wonders of that class. What matters is the fact that that class got me here to who I am today. I am a passionate writer and a critical thinker. Furthermore, it is the roots of where I am going: to “that place”. I have told you a few times before that writing for me is like the game of basketball for LeBron James. That is just what he does and this is just what I do. But why?
Why do I write? I think it’s more risky to ask why it matters to me. Every mind-enhancing citizen has written something before: a poem, a short story, a long paper. It’s rather impossible to find someone who hasn’t written something. Odds grow slimmer when the question posed is why it matters. Some say it won’t, others will disagree. For me, writing is a journey- an adventure. It matters because I want to end up at “that place”. I want to be taught so that I can teach.
Are you curiously wondering about “that place” yet? “That place” refers to both a physical place as well as an internal state of mind. It is through my writings that I will physically be able to visit Ghana, Liberia, Israel, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone… The list could go on forever. There, my thoughts would be captivated by language, history, tradition, food, arts and entertainment, emotions and above all else the stories (some of which may still be untold) of the people. It is the lives of the people that matter.
Then again, it is through my writings I will internally be able to play. Play with my thoughts, play with my imagination, play with the fire my mind grabs at and play with the minds of others. I am already at “this place”. However, I never stay here. I just continue to make frequent trips there. If I am always learning and always being challenged, there is no telling what my mind will end up holding true, or real, or fake. Being able to go to “that place” matters because it is the source of my purpose here on earth. It is the reason for my existence.
One of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou once said,
“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”I myself could not have said it any better. I write because it matters. It matters because there are people all over this world who have an amazing story to be told. A story filled with inspiration, deception, truths, love, pain and suffering, humility, tears and triumph. I believe a person becomes his better self when in the process of being told someone else’s story. Today, someone is waiting to become that better person. They will keep waiting until that story is told to them. And I am that person.