Why do I write? A better question to ask would be why am I writing this particular piece. However, my ultimate objective is to reveal why I write.
Truth be told, I am a student, majoring in nursing at Delaware County Community College, and what you are reading right now is a required assignment for Professor Mangini’s English Composition 100 course. I am writing this piece simply because I have to, however the reasons I write go far beyond academic necessity. Why do people write? Whether it is in the form of a shopping list, social media, or hieroglyphics, I believe the main purpose of writing is for conceptualizing, conveying, retaining, and sharing ideas.
Like George Orwell, as a child with an age gap of five years between myself and my younger brother, I often felt alone. I would make up wild imaginary tales, in a freestyle fashion, and blurb to my parents before closing my eyes to dream up more ideas. I’m almost positive that my story telling was a mechanism used in the means of putting off bedtime to escape sleep. With no direct plot, my stories usually revolved around my family members and pets. I’ve yet to write about the true tale of Teddy the homosexual cannibal hamster, but I have a feeling that Teddy’s story will come to life this semester.
Like most children, my writing started in black and white marble composition books. The writing implement was fat and green and had no eraser. Journal entries consisted of the most intellectually stimulating and mind blowing compositions. Here is just a small first grade journal entry sample:
“I love transformers. Robert Bacon loves transformers too. I like Go Bots. I like ice cream.”
The literary masterpieces were always completed by simply jotting the words “the and”. At the time, I was under the assumption that the words “and” and “end” were the same word. “Pitcher” was another word that confused me. “I’m gonna take your pitcher, say cheese!”, “The pitcher is filled with lemonade”, “My favorite pitcher is Nolan Ryan.”, illustrates my confusion as a child.
The Delaware County accent made it hard to decipher differences between words, that otherwise may not be confusing to children who grow up elsewhere. My parents drank wooder. My mother shopped at the Ack-uh-me, a synonym for pinnacle, with an extra added syllable. You say poe-tay-toe, I say poe-tah-toe, he says acme, and my mom says Ack-uh-me. Perhaps children in Boston grow up thinking that sheep say “bar”? Who knows? One thing I know is that the English language is bizarre. I am sympathetic to any individual who learns how to speak English as an adult.
In grade school my mind was always in the clouds, and like Joan Didion, my eyes were often gazing out the window with curiosity, most commonly while my body was slouched at a school desk. Instead of focusing on my teachers’ lessons, my focus would be on the world outside of the classroom, where life was happening. Through the window, I observed construction workers tearing up asphalt in clouds of dust, postal workers with plump bags of mail walking up the steep hill next to our schoolyard, the refrigerated box truck delivering food supplies to the cafeteria, other students playing kickball on the playground, children glancing over their shoulders as they dipped through the school gates and took off running down side streets like a prison break. Even the squirrels running down the power lines appeared to be playing hooky.
I was curious as to what the construction workers talked about, wondered who’s mail the post man was delivering, and was inquisitive as to where our lunch food actually came from. I envied the students who had enough guts to flee the confines of institutionalized human domestication, where I believed I was being taught to think like everyone else. In a place where I believed my individualism was being oppressed by chalk bearing authoritarians, my main purpose was to prove that I could retain information and pass tests without ever actually being able to apply that information in a proper format in regards to what I was staring at outside of the window, while all in the meantime I sat patiently waiting for the bell to scream, “FREEDOM!!!”
While reflecting on the past, I’m starting to believe that maybe school wasn’t as much as oppressive as I was uninspired and bored. I retained material fairly easy and rarely had to study. If today’s standards were applied when I was a child, I would probably be labeled with ADD or ADHD, but in reality, I learned my lessons, retained the information, did my assignments, and passed my tests. “Speak when you are called on” was the most common heard phrase, as I was constantly clowning in class. Ironically, at this time, as hormones started to run rampant, I became more interested in the female species and became less focused on what the window had to reveal. My focus was back in the classroom, but still not on the material. Report cards were riddled with comments like, “student talks too much in class, student is a disruption in class, student doesn’t apply himself, etc…” Sometimes I even received a “student is a pleasure to have in class” comment. I was still jealous of the kids who had the balls to ditch school, though at the time I was ignorant to my own escape methodology. As their cloppity feet were their medium in which they painted their escape, my medium was my imagination in conjunction with the window and the world outside. And when my imagination no longer served as a valid means of escape, my medium of escape became the induction of chaos in the classroom, to gain attention from my classmates.
I write to escape. I write to transcend my thoughts on paper or in digital text in the hopes that they may be shared with others. I write to give my thoughts a place to live in the third dimension. I write to allow my thoughts to stand up right, to push the chair under the school desk, to open the window, to climb out, and to fly free. Metaphorically, my head is the classroom, my thoughts are the slouching student, and the window is the gate through which my thoughts become liberated as they transform into written words.