Maybe High School English Classes Do Matter…

Since I was a young girl I have wanted to be a writer. I filled journal, after journal, after journal. Becoming a writer is still my dream, but now that I am an adult, it feels a little more distant, like it’s something that might not actually happen.

Most of what I have written over my life time are daily reflections in my journals. In high school, I took a stab at writing short stories for my English classes. There are three classes that stand out from my high school years, two of them were taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Barry Grimes.

Mr. Grimes was my English teacher during grades 10 and 12. He introduced me to a diverse range of writers, not just in styles but also in culture. His teaching style was about bringing out the life lessons hidden in the books and making us think about how the stories we were reading connected to our own life and our own stories. Of course, we were all young so most of his teachings eluded us, but he tried nonetheless. Mr. Grimes was peculiar. He carried three small notebooks in his back pocket, he used to record things through out his day. He had very sloppy hand writing, but I got used to it. He wrote on a chalkboard, when most teachers were using white boards.

In his class, I read books like The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Farewell to Manzanar, and Braided Lives: An Anthology of Multicultural American Writing. We also got to write our own short stories, emulating the writing styles of the authors we were reading. Mr. Grimes liked my writing and ignited in me the belief that maybe I too could be a writer some day.

The other class that was formative for me was a Latino Literature class I took in my junior year (11th grade) with Mr. Bodeen. In his class I was introduced to many Chicano authors like Gloria Anzaldua, Tomas Rivera, and Rudolfo Anaya. In his class I read one of my favorite books: Bless Me, Ultima. In his class I also wrote some short stories and learned that my cultural background provided me with a lot of creative material.

Did you take any classes during high school that had an impact on you? Share your stories in the comments!

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The Power of Stories

In my last post, I shared about how in the last few months I have began to be involved with oral storytelling. I want to share how stories have been a significant in my life even before getting into storytelling.

In college I had to take a writing seminar my freshman year, I took the one called The Power of Story: Writing as Transformation. The class was rather small, maybe 10 people. Some of those people become my best friends in college.

In the class we wrote stories, then read them in class and provided feedback to each other. We shared personal and vulnerable stories; this is probably why the group became so close. The professor shared her stories with us too. I don’t remember much about the class, but I do remember learning about the hero’s journey. I  remember the stories my classmates shared. And I remember a moment when the professor shared how she felt alone, and that she was afraid that she would die alone. I remember her vulnerability, and I remember feeling what she said as if they were my own feelings.

I didn’t understand this then, but stories are powerful. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the world around us have real life implications, they determine how we act and how we live our life.

Most of us aren’t aware of the stories we believe. We are not aware of the stories that we have inherited from our parents.  And most importantly, we are not aware that we have the power to change the story. I know I wasn’t aware of that before, and now I’m finally beginning to put this story puzzle together.

What about you? Have you ever though about the stories you have believed about yourself and how the world works? Share in the comments!

Writing was my first spiritual practice

 

notepad-691250_1280I started keeping a journal since I was in fourth grade in Mexico. My first diary was a gift from a friend. I wrote childish things, like any 10 year old would.

I took it to school one day and when I went back home it was gone! I was heart broken. I probably only had a couple of days worth of writing, but I felt traumatized that someone in my class was reading my deepest darkest secrets and probably laughing about them. I felt so embarrassed and angry.

I tried keeping a journal again, but I was always afraid that my dad would read it. He was always curious about what I was writing and thinking. That fear kept me from writing for a few years.

When I was in high school I was gifted a beautiful journal by someone at my church and I began writing. I told my dad he had to stop wanting to read my journals and I used to hide them in different places just in case.

During high school I needed to write, a lot. I had all these emotions and thoughts. I didn’t care if my dad read my journals any more. Now I understand that he was just curious about what I was thinking, he could have just asked!

After high school I kept writing. I filled notebook, after notebook, after notebook, until I had a pretty decent size collection. I was still afraid of my dad reading my journals so I made a terrible decision. I decided my journals would be safer with the boyfriend at the time. Little did I know. After I broke up with said boyfriend I lost all my journals because he would not return them. I still mourn the loss of all those years of writing. In those journals I recorded some major transitions of my adolescence, and they are lost to me.

Now I have a decent size collection again. I write to process things, to find answers, to vent, to record life, to leave something for posterity too. I can definitely say that writing has kept me sane for many years, and it will continue to be my go to spiritual and meditative practice. Being afraid that people will read your journals and violate your privacy was no fun though. I don’t feel like that any more. I write pretty freely, and look! I’m even posting it here on the internet for everyone to read!

What was your first spiritual practice?