A short essay I typed up during my senior year of high school for an A.P. Language course. The assignment required a personal narrative from my past.
Perhaps I am not well suited for A.P. Language.
I questioned the veracity of that statement as I sat staring blankly at my empty word document.
Mr. Silvidi had assigned another essay, making the running total two papers within the first three weeks of school. It was definitely a rate I hoped would not endure. Feeling the weight of the assignment like a ten ton writer’s block, I attempted to dream up a legitimate topic on which I could elaborate sufficiently enough to craft an essay. A personal narrative was this week’s poison of choice for the professor, and I hoped my lack of storytelling skills verbally would not transfer over to paper.
For the last twelve years of my life, I had submitted, half-willingly and half-wittingly, to the constraints of my scholastic obligations. Now, after suffering the agony of churning out paragraphs year after year, I had finally reached my breaking point. No longer could I endure the deadlines and the immense work. The thought crossed my mind to chain myself to the door of the classroom and stage a sit-in. I would protest until the Ohio Board of Education decided to capitulate to the crazy kid at Revere High School and declare essays unconstitutional. Either that or they would lock me up under charges of insanity.
A more civilized approach, which would not end in my probable incarceration, presented itself to me. It was simple. I could just refuse to complete the assignment. Although I would certainly receive a zero on the paper and my grade would seriously suffer, the long-term ramifications of not writing the paper would not be too severe. I could still work diligently for the rest of the trimester and receive a decent grade in the class, and my acceptance into college would not be hampered too severely. Life would continue as it always had. I found myself comparing the negative consequences of an incomplete essay to the principles I would uphold through my refusal. By not completing the essay I would, in essence, be exercising my freedom of expression that the forefathers of America had secured by way of the First Amendment. By refusing to express myself, I could express my discontent with the system that had controlled me for twelve long years. Every fourth grader, slumped over his or her desk while taking the proficiency test, would appreciate my small step toward freedom. By rebelling against the establishment, I, Daniel Choi, would defend the sense of freedom that America had once held dear. The extensive media coverage on the issue would prompt the debate to be taken to the federal level, and the Supreme Court would soon follow up with a unanimous decision in Choi vs. Board of Education, ruling mandatory essays against the law. I smiled at the thought of a cataclysmic change in the school system caused by one student’s discontent. I would go down in history… or maybe just in flames. In reality, the probability that my rebellion would be recognized as anything more than mere indolence seemed slight at best. More likely, my peers would tease me for not being able to find time to write a proper essay. Few, I am sure, would notice the message behind my silence, and the best way to explain it would be to write a paper, thus contradicting the original message I had been trying to convey – freedom of expression sans expression.
The other option would be to complete the essay as assigned. Although this option would cause excruciating, albeit temporary, exertion on my part, it did offer the pride of a job well done and a grade sure to be better than zero. Furthermore, I could improve my writing skills by analyzing Mr. Silvidi’s remarks on my essay. The benefit seemed to be two-fold. I had elected to take the composition class so that I could become the writer that I wanted to be. Why, in the first month of school, would I intentionally sabotage my quest for further literary bliss? I still clung to my previous, yet now seemingly childish trail of logic. Not completing the essay would be a bold move for freedom… right? I began to question whether I had really believed in freedom of un-expression or whether it had simply been a plot to convince myself not to do the work. Regardless, the truth remained; I still didn’t want to do the work. By now, however, I had devised a topic about which to write. Slowly, I began my paper.
Perhaps A.P. Language is not a class for which I am well suited.
I thought it served as a good opening sentence considering the subject matter of the essay. The sentence captured the essence of what I was feeling when I set to work. Then again, it needed a little tweaking to make it sound the way I had wanted.
Perhaps I am not well suited for A.P. Language.
I gazed at the screen and with a slight approving nod, I continued. At least I was getting somewhere. I proceeded tentatively. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words refused to come when I heeded. For a while, I considered changing my essay topic entirely. Inside my mind, another idea had been brewing for a different topic. I even began writing an introduction for another narrative, but my mind kept wandering back to that first (great?) idea. I wanted to write about my difficulty in finally deciding to start the essay because that decision meant more to me at that point than anything else. The conflict and the resolution were already apparent, and I thought that the subject matter seemed interesting enough. Five seconds became five minutes, though, and I continued to stare into the white abyss of the page as it yearned to be filled with words. My fingers trembled as they perched upon the letters of the keyboard. My eyesight began to grow hazy, and I had to force myself to concentrate on the task at hand. It would have been so much easier to un-express this essay, I thought. The clock slowly ticked away the seconds, and realizing that I would rather write poorly than not write at all, I regained my sanity and began, once more, to type.
Four hours later, I looked back over what would become my first draft. I was pleased with how it had progressed. After a slow start, I had hammered away at my keyboard without a break, with the exception of a power outage after which I had to restart my computer. With the essay completed, I wondered why I had encountered such difficulty trying to begin. Expressing myself by not completing the essay now seemed completely ludicrous, because I found that the greatest fulfillment of freedom of expression came through writing. By electing to put my thoughts down on paper, I provided all future readers the opportunity to comprehend and react to the emotions that I felt while writing. I had fulfilled my desire to express myself freely, and I had been able to do so in a perfectly legal manner. With a proud grin in acknowledgment of my accomplishments, I printed out my narrative and placed it neatly in my folder.
Perhaps I am well suited for A.P. Language.