I love to write and reflect, but I don’t like writing these reflections.
My time in Miami has not been unfruitful, unpleasant, or unremarkable. Miami is stunning. Miamians hug, laugh, and yell, and I often can’t say which is affection and which isn’t. People here are serious and passionate—they seem to hide little—but also unique and ordinary, chatting (often in Spanish) while sitting in a lawn, eating, watching kids play.
The students I live and spend most of my time with make me laugh and think. My colleagues teach me lessons I didn’t think any Duke program could. (They have taught me, for instance, how to smile when I want to scream.)
But I haven’t wanted to write about any of it. I still don’t.
I’ve written sentences I don’t want to add to and ended paragraphs on thoughts I don’t care to think. Here is (perhaps) the problem: I don’t wish to share what I’m learning. I’m changing, but not deciding. This is new. I might never understand some experiences or conclude on the whole what I think about DukeEngage Miami. I like that. I enjoy the privacy of not knowing. Memories from my time here can be appreciated and put away without a marketed moral, personal, or political message. They help form me, and are for me.
From this is a reflection: my readers should remember this post is prompted by desires to reflect and market (i.e. I’m required to write this). I don’t want to market my reflections because I see them as imaginative chances to change my mind. Blogs show authentic thought, willingly given. Someone, simply, wants to share what they think. It’s an odd sleight of hand, requiring blogs.
Some professors ask students to write on what they read for class. The goals are first to make students read and second to make them explore their thoughts, or reflect, on the text. It makes for better seminars. These blogs aren’t public, and are meant to learn and explore. DukeEngage tells students to reflect so we can better understand or engage with our time. Our reflections go on the program website for all (read: donors and prospective participants) to read. Amazon might as well admit to paying people to review books so people consider buying said reviewed books using Prime.
I should clarify. Requiring, then publishing, reflections isn’t wrong. But for interesting reasons. Yes, the blog is an odd genre of customer reviews, and some students (like me) can’t or don’t do it well. Some students, though, are serious in their thoughts and words. Their reflections are worth sharing because these thoughts emanate to a reader, but are not for us. To see how people perceive, feel, and use their empathy, experience, and intellect to think, see Ceci’s post on language, identity, and community or Lindsay’s post on bearing witness or Jeremy’s post on abhorrent levity where there is none. These are visceral and smart and hard to read but even harder to imagine and live. They don’t answer whether you as their reader should donate or apply to DukeEngage, but they ask if you can learn to see how the writer feels and thinks. It is hard to learn from feeling. They do it well.