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I used to have a clear conception of how I got to Duke. I took hard classes, worked diligently, and had a bit of help from parents and a few extremely close friends who were always there for me. Something I had never questioned until this summer what how I became me. How did I become the person who could do all of those things? How did I become someone who could form those close friendships? How did I become someone generally bad at expressing their appreciation for those friends?

I have grown–I believe–in many ways after one year at school. Some great, immensely patient, friends have played a critical role in my learning. Prior to this summer, however, I had never considered the emotional sacrifice they were making to lessen my ignorance. Beyond their sacrifice, I never genuinely considered why they already had knowledge while I was completely ignorant. In fact, I would sometimes think, “oh they just have a passion for social justice or something like that” without considering the privilege surrounding my conception of passion. As a cisgender white male, passion for me was born from enjoyment. The people in my life and I had deep passion for things we enjoyed tangentially–gardening, woodworking, languages, music–not things central to our existence in the world. I never considered that perhaps for some passion and commitment are borne out of existence, not enjoyment.

This is a single example, though there are many more, of how I’ve learned to consider how my experience and knowledge may be fundamentally different from others’ experience and knowledge. I have many more conceptions to deal with as I continue to learn. I have also learned, however, I must seek out learning. I cannot wait for new knowledge to question my experience. Instead, I should seek out knowledge as a process of reducing my ignorance without relying on the work of my friends.

I’ve realized I can kill two birds with one stone, figuratively, as I am learning. For example, this summer I have been considering the role patriarchal masculinity has played in shaping who I am. Spurred by bell hooks, this thought exercise has been rewarding in eye opening ways. But while reflecting, I should also give pause to consider how patriarchal masculinity affects the entire conception of the world held by others, not just job opportunities and pay. My reflection has come to consider–or attempt to consider–a scale larger than just myself and my immediate friends.

This summer, I worked on understanding the sources of my knowledge and character. I have been working on telling my friends how much I appreciate their sacrifice and their company, evaluating the role patriarchal masculinity played in shaping who I am and how I interact with relationships, and fighting complacency in my knowledge. This summer has been a season of learning how much I need to reevaluate things I thought I knew, namely myself and my understanding of my world. As my second year at Duke approaches, I will continue to struggle with frequent action rather than complacency with the fact that at least I know how little I know. However, I look forward to the potential for learning and development, both personal and interpersonal, which can emerge from deliberate implementation of new thought practices.

Though in theory I could have engaged in these thought processes anywhere, DukeEngage played a role in constructing a setting for my learning. I would like to thank our program director, Matt Whitt, for his thoughtful conversation and writing regarding epistemology, which served as the base for weaving together strands of thought I have been considering. I would also like to thank my friends from home for helping me through high school and continuing to be ready ears as I have been exposed to new ideas throughout my first year in college, and my friends from Duke for their willingness to discuss any and everything, particularly my misunderstandings.