Van De Hey
Halle Van De Hey
Professor Aleashia Walton
10 June 2018
My Journey on the Path to Literacy
Literacy. Linguists have loosely and summatively described this as "the ability to read and write." Yet in my own experience and on my own journey, I have found this to be an insufficient definition. It does not begin to describe or encompass the depth of soul that has been endowed to all who write. I read and I write. I see the world differently. I analyze situations and circumstances on a deeper level than they appear to the onlooker who merely glances and skims the surface, only to avert the eyes abruptly. I feel emotions deeply and I do everything with heart. I have an inexplicable ability to empathize with others and place myself in their shoes. I see the story from the vantage point of all the parties involved because I can vicariously think, feel, see and understand where they are coming from. Then I am able to move a step forward to document the lively animated phenomena on bland inanimate paper -using only a pen as a tool. I am a writer.
Although my own journey, along the path to literacy is still in its youthful stages, it already feels as though it has been the journey of a lifetime. The memories of the beginning stages of this long are some of the fondest I have in my existence. In my youth, I always enjoyed reading. I read all kinds of books and immediately found myself in other worlds- this continues to fascinate me up until this day. Ever since I could read, this has been my habit- finishing even thicker literature within a few weeks. It truly resonated with me when reading Sherman Alexie say this in The Joy of Reading and Writing:
I read books late into the night, until I could barely keep my eyes open. I read books at recess, then during lunch, and in the few minutes left after I had finished my classroom assignments. I read books in the car when my family traveled to powwows or basketball games. In shopping malls, I ran to the bookstores and read bits and pieces of as many books as I could. I read the books my father brought home from the pawnshops and secondhand. I read the books I borrowed from the library. I read the backs of cereal boxes. I read the newspaper. I read the bulletins posted on the walls of the school, the clinic, the tribal offices, the post office. I read junk mail. I read auto-repair manuals. I read magazines. I read anything that had words and paragraphs. I read with equal parts joy and desperation. (p. 130-131)
I could spend an entire weekend locked indoors in the vivid world of other writers. Writers who captivated me in ways I never dreamed possible, ways which I believed were completely impossible to personally attain. Hearing Sherman also discuss his captivation for literature was validating in a way I didn’t expect because I was an anomaly to most kids around me.
I was in the eighth grade when I began to fantasize about the idea of actually becoming a writer. My eighth-grade teacher had given an assignment out to the class with the instruction to critically analyze and assess in the form of a written essay. Two weeks later, I was surprised when she called me aside after class one Thursday afternoon to request my permission to share what I had written with the rest of the class. She told me that I was the only one in the entire class who had followed her instruction and written a "sterling and sublime piece of work." I was completely taken aback and in tremendous awe. As Malcolm X said in his Learning to Read, “I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words-immensely proud” (p. 121). I felt extremely honored as I read a copy of my work during the English lesson which had been distributed to everybody as an example. My English teacher had always captivated and inspired me to greater heights. I had a deep admiration for the person who she was and all that she embodied.
She always encouraged me with these words "You are an excellent writer." I knew that she was an honest woman and would never lie, and so I did something extraordinary and courageous- I believed her. I felt as Malcolm X felt speaking about what he found in his ability to read saying, “up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life” (p. 121). From that momentous time onwards, I began to see the endless possibilities that lay ahead. I began to imagine the unlikely and unimaginable. For the first time in my life, I began to view myself as a writer. At once I understood that this would be one of my defining characteristics as a human being, that this path could lead me to my destiny and shape my principles, value, and character. That it would assist me in understanding and attaining my purpose and allow me to be an effective catalyst for change in the lives of all those within my sphere of influence. Oftentimes, as a student, and as a growing teen, writing had been seen as an extra-mural chore and as a sacrifice. I began to see with fresh resolve and unanticipated purpose that writing could never be a sacrifice. Writing is a gift. Writing is a privilege.
From the time that I understood that I am a writer and decided to boldly and courageously accept the calling. I have lived out a deeper experience as a human being. I bring my literacy into everything I say, think and do. I believe that words are very expensive- and I count them dearer than currency. Indeed, I count the literacy far more valuable than the currency.
Reading has played the most prominent role in molding me to be a prolific writer. I have memories of becoming disappointed after attending a theatre or watching a movie or television series and not enjoying it as thoroughly as I have enjoyed reading the book. I have found that words have a descriptive power that a video camera is not always able to capture. Music, pop culture, art, technology, sports, industry have all had a positive impact on my writing skills as they have influenced my perspectives and informed the way I relate to reality. In terms of environmental literacy- doing my reading and writing outdoors in the field, park or seaside has provided me with an extraordinary gift to be able to understand the stories I read much better in an unencumbered environment. In this environment, I write my own stories with much more passion and fervor.
I have been blessed to have adults in my life who have encouraged me to take my education seriously and always encouraged me to seek to be the best I can be. My English teacher as well as my parents and my college teachers. I also have a phenomenal group of friends, some of them also writers and I have vicariously lived out many inspirational events in my life as a result of their positive influences, which has led me to have a richer experience as a human being and thus be a better writer.
I spend at least a half hour a day reading, even if I am extremely tired, this has allowed me to become a more disciplined individual. I have become much like Malcolm X during his time in prison, when he says, “You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge” (p. 121). This has also improved my literacy and vocabulary and allowed me to gain knowledge into a wide range of disciplines and areas of expertise. This has also served me well in my own profession as a designer because it has allowed me to gain the fundamental skill of analysis and paying attention to detail. Reading has also improved not only my intelligence quotient but my Emotional intelligence, as well as I, am able to identify with and understand characters in real life who I met in books. What has also aided me indispensably is keeping a journal in which I make an entry about twice a day every day, I find this to be therapeutic in many ways and in this way I am able to practice my skill and art and understand myself and others better.
Someday, I hope to contribute to society by writing something that will have a positive influence and impact on all who read, hopefully centered around my art. I can safely say though, that the most fulfilling experience I have had so far in my literacy journey has been to teach someone to read. He was much older than I am but had never learned to read for lack of opportunity. This broke my heart and teaching him to read taught me to be a better human being. I learned many things and the gratitude he expressed really allowed me to have a sense of gratitude for my own blessings as well. I am grateful for my literacy. I am grateful to be a reader. I am grateful to be a writer.
As a writer, I listen with the ear of a writer. I hear the emotion in voices and in whispered tones, I hear it even more loudly. I hear the unsung songs and the unspoken words in all that is omitted, from all that is not said I am able to understand and hear what was meant. I see with renewed vision- I see the minute facial expressions on faces of the unsuspecting as they interact. I see the beauty in every single situation and in unexpected places. I am able to describe people situations, circumstances, events- both past and present in remarkable ways. I know that the best is yet to come.
Alexie, Sherman. “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me.” The Most Wonderful fhjdh Books: Writers on Discovering the Pleasures of Reading. Minneapolis: Milkweed
Fghjk Editions, 1997. 3-6. Print.
X, Malcolm. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ed. Alex Haney. New York: Ballantine, 1965. Fghjkd Print.