I recently applied for a bunch of scholarships, including some which are awarded each year by the Honors at Iowa program of which I am a part of. This program is BIG on weird, creative projects so I really wasn’t at all surprised when I saw the essay question for this year’s scholarships: “How are you?”
The application goes on to say, “It is a deceptively simple question which offers you the opportunity to pause and reflect on your life.” So I did. I had a lot of fun writing this and, because it was such an unusual essay question, thought it would be good to share with you. TBH I’m a little more optimistic in this essay than I am in real life, but that’s mostly at the suggestion of my writing tutor – he said I’d probably be more likely to get the scholarship that way! And I think writing this did actually make me feel a bit better… anyway, I’m rambling now. Enjoy!
How am I? Honestly, I feel overwhelmed and worried about the state of the world. Given the current political climate, it would not surprise me to hear that many other students studying the fine arts and humanities are also concerned. The new administration has proposed cutting the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which makes it even more necessary for artists and other creative types to defend the importance of culture.
At first I didn’t see the point in pursuing my goal of double-majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism if these things weren’t valued anymore, but over the past few months I have realized the skills and ideas I am learning about in college are actually more important now than ever.
Rather than being defeatist, I am excited about the possibilities of the next few years because I’ve decided to view this moment as a way to really make a difference. In the next four years, the arts will be essential.
In writing workshops, I’ve practiced my skills as a storyteller. I can now use what I’ve learned to, for instance, give a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise be heard. This is something I believed was important prior to this November, but after the divisive rhetoric we saw and continue to see after the election, it seems more urgent than before.
Additionally, I hope to continue building the skills that will allow me to educate others about different cultures and marginalized groups of people through fiction as well as journalism. Maybe that will help us to feel more united and heal.
I would also argue that there is something to be said for creating and consuming art for art’s sake, separate from any specific aims such as advocacy and education. Art enriches the human experience and livens up our daily routine. I believe that our sharply divided, troubled country needs to find and create beauty in order to heal and be whole again.
My ambitions of becoming a journalist have also been renewed as of late, as I observe everything going on in the world around me. Without journalism, without freedom of the press, there can truly be no democracy: The concept of the Fourth Estate is clear about this.
Although I am a student now, I will graduate soon enough and enter the workforce during the last few years of the current administration’s time in office – and I can make an impact now, too, as a student journalist. Journalism is necessary in these times in order to make sure that we have an informed populace and are able to have a dialogue with each other. Additionally, the work journalists do allows both citizens and legislators to know what each other’s interests and goals are.
How am I? I was worried about the state of our country, about how divided and full of vitriol it seems to be. And I still am. I’m getting better, though. As clichéd as this may sound, I know I can’t stand by and do nothing. I’ve always enjoyed writing and now I can put this skill to greater use than ever before.
So I am hopeful about what I can accomplish through my writing both during and after my college years. Without writing, and without the arts in general, I believe it will be difficult for people both in this country and across the world to express ourselves – and, consequently, to bridge the differences between us – with understanding and tact.