Literature has a way of playing with our memory. We read old stories and novels from all sorts of genres, from Lord of the Rings
to Oliver Twist
, and we are reminded of our innocent childhood days. A time when our only big responsibility was to make sure we cleaned our room before we could slump on the couch with a good book in our hands.
In a way literature works like music. When we hear old tunes from our childhood, our minds race back in time to that moment when we heard that song. Whether it be in the car with friends just simply jamming out with the windows down in the summer, or in the kitchen of your grandma’s house, baking cookies.
Yet, the memories evoked are not limited to our childhood. Literature has the power to trigger memories of events that happened not long ago, but still influenced our paths in life. For me, my memory was sparked by a poem.
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Their bad advice--
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
Each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations,
Though their melancholy
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do--
Determined to save
The only life you could save.This poem offers a beautiful description of both perseverance and self-discovery. Mary Oliver’s language is simple, yet so profound and fresh that it allows readers to emotionally connect to her words and ideas. This poem describes what it’s like to discover one’s own vocation – something that you realize you “have to do” in your life, whether it’s changing career paths or going on some extraordinary trip around the world. It’s not just about discovering, but also about chasing this dream despite what other people think. People fear judgment, especially from peers or family.
This poem takes me back to a memory that changed not only my direction in life, but also the person who I have become. Here is my story:
Atlanta, a bustling city, home to about 450,000 people, is the cultural and economic center of Georgia. It was the location of the 1996 Summer Olympics and is home to the Atlanta Braves National baseball team. Historically, this city has witnessed struggle and victory during both the Civil War and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. It is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Martin Luther King Jr., and president Jimmy Carter. Before I knew it, this wondrous city was soon to be my new home.
I attended Emory University in Atlanta during the fall of 2013. Like every first year college student, I was excited to meet new people, explore a new area, and make friends, but I was also a little nervous about leaving my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The first couple months in school were exciting. Classes were going well and I met a lot of new people. However, as time went on, something just wasn’t right. A blend of academic and social reasons soon led me to discover my own path, and in Oliver’s words, “one day I finally knew” that I needed to make a change.
It was a cold, January evening after winter break when I called my parents about my decision to transfer back home to UNC-Chapel Hill.
I feared their disappointment, their confusion, their sadness, as if their emotions blowing against me would be like Oliver’s “wind” with its “stiff fingers.”
I could hear the “voices” of my friends and peers back at home and at Emorywhispering and gossiping about me.
This fear of judgment and misunderstanding surrounded and haunted me.Yet, just as in Oliver’s poem, I chose to leave their voices behind me, and as I did I felt the “stars begin to burn” through the “sheets of clouded judgments. ” My own future and dreams were becoming clearer.
I could hear the chiming of the Bell Tower telling me it’s time for class.
I could soon see the Gillings School of Public Health and its bright Atrium with the sun gleaming through the glass ceiling.
I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins as I pictured rushing Franklin Street after beating Duke at basketball.
A smile illuminated my face just thinking about the world ahead of me.
It was at this moment that I realized the importance of following your bliss and doing what is best for you despite what other people say or may think.
After all, we are all unique human beings living on this Earth each with our own journey ahead of us.
The audio essay was probably my favorite project this semester, partly because I learned how to effectively use an audio program that I have never used before and partly because I got to share a personal experience of mine that has made a huge influence in my career path and overall the person that I have become. Until this class, I have never been "techy," or in other words, never good at working with technology. In fact, a major reason why I chose to take this class was because I was eager to learn more about technology and how to tie in technology with literature. Seeing how our world is advancing in technology every day has given me the desire to seek out new computer skills and I am so happy this class has allowed me to learn so much about different computer programs. For this project, learning how to use Audacity was a little tricky at first. I spent a couple of hours just simply figuring out how all the cool tools and effects worked with the program before I actually started recording my piece. Once I learned how to use the software, I started outlining my audio essay. I was first inspired by Steph Ceraso's piece, "A Tale of Two Soundscapes." Her story of living in two different places immediately made me think of my own experience living in Atlanta, Georgia and my hometown of Chapel Hill, NC. That led me to think about my overall transfer experience from Emory University to UNC-Chapel Hill and I thought that sharing this story to others would not only be fun, but also hopefully beneficial for my listeners. It wasn't until after I transferred schools that I realized how common it was for college students to transfer. In fact, during that time when I was debating the thought in my head, I kept thinking that transferring was something frowned upon and that nobody ever transferred. However, once I realized that a lot of students went through the same feelings and emotions I experienced, I thought this audio essay could really show other students it's okay to feel afraid. It's okay to feel uncertain about your life. In fact, it's these times of uncertainty where you can really learn and grow and figure out your passions. My final message I wanted to get across to listeners was really to follow your bliss and listen to your heart. No matter how cheesy that may sound, this transfer experience has really taught me that this statement is 100% true. Being born and raised in Chapel Hill, I have always been a Tar Heel fan and I knew that I would be happier there. I could picture myself there for the next 3 years, whereas I could not do the same for Emory. I followed my gut and couldn't be happier here at Carolina.
Now, back to the actual project... I discuss a lot of my revisions in the Audio Essay Revision Walk-Through video
, but overall my revisions involved changes in both content and technicality. Since my transfer story is the bulk of the piece, I tried to use my poem as more of a hook into my story. I added another soundtrack piece and included an introduction about the power of literature and sound acting as a trigger to memories. I also had a lot of challenges with balancing out the volume of the different audio clips when overlapping. Resolving this just involved lots of trial and error and listening attentively to ensure that one audio clip does not mask the other. Another challenge was using the most fitting parts of songs/soundtracks. This involved specifically trimming the audio at just the right time to ensure both a smooth transition or compatibility with the other audio.
"Change": This theme of "change" is very evident in this piece, as a I share my personal experience about my transfer experience and how as a student at Emory, I knew things "had to change." It's from this big change in my life, that I realized and learned the importance of following what makes you happy no matter what and chasing your dreams. Things may not always be how they planned out to be, but the importance is asking yourself, "what are you going to do about it? what change or course of action will you make?" We must adapt to the situation presented in front of us, whether it be changing, revolving, or catastrophic, and learn to make the best of it.