One of the things that made this class stand out from the rest is that I actually felt challenged in this course. Too often are the texts for my other classes too easy, too boring, or too filled with repetitive concepts with which I've already spent a great amount of time. This was not the case in this classroom. This was the first time my professor told the class, "You better have a highlighter and dictionary handy while reading," and I actually listened because it was necessary. We read difficult texts, the most difficult of which were written by Roland Barthes, a French semiotician who taught me the meaning of studium and punctum and how the two affect what is good and bad photography. I came into this class thinking photography was not an art form at all, actually. But because of Barthes (and my peers' perspectives on the matter) I was able to walk away with a new appreciation for photography and see its values as they apply to other aspects of the world. For instance, the decisions a photographer makes when shooting are very similar to those a writer makes when putting words onto paper. They think about the context, the rhetoric, and the things they want to include or exclude from the picture in order to convey a specific message.
But this wasn't the only thing I felt was extremely valuable in the class. The films that were presented, including Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Bill Cunningham New York, offered me a brand new perspective on life in general. Both films showcased men of various skill sets and their complete and utter devotion to their work. They gave up their entire lives for their professions, making names for themselves in their respective home countries. I thought this was an interesting concept because while I love writing, have always wanted to be a writer, and my ultimate dream is to become successful in the writing field, I can't help but feel there are more important things than just work. I love my family, my friends, and my fiance. I love fun, and leisure, and long walks on the beach (no, really I do). I would never be able to abandon it all, shut the doors to my life outside of writing, and do exactly what it takes to become a master at the craft. That was probably the hardest lesson I learned this semester, I think. As I watched these men do nothing but work for their entire lives, yes doing what they love, but also leaving behind an entire life they could have had, I realized something: I don't have what it takes. I'm not saying I won't be a successful writer one day. Maybe I will be. In a lot of ways, I already consider myself to be one. But to be obsessed, to be a perfectionist... that's something else entirely. That's something I don't have the guts (or really even the desire) to do.
In addition to the films and texts, I learned a great deal from my peers (and no I'm not just saying that). Never before had I been in a class that allowed me to see into the lives and minds of those who were taking the course along with me. In fact, most of the reason I felt I had success in the blogging genre was due in great part to Amy McAnally, a classmate of mine whose blogging voice inspired me and allowed me to find my own voice in my writing. But it wasn't just one classmate who I found particularly interesting. It was all of them. Most of the time in these gen ed classrooms where everyone is there for the same purpose (it's mandatory), there's an overwhelming sense of student apathy. And I thought for certain this class would be no exception, especially with all the challenging texts we were required to read throughout the semester. But that wasn't the experience I ended up having, and I couldn't be more glad for it. Everyone in the classroom had something special to offer, an idea I never had before, a way of seeing that changed me somehow. As corny as it sounds, I know, I'm really going to miss those classroom discussions and hearing and reading everyone's differing ideals and opinions.
The final assignment for this semester was to create a blog post discussing the most profound thing you learned in the class. But I didn't do that, because there's not just one thing for me. I learned that photography is more related to writing than anyone may think, and that because of those similarities it is an art. I learned that no matter how much you think you know, there are things out there that will still challenge you and you should embrace those challenges with open arms (a dictionary and a highlighter wouldn't hurt either). I learned that passion for a subject or profession isn't enough to master it. It takes sacrifice, time, and true love. But most of all I learned to not give up on those around you. Because even if your past experience has been that no one cares, no one takes it seriously, no one wants to get better, there are always people around you that will surprise you in new and interesting ways. There are still people who care. There are still people who want to be better. There are still people you can learn from. And you know what? You can even find them in a required class.