Before you read any further, please watch the above podcast. 

First, I would just like to say that filming that podcast was pretty high on my uncomfortable-things-I’ve-done list. There is a point to it, though. Let’s recap:

The world - 7 billion people.

The United States - 313.9 million people.

Tennessee - 6.456 million people.

Chester County - 17,131 people.

Freed-Hardeman University - 1,992 people.

Me.

I’m writing a creative nonfiction essay on my experience studying abroad in the fall semester of my sophomore year. Studying abroad is something I routinely encourage people, especially my friends and classmates, to do. I tell them about the people I met, the life lessons I learned, and the new perspective I gained of the world. 

When I first chose to study abroad, I knew the world was big. In fact, the world was 7 billion people big. I was only one. I was insignificant. I was a dot in a sea of people. 

Don’t think, however, that this fact had me down. Insignificance = lack of responsibility, right? I didn’t have the power to change anyone or anything, so why bother making the effort?

Then I met a South Korean lady on a day trip to Luxembourg City, and suddenly, the world wasn’t so big. This lady, this one lady, was significant. She made a difference in the lives of twelve college students from Henderson, Tennessee, simply by asking us to sing with her. 

That’s right; you read it correctly. She wanted us to sing with her. That’s all it took for her sweet spirit to change the way I saw the world.

I am only one person. But I am one person who has the ability to encourage, and share, and uplift. I have the potential, through a tiny action, to change someone’s day, or year, or life. That’s a mighty big responsibility.

I don’t know if I’m quite ready to take on the population of the world, or even 313.9 million United States citizens. I think I’ll just start with dear ole FHU. After all, if it weren’t for FHU, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to study abroad in the first place.

The Big 2-5.

To date, I’ve done an admirable job of sticking to the suggested Advanced Comp blog topic. Then I saw that the Internet, or World Wide Web, turned 25 years old yesterday, March 12, 2014.

I’m a fan of the Internet. I read Yahoo’s “Top Stories” religiously, plan my future home on Pinterest, and watch videos of sleepy kittens on Youtube. I shamelessly creep on newly-engaged people on Facebook, mostly to size up their proposal stories. I especially enjoy Googling information to prove my boyfriend wrong in the midst of our self-proclaimed “nerdy” arguments (I was right about the time frame of the Italian Renaissance, by the way).

Of course, I can’t begin to imagine using the Internet to its full potential. Is there anything you can’t do on the Internet anymore? You can buy a book. You can buy a trip to the Bahamas. You can buy a book you made about your trip to the Bahamas. I’m pretty sure you could even buy an elephant if you put your mind to it. 

Then, there’s the information. I have completed many a paper with the assistance of Internet-based sources. My literature review (almost done, I promise) is heavily dependent on the Internet. If I need to know the phone number to Pizza Hut or the name of the inventor of the Pop-Tart, I put it in my search box. In fact, I searched the Internet to double-check that thing about the elephants… and you can only “adopt” them.

I guess you could say I’m excited to see what the Internet will be like 25 years from now. Will teenagers still tweet? Will students still secretly use Wikipedia to learn about everything from the Italian Renaissance to the history of elephants? Regardless, it’s safe to say that the Internet has had a major impact since 1989.

So, happy birthday Internet. I’m glad you were born.

Information is not knowledge.

The German physicist Albert Einstein was born in 1879. He lived to be 76 years old. During his lifetime, he developed the general theory of relativity, created the mass-energy equivalence formula, and received the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1999, Einstein was given the title of TIME magazine’s “Person of the Century.”

Dr. Einstein has quite the resume. His name and ideas are known around the world. His chalkboard rests in the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford University. 

That may have been a shameless “I went to Europe and look what I saw” plug. I apologize. 

The point is that Einstein was a man of curiosity. He not only desired to know; he wanted to know why, and how. He once said, “Information is not knowledge.”

When asked to think on the concept of scholarship for this blog post, my mind led me here. While scholarship can be defined in many ways, I chose to see it (with the help of dictionary.com) as knowledge acquired by study.

I aspire to be a knowledgable person. I think anyone who chooses to attend a university aspires to be knowledgable, at least in a particular field. Yet I, as a college student, cannot sit in class every day, memorize my notes for each test, do exactly what is required of me, and expect to magically become knowledgable. 

To become knowledgable, I have to go above and beyond. I have to study and research.  I have to ask why, and how.

My current level of scholarship, to say the least, is not incredibly impressive.

In a way, that’s why I am grateful for my upcoming literature review assignment. It will be stressful and time-consuming. I will probably complain one or two (or ten) times. Then again, the literature review will challenge me. I will have to study and research. I will have to ask why, and how.

At the end of the day, I will know information on my topic, which, if you’re curious, is literacy rates among adults living in the United States. I will be able to provide facts and statistics.

I might even be considered knowledgable on the subject.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go crawl into a hole somewhere and hopefully come out with a 10-page literature review. 

Thank you, Mark Zusak.

As I start my first official paper for Advanced Composition, I have what seems like millions of thoughts racing through my mind. I’m attributing my current state to the subject of my paper: The Book Thiefby Mark Zusak. 

I started the 550-page novel over Christmas break, completely under the suggestion of my best friend. I had just finished reading the book equivalent of a chick flick and felt the need to pour over something with substance… something a bit more challenging than girl meets guy, girl likes guy, conflict, resolution, marriage, and happily ever after.

Have you ever read something that seemed to haunt you for days, even weeks, after you finished it? What about something that took what you thought you knew about the world and utterly crushed it? Or what about a book that made you ache, either for its characters or for the human race as whole?

That’s what The Book Thief did for me. It’s raw, and real. It’s beauty in every sense of the word. I honestly can’t sing its praises enough.

I search for those types of stories. They’re rare. 

I have only read a handful of novels that I deem worthy of my singing praises. Among them: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Ian McEwan’s Atonement,and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

Consider this your new reading list if you haven’t basked in the splendor of these works. Personally, I would start with The Great Gatsby. It doesn’t get much better than love, parties, and the American dream. 

These books might haunt you. They might change your mind, or make you ache. When you’re finished, you may view the world from a new perspective.

Does that seem intimidating? Even terrifying? I hope not, for you will be better off for it.

I certainly am.

Uncomfortable.

The following questions were posed to my composition class:

Where do you feel the most comfortable? Where can you be the most productive writer?

The insinuation, perhaps, was that productive writing is accomplished wherever a writer feels comfortable. Some will answer with “my desk” or “a quiet space.” For most people, I’m sure that this is true.

For me, however, that is not the case.

If I am going to write, and write something that’s meaningful and worth reading, I need to be uncomfortable. I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to be challenged.

Some of my best writing was produced in an unfamiliar place, at times when I’m surrounding by unfamiliar faces. Naturally, I do not feel at home. I observe something unusual or interesting, it inspires me, and I write. In that moment, I find a sheet of paper or the back of a napkin or an old receipt, and I write.

I’d like to say that a fluffy pillow, some soft music, and a neat space make me a productive writer. For research papers or an essay for class, it might even be true.

But if I want to write, and truly create some grand statement on the nature of humanity (excuse the dramatization), then I must first be uncomfortable.

I am not a writer.

I am not going to lie. When I first found out that I had to start a blog for my Advanced Composition course at Freed-Hardeman University, I panicked. 

I told myself: “I am not a writer.”

I write, yes. I write research papers. I write press releases for the local newspaper. I even write the occasional letter. But I am not a writer.

To be a writer, you have to earn it. You have to create masterpieces that speak to the hearts of the masses. You have to make the ordinary extraordinary. You basically change the world one subplot at a time. Right?

Wrong. And this is why:

Everyone has a story to tell.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter your background or your education. Everyone has a story, and everyone has the potential to be a writer.

That isn’t to say that some people are not better at organizing their thoughts and putting those thoughts on paper. I’d hardly compare F. Scott Fitzgerald - my favorite author - and his work to anything I’ll ever write.

However, I have ideas. I have ideas about life, and love, and my surroundings. I have opinions and observations. I also have experiences. In my short twenty years of existence, I’ve traveled to seventeen countries, survived high school, met interesting people, and eaten iguana soup. 

I have plenty of stories.

My name is Mary Beth Morris. I’m a junior in college. I have a cat. 

I’m also a writer.