All posts by difabifr

Genre Features – Qualitative Research

Hey all,

From what I gathered while reading, Understanding The Genre Features of Qualitative Research: A Case Study by Guo, Y-H, is that this case study has a very meta-component to it, in which the case study follows and documents the process of Lin – a Taiwanese graduate student majoring in English Education – and his progression into a qualitative research community (119). Essentially, this is a qualitative case study being done on a novice research student conducting and compiling qualitative field work data to understand how his limited interpretative writing skills paired with the lowly formulaic style of qualitative data retrieval, will impact his research journey and thesis formation attempts (Guo, 115). A qualitative research study, studying another qualitative research study – OoOo, cool, yo!

Anyway, the design of this case study can easily appeal to and initiate a research learning curve for both students and professors regarding the importance of teaching and conducting qualitative research as a genre. If novice researchers were pushed by their research professors or advisors to steer away from relying on model-imitation techniques of academic research writing, and rather encourage them to study their own naturalistic writing processes – whether it be academic, creative, free-writing, or drafting – they would essentially be practicing and refining their interpretative writing skills on a more simpler level, which differs from that of research-related skills like decoding, or categorizing. Likewise, Guo even asserts that, “[. . .] in transforming naturalistic data into words, the students are actually engaged in the process of writing. Studying their research processes means to study their writing processes” (115).

This way, graduate students can learn how to effectively transform naturalistic data into comprehensible categories of words and meaning in relation to their qualitative inquiry research question(s). Especially, since the qualitative data collection and thesis proposal process entirely revolves around the process of writing and reflecting; otherwise, referred to as interpretive writing skills (Guo 115).

We’ve discovered that qualitative research involves self-centered reflection, as to clear the mind for meaningful, and purposefully driven inquiry questions that drive an effective thesis proposal. We’ve also discussed how research involves interpretive writing skills, which seem to be left out of the curriculum in favor of quantitative research (Guo 122). However, the beginning-inquiry stage of the qualitative research process is seldomly discussed in terms of its genre features and preferred writing styles; thus, leaving students stuck in doubt about their chosen research topic and process (qualitative), which is supposed to feel “freer” than that of the quantitative data collection process. Lin even struggled to find purposeful and meaningful inquiry at the very beginning, He did not know what to investigate specifically and did not follow traditional research procedure by starting from the review of literature” (Guo 118). 

Sometimes, though, too much freedom becomes overwhelming, especially if there is no academic support or training on the complexities of qualitative research as a writing genre. Although Lin chose to conduct his qualitative research through a top-down approach, I don’t think he was ever really taught on how to effectively manage and observe the continual streaming flow of gathering on-site data (Guo 118). Ultimately, I think – after reading about the outside contextual forces – that the qualitative research disconnect is rooted solely on researcher preferences, which in turn, impacts what university students learn; or perhaps, even the fear of getting lost in the written and verbal data observations; or maybe, the avoidance is due to student-homework laziness or an unwillingness to commit through the frustration of interpreting the data and carrying on with it until the end. This is unfortunate in terms of academia and the infinite knowledgeable truths awaiting to be researched and discovered.

I also wonder how professors expect college students to follow through with the multifaceted nature of qualitative research if they: 1) HAVE NOT considered their students’ preexisting knowledge on research implementation; 2) NEVER provide opportunities to learn about qualitative research as a genre, and do not offer enough classroom time to practice writing the qualitative conventional surface features; and 3) DO NOT discuss the recursive, circular nature of qualitative data, and how to avoid becoming overly frustrated.

 This lack of education on the qualitative research process makes it appear more intimidating for college students; therefore, it makes sense to why most of the students chose the quantitative approach (Guo 120). University research institutes and English departments can help to combat the prejudiced attitudes from some science research communities by embedding more qualitative curricular activities or assignments that would be thoroughly guided, step-by-step with the help of the processors’ in-depth explanations. Considering Lin’s Eastern Asian origins and Taiwanese ethnic-identity, I can image that he had to face immense resistance or confront faces of confusion from his classmates, who all chose the easy route in terms of data collection – conducting quantitative research because the data happens to seem more tangible and digestible. So, I applaud Lin for volunteering to be qualitatively observed and analyzed on conducting a form of research that he knows so little about. Go, Lin!!!

 Particularly, because this case study delves deep into Lin’s qualitative writing challenges, and his interactions with his academic advisor and other professors throughout his research endeavors. We are given insight on Lin’s personal struggles conducting, gathering fieldwork data, and writing and editing his data analysis procedure section – over, and over, again. As a graduate student, I felt for Lin and became overly frustrated for him considering there was little-to-no emphasis on the practice and importance of qualitative research (as a genre in inquiry and writing), lack of instruction on academic discourse diversity and “the conventional surface features of thesis writing” (Guo, 122). 

That’s all for this week ~~ I hope whatever I wrote made sense because I did this blog post and skimmed through the reading with a 100-degree fever ~~ woot, woot!!!

Life do be like that sometimes ~~ what ya gonnna do, tho ~~

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio 

Autoethnography: Round 2, Baby ~

Hey, again, guys, ~~

I wasn’t sure if I had to write a blog post for this week considering it was my presentation week; however, there were two readings on Autoethnography. So, here we go ~~

In light of Val’s assigned autoethnography reading, “An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography” by Sarah Walls, I happened to notice a phrase, or specific words in particular, that struck me differently from my first read over. I read this reading again after reading the many insightful, in-depth class blog posts.

Specifically, I’d like to draw attention toward Rachel & Ricki’s blog posts as they did so well explaining, in their own words, the criticism or opposing force against autoethnography as a valid research method of inquiry. So, there I was, reading Wall’s viewpoint again, and found myself, once again nodding in agreement to everything she had said and stopped when I happened to skim over this phrase, in which I cut from its full-length quote, “[. . .] researcher’s rhetoric, prejudice, and experience in interpretation of observations [. . .]” (Wall, 147). I’ve read over those words before regarding autoethnography and was confused to why I had stopped reading further for a moment.

The irony is that this phrase I pulled and cut came from a quote in support of autoethnography as a valid method of research inquiry and academic writing (in which, I do still agree with BTW). However, after reading how Ricki and Rachel felt toward autoethnography, I perceived it differently than before. Or better said, I came to really understand the so-called dangers of just using autoethnography as a research method of inquiry by its lonesome. Ricki said it best – I quote, “I am still not the biggest fan because I just don’t trust other’s judgement,” and he continues by then saying, “[. . .] I cannot imagine an autoethnography being the sole method. It would have to be paired with something else.” I completely understand the mistrust in others and found the mixed-methods type of approach toward autoethnography a brilliant way to liven the data that comes from biographical narratives.

I had first sided only with the rise of postmodernism and the freedom autoethnography brings into the research community, particularly academic writing. We are studying a Humanities discipline, after all (Writing Studies), I thought to myself. I then thought, wouldn’t it be wrong of me to agree with all the insightful criticism of a newly developed research that’s essentially in favor of a more humanistic approach to academic writing?

But the truth is, is that we are all human, and with that comes many flaws and thick layers of deception (Rachel used this word in her blog post, and it struck me). The mind is so complex that we even deceive ourselves – more so than not, until the delusions must be dimmed and managed by medication. In NO WAY or manner am I implying that to be mentally ill equates to unreliability. Everyone has a story, in which some parts can be trusted and some not. If I were claiming so, then everything I say or write could be considered a misguided delusional thought. But I’d be lying if not to admit how jaded memories can really be, and to the very danger in solely believing what it is your mind tells you.

So, my eyes have now been mindfully opened to appreciate each critical remark opposing the validity of autoethnographic research because I see them now as kind warnings, that would speak: Yes, we are indeed products of our uniquely lived experiences that hold concrete value and meaning in this world, some powerful enough to exact change. Although please be aware of the mind and all the deceiving creases it entails.

With all being said, I’m very impressed by this week blog postings. I feel like I needed to rehear (or reread) the opposing remarks from a fellow classmate – rather than a researcher, philosopher, or autoethnographer – to be reminded about the dangers of fully and whole-heartedly trusting the subjectivity of memories.

Thank you, guys !! ❤ lol

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio 

~ Autoethnography ~

Hey guys, ~~

‘Tis my week to present. I’d like to give a warning regarding my presentation and reaction paper: some deep, personal stuff will be mentioned as I was challenged to find my cultural identity between the lines of Alec’s biographical narrative. So, be aware, ya’ll ~~ there are no secrets here. I’m unfortunately an open book.

The Autoethnographic reading my presentation will be on is, “Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative Identity,” by Alec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman.

Anyhow, attached below is my Autoethnography presentation and reaction paper, enjoy! ~~

Presentation Slideshow

Reaction Paper

** I had to use my personal Gmail account because, for some reason, my Kean Gmail account still says, “storage is full.” **

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio 

HOW TO BE A “GOOD” ACADEMIC RESEARCHER

I had flashbacks of being back in my undergraduate program at Kean, awaiting and consciously avoiding the infamous Research & Technology course while reading Purdy and Walker’s scholarly research, Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers. Ask any Kean undergraduate student about the required Research and Technology course, and I doubt they will smile and jump gleefully as they tell you all about the course requirements. If anything, they may cry while telling you all about the course (lol).

Honestly, I’m being dramatic. The course really wasn’t all that bad as we took the adequate time in the beginning to develop research questions that had meaning and value to us, and we wrote through and conducted each step of the research process together (we all had our own inquiry question and topic, of course). I conducted research on the prevalence and purpose of visible tattoos on college students at Kean in certain academic majors. I had a newly found liking toward tattoos as a form of self-expression and wanted to know if the stigma associated with professionalism stopped students in getting visible tattoos on their body in hopes to acquire a job related to their major of study.

My Research & Tech class certainly had the feel or vibe of no soldier left behind – if ya know what I mean. We followed the “linear, print-based model of research” through sequential steps and deadlines, so that by the time you blinked you were done with one section and moving forward and on to the next (Purdy and Walker 10). The process was so fast in such little time that there was no time to be anxious about it (which, I guess was nice? lol). Instead, all there was time for was to just go – go – go and do – do – do and get it done- done – done! My professor made the sequential steps seem manageable for an anxious, introductory student and she had warned us to not fall behind – several of times. I was lucky enough to have friends in that class, along with a really cool and dope professor who wanted us to not only like but to feel connected to our chosen research topic.

Purdy and Walker’s scholarly research really had me reflecting back on my experience as a dyslexic and anxious introductory student who knew little of herself, so how in the heckedy-heck would I know how to cultivate my own research identity? (lol) I know now what a research identity is, and the crucial steps taken toward cultivation (Thanks to Purdy & Walker <3). The central claim behind their research is that English Studies teachers should promote a better understanding of the research identities students must cultivate to pass university classes and beyond. Such known and newly developed student-research identities could “help to prepare future, educated civil participants” and provide students with a sense of who they are and why that might be in relation to inquiry research (Purdy and Walker 9).

There was no shock in reading about how the composition handbooks and texts given to introductory students to help learn about scholarly research only emphasize the very things that intimidate us or the very things we don’t know how to do. And, ugh – still no surprise to read about the straightforward, linear assumption of conducting meaningful research and collecting data.

It is absurd to assume that students coming from all over would be willing enough to leave behind their already-formed, pre-determined, complex identities of online researchers to find a new identity in pursuit of writing a hefty research paper. HAHAH – it’s laughable, honestly. Anyway, I felt Purdy and Walker’s research heading toward the direction of opposition against the infamous prescribed pathways of research. Especially after learning how recursive and circular in nature qualitative methods can be when conducting research, as the data usually takes the lead for itself. So, I decided to comment my authentic reaction before reading past page 10.

~~~ Here it goes ~~~

Regarding Susan Miller’s (1991; 51) call for attention on the problematic teaching attitudes and tools that frame introductory students’ as researchers, I instantly thought of and about the lack of scholarly and academic writing and research preparation or proper exposure in and throughout the secondary or high school years. This lack of preparation creates a major disconnect for newly, incoming college students. Especially, considering the many different and unique places – states, county, school districts – the newly accepted students come from. University students come from all over and bring with them differing degrees of knowledge and academic skillsets that are culturally connected to wherever it is they come from. This diversity of multiple distinct academic identities adds an additional layer of complexity onto the professor’s job of building adaptive, flexible research identities from students’ already existing knowledge-identity.

I thought of this issue before reading on because I personally felt the disconnect in the process of reading and conducting scholarly research during the beginning years of my undergraduate experience. However, I was also not the student to take academic risks nor challenge myself in high school like I can do now. I was down deep in the belief that dyslexia had made me forever dumb. So, I brought with me to Kean this unproven, fictional narrative that I’m incapable of anything scholarly, or incapable of anything academically challenging.

So, please – imagine my fright when I heard about the required Research and Technology course that every academic major had to take at some point. I’m no longer scared of reading or writing academic research papers, but the idea of having to re-conduct, re-engage with, and re-organize research to fit the very ‘identity’ I still know very little about seems . . . well. . . not cute. Lastly, I’d like to pay my respects to Purdy & Walker for firmly believing in instructional methods that act as a threshold for introductory students “to unite oneself with a new world” because I sure as h*ll didn’t feel united.

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio 

Let’s Talk Research:

We back, again –

My first impression of the research process is that it’s not cute – at all (lol). To research is to be curious. To be curious is to accept failure, or the very idea that your attempted, self-centered, intrinsic-driven, problem-question could be misguided, which of course, inevitably leads to revising your initial research question, and reframing your hypothesis just to hope the variables won’t be wrongfully manipulated, yet again. There is a lot to lose yet so much more to gain throughout the research process.

I said the research process – of being socially, culturally, and self-aware enough to externalize a self-centered research question, and to be nonetheless motivated enough to test your inquiry through the appropriate research method – is not cute because the process of conducting research is so important, hefty, and time-consuming that it becomes extremely intimidating. In fact, I think being aware of the many different types and forms of research and data collection is a useful skill to have to understand academic literature, and to properly prepare for the diverse world of writing and creation. Configuring a research question and choosing a method of implementation is apparently only the beginning ~~

As a perfectionist, I like to get things right the first time around. Perfectionism is a trait of mine – in which I’m not the proudest of – that I’ve been continuously working to dismantle and unravel with my therapist. And to conduct research, is to openly accept failure as a point of reference for redirection, which sounds hopeful yet daunting at the same time. Perhaps, this class will provide me with the patience and perseverance needed to organize, research, create, implement, and analyze. Hopefully, through closely reading and studying the various methods of research and academic writing, I’ll gain insight on how the author’s went about their research process, and how they managed to cope with constant changing variables. Something about sudden unpredictability scares the living hell out of me.

Considering the many different research methods discussed in Martin Gunnell’s LinkedIn article post, I have found the mixed methods to be most intriguing because if it’s extensive approach toward data collection. I find value in all three of the research methodologies, and their respective ways of thinking and application. Each research method invites unique layers of, or perspectives on humanity and our very function in existence. Quantitative methodsor quantity; how much of – is numeric and objective, with its origins based deeply in the scientific method. Particularly, the quantitative approach uses statistical processes to refine and display emerging patterns from data through survey preparation and testing, validation of the variables, sample identification, and of course, a multitude of other procedures (Gunnell, 2016). What I like most about the quantitative method approach is the straightforwardness of defined steps outlined within the scientific method. Of course, the researcher may have to re-visit past steps, or re-adjust their hypothesis to make more sense of the changing variables or collected data. Ugh, though, because what a fright it would be to wake up one morning, just to find out you have been testing the wrong question or hypothesis the entire time.

No need to worry, because the qualitative method approach “derives the research process from the collected data (Gunnell, 2016).” Thus, making the qualitative research process itself free of rigid rules and procedures. Although I’m a fan of step-by-step directions, I find comfort in the freedom of exploration and discovery experienced throughout the qualitative research method process. The qualitative methods, with its origins in using unstructured processes of data collection to understand human motive, interaction, and behavior, seems to better suit and support my interest as a fictional, creative writer. The interpersonal ambiguity of qualitative research allows for multiple interpretations to exist, and in return, the collected data could help me fabricate future fictional characters around a personally motivated, and well-researched question that could potentially be the overall theme of the short story.

As for the CARS model, designed and directed toward revising introductions, is an organized, proofreading writing guide to assure that all essential parts of a scholarly introduction are appropriately met and addressed. The CARS model seems to uncomplicate the daunting task of starting a hefty research paper. I also find the self-reflective introduction questions for revision useful and would definitely take advantage of asking myself such crucial questions to refine my research proposal.

The process of forming a research question and choosing the best method for data collection is where all the magic of discovery begins. Forming and finalizing an appropriate research question is a separate process that ultimately precedes the research process. Doubt and self-awareness must come before research implementation and deep analysis. I suppose academic researchers love the thrill of chasing knowledge, or the notion of being an active problem-solver or solution-seeker. I certainly applaud their diligence in the matter.

XOXO,

Francesca Di Fabio 🙂

Who Am I? & What is My Research Identity?

PART 1:

Well, hello my fellow classmates ~~ I am using my introduction blog from my last class with Dr. Zamora (ENG 5020) because it does the job well. Of course, I added some stuff on research and changed some things around 

Francesca Di Fabio, here – I come from a hard-working, Italian American household, raised by both of my lovely grandmothers, mother, father, and older brother. I was blessed enough to have one grandma – my Nonna – live down the street, and my other grandma – who we called Morning – live in the bottom half of our mother-daughter house. Both of my Italian grandmas have passed but our lovely memories of drawing, painting, gardening, cooking home-made pasta and sauce together will live on forever.

I sleep in the very room my mother did too, when she was a young girl, following the motions toward womanhood. Now a grown woman myself, I take pleasure in waking up late on Sunday’s to the smell of Morning’s marinara sauce recipe boiling on the stove top – cooked by my mother and passed down from her own. Ready and served no later than 3 PM every Sunday. I learned quickly how to make room for two dinner servings on Sundays, because if not, my mother will take it as an insult to her cooking. It’s very simple: If we don’t eat, my mother is not pleased. My mother – a Jersey City Italian who’s a mix between Judge Judy and The Long Island Medium. Trust me, you want to please the woman!

But who exactly am I? I wish I could tell you – I’m still figuring that one out. One thing about me is that I’m super passionate about kindness and sharing it with those around us, which is why I teach kids yoga at Lifetime Athletic in Berkeley Heights, NJ. I have been teaching kids yoga for over 2 years now and have an army of kids and families that come weekly. One future goal of mine is to open my own KIDS YOGA STUDIO, only for kiddos aged 13 years and below, with adult yoga transitioning classes for preteens (13 – 15 years old) and Mommy & Me classes during the day.

Some other things I can tell ya is that I obtained my bachelor’s degree in English, Writing, and Education from Kean University, and graduated in the Spring of 2022. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I have a degree in English and am getting my M.A. in Writing Studies. Growing up, I often became embarrassed, frustrated, and overwhelmed that school was hard for me compared to the “average” person. I questioned my dyslexia every day and how it impacted my ability to read. And the worst part of it all was that I loved to learn but I just could not understand the information. 

Instead of hating school, I decided to challenge academia. I became obsessed with teaching myself how to read and write. I would spend hours glossing over pages until I understood what the text was trying to tell me. Endless nights were spent worrying if I looked dumb to my peers or wondering why a simple assignment took me twice as long. Somehow, I graduated undergrad with a flawless 4.0 GPA average, not allowing myself to receive anything less. 

It took time to be proud of myself about graduating college with a 4.0 GPA: apparently, that’s a huge accomplishment. I’ve always had difficulty congratulating or celebrating myself. Because, what if it all doesn’t go as planned? How could I celebrate such an accomplishment when there are endless possibilities for failure in the future? Unfortunately, that’s how an anxiety-induced, perfectionist mind thinks. I know it’s a problem; hence why I spent three months in a partial, hospitalization center – famously known for being referred to as ~ rehab ~. I have no shame talking about my struggles with mental health and the many times I’ve been hospitalized and undergone severe psychosis. . . because it’s my reality. The random panic attacks paired with the spiraling thoughts, throw-up fits, and rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups come with being a perfectionist. There is a cost for always wanting to be perfect.

So, I write to understand my thoughts because it turns out I got a whole lot of them. I write for my therapist. I write for myself. I write my kids yoga lessons. I write short stories that mirror my very, deep feelings and emotions. I write because I never thought I could. I read to teach myself how to write, so that I can turn around and tell the next person, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”

PART 2:

Alright, let’s talk about my research identity – ugh! Imma be real, I like creative nonfiction, creative fiction, writing short stories – honestly, literally anything but research! Research, in my opinion, is so tedious and monotonous. I always undergo several mini-panic attacks while collecting my sources, organizing my sources, skimming through my sources, and AHHHHH! No!! Help!! There is so much research in front of my very eyes!! And then, I swear, everything goes blurry, and I can’t see. Maybe, I’m allergic to research.

Okay, maybe, I’m being dramatic. There is something about research that gets me excited – the loyal search for truth and discovery. Listen, as someone who loves watching alien documentaries with her father and questions everything and believes nothing, I definitely do have a soft spot for research and appreciate the scholars within their academic fields, doing the dirty work that many rather avoid or ignore. I also gained an entirely new perspective on research after reading, “Where Research Begins” by Thomas S. Mullaney and Christopher Rae, specifically the notion of self-centered research and what that does and does not entail.

As a yogi who has been teaching kids yoga for 2 and a half years and practicing for 8 years, the ego is something I internally study and battle with daily. It is important to know when your ego is speaking versus when your internal truthful light is speaking, or your intuition. And the idea behind dismantling your ego and securely knowing who it is you are and the problem(s) you carry inside and why that may be, is literally the essence of yoga practice, and apparently the same with the self-centered research process. I am now pulled to tackle research and sit with my thoughts during the “before” stage – before I know what I’m even researching. The craft of introspection is challenging yet intriguing, and I think it is an essential part of research because who the heck wants to write a hefty research paper on some topic that sparks no internal reaction whatsoever – boring! I think my current research identity is unknown but hopeful.

XOXO,

Francesca D 

THE END IS NEAR, AND I WONDER WHAT IS TO COME . . .

Hey classmates,

Below is a description of my contribution to our anthology booklet: 

For the final project theme, stages of growth mixed with the messy humanness of life, I decided to write a short vignette that captures a loving moment between a great grandfather figure, who happens to be a WW2 veteran, and his silly, tomboy-ish, great granddaughter. There are multiple hidden life lessons found within this short vignette, without being explicitly forward about them. You have to read between the lines, noticing the small details of movement, thinking patterns, and physical gestures that ultimately link the hidden similarities between these two different generations. Curiosity and kindness wins above all else. As you read you will notice multiple lessons or themes found between the lines. 

So far, the story embodies these life lessons: growing through two different stages of life, and grieving the younger version of yourself, especially for those with a youthful, open mindset. The story also emphasizes, from the great grandpa’s point of view, the willingness to learn from those younger than you and how the body ages but the mind doesn’t. The mind continues to grow, if you let it. I also might write and add some poems at the end of the vignette from different perspectives, elucidating feelings and making life connections from these two characters, but from the lens of both of them in a different stage of life. Perhaps, the great granddaughter, Brooklyn, is a mature woman, with her own children, reflecting back on the life lessons her great grandfather taught her well after his passing. And for Captain Great Gramps, his perspective poem can take place amidst war, facing something beyond cruel and inhumane, and how he was able to emotionally digest and deal with it at that very moment in time. The short vignette is also open to edits and revision. I’m still thinking about if anything else should be added or if I should leave it be. We will see where the creative process takes this piece ~~ sometimes, things are best left as is. 

I hope at our next class meeting, we can take the time to share and read one another’s contribution pieces, offer feedback and/or advice, and assign roles to each other on how to specifically move forward with this project, without assigning ourselves too much work as there literally is a week left in the semester. But, I am beyond excited to see our work comes together as one piece! Hehehehe 🙂

XOXO, 

Francesca Di Fabio

Let Me Tell You Something About Myself . . .

Classmates, we have finally arrived at the final blog post!!! Sadness 

First off, I am so down for Michael’s idea – creating a curriculum that we have all dreamed of, or wished we had the opportunity to explore while in middle/ high school. In this course, we have read and talked so much about the problems in academia (specifically, teaching approaches); so, it would be cool to contribute ideas that pose as a solution to the notorious banking system of learning. Also, Rachel’s idea of putting our words and creativity into action is beyond beautiful. Something about making our art come to life is so intimate and special. I am certainly down for putting on a show  I also think Rachel’s idea would come with great comical, funny moments that we will never forget and will keep with us until we graduate from this program.

Last class session, two classmates had personally thanked me for sharing my story and journey with mental health. I didn’t realize how impactful my story was upon realizing that we all share a common denominator; we are all mentally ill *laughing emoji*. And this realization had me think back to my senior year of undergrad, when I happened to win the 2021 Stephen J. Haselton Memorial Endowment for Excellence in Scholarship for the Senior Seminar writing competition. It was not my idea to submit my piece; it was a professor of mine who urged me to, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. My piece was titled, If I Were To Go Insane and was a fictional collection of short stories and poems of 40 pages that emphasized mental health, grief, guilt, loss, abuse, and sexuality – the epitome of realistic fiction. Inside If I Were To Go Insane, you’d find five short stories, each followed by a poem emphasizing the emotional appeal of that specific story.

I then started thinking a lot about the concepts of healing through writing, finding identity through emotional writing, and I could not help but think, what if we were to all write a short fictional story, that encompasses the very struggles of our lives and livelihood. And this struggle does not particularly have to be mental health related, but should be an event, life experience, or occurrence that altered the way you view life; something that humbled you. Something drastic, sensitive, deep, personal, spiritual, edgy, or high-strung. Go somewhere that you fear going. Tell us the story that has defined you to this very day. Tell us the story you thought you’d never share before. Because this is the human experience – a messy combination of emotions and the unknown. Each of us is a blessing to be read.

This project proposal leans more toward creative writing. But research can be embedded; I have not thought of exactly how just yet. Or, how this creative piece can be geared toward a more academic-writing lens. I’m willing to consider and hear ideas on how to integrate a research-based approach to a creative writing project (if research and data is something important to you). Perhaps, we could all work on an opening section that entails research on healing through writing and how trauma is the source of creativity. Or why is it that writers, actors, singers, comedians, etc., tend to have a source of trauma that essentially evoked their hidden talent?

Anyway, what I was imagining is that we all write a fictional story that comes from or is inspired by a real-life struggle that we have encountered: mental health, abortion, immigration, abuse, assault, cheating, betrayal, addiction, divorce, etc. Once we have all wrote our fictional, short story, we give our story to a classmate, (we swap papers) who will read it, digest the emotional appeal, and then write a poem that reflects the very emotions they had felt while reading it. An outsiders perspective on our most delicate selves. A poem of empathy and gratitude, elucidating the strength, grit, and pain we had not encountered ourselves yet felt so deeply while reading.

This project will be an emotional challenge on our frame of reference and will require the trust factor. The act of writing, and sharing your writing involves vulnerability, and to be openly vulnerable, especially around classmates you met three months ago, we need to wholeheartedly trust each other. I think this could be really fun, and an eye-opener to all those around us.

Let me know what ya think; I’m eager to know 

XOXO,

Francesca Di Fabio

The Many Voices of Trauma

Hello, fellow classmates ~~

!! WARNING !! This blog post covers very touchy subjects.

So, please read with caution and an open mindset. Thank you

If You’re Struggling to Write, Lead With Voice

 I’m going to start with this quote to explain why my blog post this week will not be as intellectually hearty and full of philosophical questions (I might take this statement back depending if I get into the groove of writing for this blog post): “I got an in-depth opportunity to explore voice when the volume and speed of mine began to slow down about a decade ago, staggering under the weight of fatigue and chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis” (Huber, 2022). The exact situation is happening to me. I have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, and I can attest to the severe chronic pain and fatigue. Some days, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are so loud that simply lifting my head off my pillow is like driving a car with a broken gas pedal. Last year I was in rehab, and then continued to push myself through any mental and physical symptoms of fatigue, ultimately ending up in the ER twice for several, day-long panic attacks. I am first-handedly feeling the wrath of my actions of last year. The volume and speed of my life right now is extremely slow; possibly even steers itself into reverse here and there, or whenever I encounter a slight scare. Imagine being stuck hearing the voices of panic-like thinking for over a week ~ TORTURE AT ITS FINEST ~.

Anyway, I often think back to the voices that led me to become hospitalized. Those voices often told me that I must keep going. To stop is a symptom of weakness. To rest is procrastination. To sleep in late is a symptom of laziness. Now that I’m on the coming down stage of the bell curve of a week-long panic attack, I understand that my notions of working, and relaxing come from my mother’s strict Sicilian upbringing that has leaked its way into my subconscious. Other lived experiences (like my learning disability) contribute as well, but I am not here to unpack my trauma, even though I’d love to (lol). I am here to discuss a writing phenomenon that popped up in my head while reading this week’s selections: Mental illness and Voice.

I have always struggled with the realization that I’m fully medicated now and might be for the rest of my life. Who am I without medication? Is this the real me? Is the ‘real me’ broken and in need of fixing? For years, I grappled with the question, who am I off my medications Vs. on my medications? While trying to dissect that internal question, I also tried to locate my ‘authentic’ voice somewhere in between the mix. The amount of shame after discovering that the anxiety-driven voice that result in lash-outs and crying fits are essentially part of my voice just like the very voice you hear in class or feel within my blog writing is indescribable. Without the anxiety-fatigue-depressive voices, would my resilience be the same? Would my drive to emotionally assist young kids in figuring out how their breath connects to their mind, body, and soul still stand? Would I be as emotionally sensitive to, and intellectually aware of myself and others around me?

Even when getting into the details of Sylvia Plath’s poem, a poet who evidently suffered from a mental illness (in my opinion), the concept of multiple voices, essentially there, to help define one authentic voice, came up in discussion. For instance, Huber even admits, “This comes up a lot: the idea of “voice” made of “voices” (Huber, 2022). This is a very meta-confusing concept that involves deep introspection and a good level of self-awareness. However, to have multiple voices is a war of the mind. And this phenomena in terms of writing should be discussed with sensitivity toward those who have lost the battle within and against their minds without fully understanding the ‘why’ – a sad reality I have seen all too much of. So, I think my mental illness(es) – PMDD, OCD, dyslexia (controversial as an illness but to me, any disability can make you physically and mentally ill), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression – are a separate wild, frantic, irritable, dull yet boisterous voice of itself that assists and navigates around the many other unidentified voices within my head.

Below are Reactions to Random Quotes:

Even the voice of this piece—the Voice that Loves Voice, I suppose—is one among several essaying voices. It has more of my speech in it, and gestures, and specifically the direct way I talk in the classroom, using shorter words and phrases and more images and some terrible mixed metaphors and similes” (Huber, 2020). THIS. THIS right here. A random stranger of an author just summed up the voice I use to teach (academics and yoga), the voice I use in the classroom as a learner, and the voice I – (I try my best to) use when talking with random strangers. The voice that loves voices – holy cow, I love it. This is the exact voice a perfectionist uses to mask the vulnerability around confrontation; therefore, we offer unlimited grace, kindness, empathy, and complete openness to whomever encounters our path, especially in a work or academic setting.

“In letting myself loose a bit, in looking for the weird voices in my own life and head and letting them out, I found new ways to say things and new perspectives on my life” (Huber, 2020). This is the exact reason to why I want to get into writing stand-up comedy. I have no idea how I will go about this but all I do know is that I have an ability to turn my animated self into a funny scene or demonstration. I would like to attend more comedy shows, and perhaps research any nearby writing workshop classes or local open mic sessions to get a feel for that ~ lifestyle ~. Dark humor – I’m talking an enormous amount of mass packed tightly into a tiny volume – type of dark. Dark humor is how I navigate life and living, and without it, I truly don’t know. I feel that dark humor has helped me cope with my anger and sadness in such a way that I can turn around and laugh about a situation rather than intellectualize the hell out of it.

I’ve been told I’m funny, and no, not just from my mom and closest friends (lol). Interestingly, my most recent uber driver and the latest Chinese delivery lady had both thanked me for making them laugh during their jobs. Apparently, I have a voice people often want to listen too, or at least are curious about, and I’m not sure if it’s the way I come off or speak openly about random topics that are on my mind. In rehab, three different co-patients had told me, in their own ways of course, that I have a powerful voice that moved them in session. Or that they specifically felt the pull and tug of their emotions whenever I speak up in group. I will never forget the one elder woman, who patted my back on her way out of group, and whisper-talked in my ear: “Your supposed to teach, darling; you have a special way of making people truly listen.” I still think about that complement and channel that energy when faced with anxiety-driven self-doubt or a severe case of writers block.

Sometimes, I think my deeply, weird voice cares too much about making others smile, and not so much myself. Hence why this quote made me pause with deep curiosity, “The Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin described “intonation” as “the point where language intersects with life” and Huber continues to explain that her ‘teaching’ voice often uses intonation or inflectional tones to physically connect with people, making her feel more confident and powerful. However, the arthritis-driven voice was used to “counteract [her] tendency to hide, [her] own desire to be agreeable or not offend, naming Pain Woman as a separate voice seemed to give [her] permission to channel something outside of [her] public mask” (Huber, 2020). I think mindfully noticing the different perceptions and perspectives of the world you narrate within your head, and slowly beginning to befriend and name them, rather than shame and judge them, may be the start to an answer to my many unsolved problems. Hey – Huber said it herself, “She pushes me to say what I think, to listen to the bold voice inside me, and then to follow that voice, to let it grow, to see it and understand it, and to feed it, knowing I can always switch to another one” (Huber, 2020). So, I say we start trying this voice naming thing ~~

Expressive Writing, Emotional Upheavals, and Health

“What is it about a trauma that influences health?” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Let me tell you: EVERYTHING ABOUT TRAUMA INFLUENCES HEALTH. However, the only beautiful thing about trauma is that it is universal; everyone comes with their own package deal of family and personal trauma. It is trauma and suffering that connects human beings because without it, there would be no such thing as sympathy or empathy. And could you imagine living in a world absent of sympathy and empathy? I fear it’d be like living the Purge but just 24/7, everyday chaos.

There is certainly a scale to trauma being that some people have it worse than others; for instance, “the more extreme the trauma and the longer time over which it lasts are predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) incidence” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). However, it is important to not diminish your own trauma in the light of others because no other human being has lived your life with your exact biological genetic factors. The way in which we respond to the many triggers within our life are uniquely determined by our upbringing, support system, genetics, and our ability to love and empathize throughout the hardships.

Sometimes, we don’t have control over the way in which we react or respond because of a mood disorder, PTSD, or unresolved trauma that floats to the surface at the worst, unexpected times. Have you ever heard about those horrific postwar psychological stories among Vietnam veterans? It could be a loud, rumbling thunder that jerks the vet’s unconscious body awake in a state of fright to discover he’s hovering over his wife’s sleeping body, gripping her neck until her face turns purple. Suddenly, BOOM, his traumatized unconscious mind wakes up his conscious mind before it’s too late, and now he’s ashamed of what he’s capable of doing without any sort of control. That is what a physical response to trauma may look like for some veterans.

For those who were neglected, abused, or abandoned in childhood may have a total opposite reaction to bodily fright. Those with anxiety may throw up or pick at their skin because “the unexpected events are generally associated with cognitive disruption including rumination and attempts to understand what happened and why” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Sitting in anxious thoughts leads to terrible physical symptoms. Those with depression sleep the day away to avoid the traumatic spiral of negative thoughts that become overwhelmingly unbearable. Those who have faced years of discrimination, or a degree of hate crimes may shy away in public or trust those who only look like themself, which you can’t blame them for selective choosing. Trauma is certainly shameful; hence why many refuse or claim to see no reason for therapy. I don’t where I’m trying to take this rant-of-a-blogpost, but I suppose to claim we all have a degree of unhealed trauma hovering over our shoulders, which is a weird, disturbing yet calming truth to digest.

Oh, and I take my opening statement back because I happened to write way more than I expected ~~ LOL

XOXO,

Francesca Di Fabio

IT’S A BLESSING, NOT A BURDEN . . . DUH!

Fellow classmates – we back again!!

The combinations of the selected readings were an emotional journey in itself – from an overview of the origins of African American Language (AAL), then to an in-depth analysis of how society views dialects other than “Standard” American English (SAE) as lesser than, to how racist pedagogical and linguistic ideologies have seeped its way into our expectations for immigrants, and students’ who’s at-home language differs from English. Again, what I’ve gathered from the selected readings is that remaining uninformed about linguistic differences and the complexity involved, in my opinion, is a form of avoidance to change.

There were several key points brought up amongst the authors on how to effectively notice racist language, and how to counteract linguistic prejudice within the classroom and beyond. Although somewhat aware that African American Language is linguistically a language of its own with rules and conventions, I must have forgotten about the emotional pain tied to identity and self that is forcibly stripped away from this community (and others alike). Emotions come from lived experiences and personal encounters, and the debate on whether African American Language is an independent form of spoken and written communication is an argument I cannot personally identify with through an emotional standpoint of frustration. But is certainly an argument that I’m willing to become more educated on to initiate my own version of revolutionary pedagogy toward resistance (Baker-Bell, 2). I feel the need to commence my own revolutionary pedagogy of resistance. A resistance where I search for and read about peoples’ lives and personal stories that are opposite of my own, so that I can begin to understand the emotional injustices that define their sole purpose of existing. Or understand the cause they feel an overwhelming need to challenge and fight against in this very lifetime.

In Steven Alvarez’s essay, Official American English is Best, he mentioned a point on immigrant assimilation that supports the white supremacist credo against bilingualism and plurilingualism, ultimately revealing that “U.S citizens should not be inconvenienced with the burden to speak, read, or write in languages that are not English” (Alvarez, 93). I have a problem with the use of the word burden in that sentence to describe how “problematic” assimilation is for American English speakers. The point above speaks volume to Western privilege and ignorance. The point above is a perfect example of a thought process that avoids change. The narrative is twisted within the quote above, like how Baker-Bell noticed the unfortunate patterns of mainstream media outlets portraying the minority victim as the criminalized, aggressor (4). We all hold internal, preconceived prejudices and perceptions about the world around us; however, it becomes an “us” problem (or an “I” problem) when we let our preconceived prejudices turn into tangible frustration, hate, or avoidance. The tangible avoidance here is domination and elimination of all those who don’t speak fluent “Standard” American English.

 The burden to encounter and navigate other languages is funded by ignorance and is absent of empathy. I think back to our class conversation we had after Cindy’s discussion lead on grieving a language that was once spoken within your family lineage, or even household – a concept I’ll never truly grasp but one that hurts my heart. Western society, backed by U.S. History with roots as deep as political imperialism and slavery, has become numb to how attitudes impact family dynamics not of their own race, religion, culture, or language. As if having to mentally translate a Spanish construction sign on your drive to work is much more frustrating than noticing how your mother’s Dominican dialect has lost its cultural flavor over the many years of assimilation or listening to your Nona’s heavy Sicilian accent for the last time because no other family member can speak it with such cultural authenticity.

Also, as an educator, I see so much beauty in language because it’s how we communicate with one another. When your dog’s ears fall flat with a low, monotonous – Roouuff sound, you know he’s sad or lonely. When your baby whimpers around 12 o’ clock and slams their tiny fists on the table, you know they want lunch. I am not comparing the language styles of a baby or a dog to non-native English speakers. Rather, I am proving a point on patience, and physical energy transmission. A dog and a baby don’t know “Standard” American English, but we still comprehend and offer unconditional love. We form our own language of understanding through trial and error. Many people disengage from or ignore other languages because they fear that they may offend their language in attempting to speak it or translate it. I tell myself not to be afraid, because they are humans too, who would probably prefer our attempt of communication rather than looking at them all befuddled. Language of all kinds help create and define the human experience. So, how rude of some to not even attempt to understand or learn more about the other languages that surround them. It’s their loss, though because they will only have effective, meaningful conversations with those who look exactly like them, and that is a very limiting lifestyle. Instead, I’d like to think of this so called “burden” as a wonderful blessing.