Final Reflection

I’m finally completing my reflection! It’s late but better that than never. Your girl is hyped to explore her own learning across four life long skills and effectively conclude a year of odd and bumpy education.

First, self-direction. I have a confession related to this skill: the documentary I worked on is not the final version or anything close to it. You see, in the Wevideo project my group was working on, there were six or seven aggregations of clips with titles as various as “projetion” and “james audio edit”. The editing job I took was to cut down the length of the film by eliminating redundancies and extraneous points. This job was exciting for me because I love to see something refined and finished emerging from the raw potential of a first draft. I couldn’t imagine that “james audio edit” was relevant to anyone except James so I chose “projetion” (after all, “projetion” was the name of the overall Wevideo project) to make my mark on. It seemed so natural that I didn’t even consider asking which I ought to be working on. I found my task thrilling and felt a great deal of satisfaction when I was able to reduce the length of what had been a 20 minute video to to 12 minutes. Then, at the retreat, I discovered that I had been trimming the wrong piece all along. Though my tangible work was wasted, I think this instance was of immense value. I had become incredibly comfortable with exerting my own aesthetic will on the work of the group without agonizing whether it was appropriate for me to make any decision, major or minor, without painstakingly gathering consensus from the 8 other concerned parties. My group had talked a lot about how all of us needed to get better at moving unilaterally to reduce the time wasted on discussions that always had the same conclusion: the editor was free to do whatever they pleased (within reason). I felt that, after a lifetime of not trusting myself to make these choices, I had finally acted independently in accordance with my conception of the needs of the group work. So I grew by embracing an opportunity for fully independent learning, overcoming the challenge of my own distrust of the value of my artistic perspective. Of course, this was personally valuable but the work that freed me to do it was useless to the remainder of my group. Therefore, I hope to apply my newfound freedom to the choices I make academically but ALWAYS check with the other people involved to clarify the purpose of those choices. I can’t wait to find that perfect balance.

When it comes to responsible and involved citizenship, I think the most significant experience for me was the discussion around Zymora’s exit from the group and the resultant issue of minority representation in WTS. I know you guys know this story, so I’m going to focus on my own learning in relation to it rather than the technicalities of what happened. I believe that no social justice circle is perfect because every conglomerate reflects the internalized biases of its participants. Hence, my belief that WTS isn’t a welcoming space for marginalized folks is less of a judgment than an observation. I haven’t changed my stance but I do feel fulfilled by having had a chance to discuss this view with Bill. I’m not going to apologize for or justify my style of communication because, as a queer woman, I don’t feel obliged to make my tone pleasing to those who would silence me (by which I don’t mean the leader of WTS, I mean the world at large). I do feel, however, that I learned to put more trust in people who can help me advocate for myself. I have really struggled to rely on people with more power than me (within any institution) and my experience in WTS has helped me immensely with not assuming by default that I will not be heard. It was really challenging for me to overcome my distrust but I feel much more open to collaborating with those who have more privilege than I do than I did before. What’s next for me is the exploration of my ability to apply this learning to my continued activism. I don’t think it will ever by easy for me to overcome, but I know now that I can do it without letting the inherent risks and danger dictate my behavior. With practice, it will grow more comfortable for me.

For informed and integrative thinking, I’ll have to refer back to my first story of editing the wrong video because I think that’s where I was able to really apply these skills. I know that video will never see the light and was, in the general scheme of things, pointless but it gave me an opportunity to explore ideological synthesis in a way that I hadn’t before. The challenge with these skills, for me, comes not with adding material (after all, every interview we’d filmed was relevant and contained valuable perspectives and ideas) but with removing it (how do I decide which of those perspectives and ideas are most essential to our cause?). I had to have a defined and well developed understanding of every aspect of our topic to evaluate which clips or even phrases I would eliminate. Understanding how each individual component of our film’s purpose was impacted by those surrounding it in order to reach a cohesive product was huge for me. From there, analyzing which pieces weren’t essential was a hurdle, but achievable. I hope to further build on this learning through other media. I’ve now done this work in both writing and film but what if I could apply it in my art or my career? I’m excited to find out!

I know I keep going back to the intensive length reduction I did on a piece of media that will never be finished or explored but I think for communication it is also a valuable indicator of my learning. The idea of a coherent message was the driving force behind my work. Thinking about how other creators organize their films and limit their lengths to maintained an engaged audience was a high priority for me. I wanted to compile information that was interesting and essential but I was aware that prolonging its exposure would bore its viewers. So I cut away at the film until it was succinct and, though aesthetically and organizationally raw (as my job was the only one done on that section), and intense. I think film is unique because its length is such a major player in whether people give it attention or not. All of my experience in communication is in writing, where length is a valuable tool that can actually be used to build interest. It was a challenge for me to rebel against my conception of effective communication and cut that length down as much as I could but somehow I did it. This has made me much more confident in finding the real value of an idea without using a prolonged explanation as a crutch. I am much more driven to force my way to the essence of a concept in the future. I’m hoping this will allow me to present more clear and accessible information to any audience I may have in the future. The feedback I get from those audiences will be key to my development as a concise person. Oh and also I proofread our website so I guess that makes me the publisher of a multi-model narrative; cool cool!

Now we’re at unexpected learning which will assuredly be the spiciest part. You may have noticed a bit of a theme of my struggles to trust in the above paragraphs, whether it’s trust in myself or in those around me. Before WTS, I never would have thought I even had a problem with relying on my own abilities or the support of anyone else. I didn’t consider my inadequacy in that area. I won’t gloss over the result – I devolved into a bit of a paranoid breakdown during several retreats. I was terrified that I was unwelcome, unneeded, the sore thumb of my group. I had no belief in my own value and I didn’t think anyone in my group could possibly feel empathy for me in this catastrophic state. Miraculously, I was forced to process the problems I was having with my group and my mentor and, even more miraculously, I overcame them in a matter of hours. Obviously, there’s no cure for my anxious disposition. I’m not ashamed to admit that I live in fear of discovering a formidable inadequacy in myself or being completely betrayed by someone I’ve placed my trust in. I’ve always been this way and up until this year it had never incapacitated me, sometimes even helping me to avoid risky relationships or hone my skills (out of fear, but still). Finally, in WTS, the truth was forced upon me: I have a little bit of a trust issue! I never imagined that I would discover anything of the sort because I tend to limit my understanding of my inadequacies to where I perceive them from an academic standpoint. I think about how I need to develop my ability to reason scientifically, or draw a model, or solve trigonometric relationships. It simply doesn’t occur to me organically that I could possibly need to improve myself emotionally. It was painful and inconvenient but ultimately WTS forced me to see that I have flaws in unprecedented areas. Coping with this problem was what allowed me to fully spread my wings in the prescribed life skills of the course. I know this piece is supposed to be a little longer and the previous part is supposed to be a lot shorter but I wanted this whole thing to be as authentic as possible so maybe I’m transposing the words. I don’t think I can go any deeper with the thrilling discovery of my trust issues so I guess that’s it!

Phaedra Miller

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