“Would you have a chance to look over my essay tonight?” Whenever someone asks me that question, I do a quick mental review of what I have going on at the moment: Is it exam season? Do I have papers of my own to write? Is my next article due tomorrow? However, that mental rundown is more of a personal ritual than an evaluation of whether I actually have the time to help my friend or peer. I will almost certainly nod in the affirmative and then take thirty minutes out of my personal paper writing time to edit and proofread that person’s paper. I use editing and proofreading to procrastinate, especially during exam season. It is therapeutic for me to analyze and evaluate other papers. Not only do I get the chance to release my inner editor, but it has also served to bring me closer to some of my peers, particularly in the Humanities.
Since first year, I have offered my editing services to all of my peers in a low-key way and, while some of those editing jobs have only been one-off occurrences, others have led to beautiful friendships. As I write this, there is one specific person I am thinking of. We have been trading papers for four years, and it has been an absolute pleasure to watch my friend’s writing style improve. We have taught each other valuable lessons that are applicable to both writing and life. For instance, my friend has a tendency to write beautifully constructed, yet extremely long sentences. This is amazing, and those are often the sentences I love the most because of their depth and musicality. However, they can at times be labyrinths that cause one to forget the original intention of the sentence or even the paper as a whole. Now when I correct my friend’s work, those sentences are not as plentiful as they used to be, yet the prose is still magnificent and elegant.
On the other hand, when I receive my papers back from said friend, the comments tend to run from extremely enthusiastic, which is always encouraging, to insightful and constructive. I have, thanks to guidance from my peers, learned how to properly structure my sentences, make my ideas more accessible, and craft theses I really believe in. I have also learned to step away from my thesaurus and reuse words for the sake of clarity. More does not always mean better, which is something I learned while writing philosophy papers in second year.
All that to say, I’ve been going over my past blog posts and I want to apologize to any loyal readers who have had to read and reread the sentence “[B]ut if there is one thing Humanities has taught me…” followed by an enthralling insight about my program, over and over.
What I should have realized by now is that Humanities will never stop teaching me new things.
I will never be able to sum up the fundamental lessons the program has taught me in a sentence or even two. However, before I attempt to retire this apparently well-loved phrase in my blog posts, I plan to use it one last time.
If there is one thing Humanities has taught me it is that relationships, good, solid ones, can be built upon anything, even a shared love of the Oxford comma. Hold onto those friends who edit your essays. In four years they might be critiquing your thesis, peer reviewing an academic article you wrote, or writing you a recommendation for a volunteer position or the job you’ve always wanted. In four years you might be where I am today, facing graduation and the rest of my life. But the thing is, I am not afraid. I know who I am, as much as one can know that, and if I doubt myself, well, I have a team of people behind me who will give me advice. Editors are like surgeons in that they make small, precise movements to improve their patients (also known as papers). They want you to improve and get better. I may take their advice or not, but the fact that they are willing to give it to me, to take the time to think and focus on me for a moment, is magical.