Student Reflection – Open the Box (10.1)

By Nikki Gordon, Arkansas State University

Open the Box is a Visual Op-Ed that was created for Dr. Elizabeth Chamberlain’s Advanced Composition course at Arkansas State University.  When this project was first presented to the class, Dr. Chamberlain told us – the students – to consider telling a story that held a deeper meaning, that had the potential to leave a lasting impact on the reader.  I spent days contemplating what “impactful” story I could tell when I found inspiration in the most unlikely of places: my car.  As I mention in Open the Box, I was listening to a playlist of Halsey’s music when I heard a set of lyrics that caught my attention: “Well, King Midas put his hands on me again.”  Those lyrics coupled with the constant thoughts about the story I would tell for my Visual Op-Ed made me realize that I – and so many others – had a story that needed to be told: the tale of domestic abuse.  Within the ten minutes that remained of my drive, I had the entire story outlined in my head.  After parking my car, I got out a piece of paper and started jotting down all of the ideas that I had about the project, but as I stared at that piece of paper, I felt a sense of dread.  Even though I knew that many men and women had similar stories, I didn’t think that anyone would be able to relate to my story.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned in life, it’s that people don’t care about something unless it directly involves or affects them.  For this story, I knew that I would need to present it in a way that made the reader feel like he or she was the one that was experiencing the events, which is why I decided to tell the story in the second person.  However, I didn’t feel that the simple retelling of the events from the second-person point of view would be effective on its own.  When Dr. Chamberlain showed the class Robin Sloan’s Fish: A Tap Essay, I knew that the Tap Essay format combined with the second person perspective would really reinforce the audience’s engagement with the story because a Tap Essay requires the reader to interact with the story in a way that words on a page don’t.  When using the Tap Essay format, the reader has to “tap” or “click” through the essay knowing that he or she is the one that is consciously progressing the narrative and that there is no opportunity to return to a previous part of the story.  While my essay allows readers to move backward, it was this idea of constant progression that interested me the most when it came to the Tap Essay’s format because it mirrored the situation that I wanted to tell.  When it comes to real-life situations like the one in Open the Box, there is only forward progression and the conscious effort to continue moving forward, which is perfectly simulated by the Tap Essay format.

While it may seem that this project came together easily, it was one of the hardest topics I’ve ever had to write about.  Not because of the content, not because it is incredibly personal, but because of the response that it invited.  Almost every one of my classmates, after reading this, responding by saying, “I’m sorry.”  Even though that’s an appropriate response, it’s not the one that I wanted to hear because it implied that I was a victim.  I’m not a victim; I’m lucky.  I get to tell my story, and that’s the biggest thing that I learned from writing this piece: everyone has a story that is worth telling.  I hope that by telling my story, I have inspired others to tell their stories to whomever they choose in whatever format they want.

Open your box and tell your story.