77: The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

77: The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

~Anaïs Nin

It was the fall semester of my senior year of college and I felt like my entire college experience was a bust.

I remember sitting at a long grey table in a grey classroom with my ten classmates in NYU’s new Journalism building. At the head of the table stood a tall African American man in a light colored suit and a matching fedora, my professor, James McBride. During this particular lesson, Professor McBride asked the class something along the lines of “Who isn’t satisfied with their college experience?” My hand shot up immediately, as if it were spring loaded to go up at that exact moment. I looked around the room and there were no other hands up. After a short awkward pause, two of my other classmates reluctantly half-raised their hands. We were then paired off and told to interview each other about it. The purpose was to write a short piece in the voice of the interviewee.

I was paired with an Indian girl with long black hair. We left the classroom and walked across the street to the park and before I knew it I was treating the green park bench as a therapist’s couch, rambling on about all of my qualms about college to a person I hardly knew. I told her I felt like my classes were not teaching me anything and that basically in three years I had hardly learned anything. I told her that since I commute to school I didn’t have many friends and I felt like I was missing out on a large chunk of the “college experience.” She listened carefully and took notes. I didn’t know it at the time, but by the end of the semester I would be feeling a lot better about my “college experience.”

Professor McBride was an amazing teacher. This best-selling writer and composer took the time to get to know each of us through our writing. His teaching method was unique. Each of our assignments was to be handwritten and double-spaced on yellow legal notepads. I remember when he gave us our first assignment and my classmate asked him how long it should be. He simply responded by saying, “Write until you’re done.” I always hated having specified lengths for papers because I felt that in order to fulfill the required length there were a lot of extra words mucking up an otherwise concise paper. But Professor McBride had such a novel and practical answer — “Write until you’re done.”

Imagine my surprise when I was handed back my first assignment, and stapled to the last page was an entire page of typed — on a typewriter, no less — comments. In my other classes I usually got a sentence, or a paragraph if I was lucky, explaining why I had gotten the letter grade I received. Professor McBride had comments on not only the flaws of my piece, but also what I did well. To top it off there was no letter grade accompanying the feedback. He said he wanted us to improve our writing and not worry about getting a grade. It was an amazing feeling not to be relegated to a single letter. Liberating, almost. After that, I wrote more freely without being regulated by the threat of a low grade.

I was no longer writing what I thought my professor wanted to read, but rather what I wanted to convey. In sophomore year, I had switched my major from Biology to Journalism (against my parents’ wishes), but I had found that as I progressed through my new major, my urge to write slowly began to die. I’ve never had great punctuation, and most of my professors tore me down for it. I tried to learn but it never sank in. Each paper I got back usually greeted me with a B and a short quip about my less-than-stellar punctuation. All the negativity gradually ate away at the little self-confidence I had, and before long I just didn’t feel much like writing and phoned in many of my assignments. Believe it or not, it came to a point where I absolutely hated writing.

But unlike my other writing professors, Professor McBride actually found good things in my writing and pointed them out to me, along with the bad. His care in reading my pieces and finding the redeeming qualities gradually began to repair my wounded confidence. All I really needed was an encouraging word. Soon, I started to enjoy putting pen to paper again. Professor McBride had given me something that I never really had to begin with — confidence in myself — and confidence that what I have to say matters. That may seem like a dramatic statement, but it is true in every sense of the word. I started to carry myself with my head up and I stopped being so self-conscious.

Unlike many of the professors I’ve had, Professor McBride truly tried to impart his knowledge to us. He taught us not just about writing, but about life. During one of his lectures he said to us that, no matter what happens, we need to remember “the sun will rise tomorrow.” It is such a simple and obvious fact but somehow hearing it from someone I respect and admire gave it weight. These simple words have gotten me through any day where I felt like the world was crashing down around me. On those days, “the sun will rise tomorrow” became a mantra I would repeat over and over in my head.

The twelve weeks I spent in James McBride’s class were the most insightful and educational weeks of my entire time at college. I learned more in those twelve weeks than I did in the past three years. As a human being, I grew quite a bit during this time. I am the person I am now because of what I learned from Professor McBride. His class is one of the few reasons that I can honestly say my college experience might actually be worth the ridiculous amount of money for tuition.

Although I said thank you and shook his hand after the final class, I don’t think anything I do could possibly convey my gratitude to James McBride — there aren’t words to describe it. But I wanted to try writing about him because writing is exactly what he taught me to love doing again. Thank you, Professor McBride.

~Kevin Chu

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