By Jordan Virtue '16
In an iconic scene from Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams as Sean Maguire adjusts his tweed jacket and sits down in a musty office across from Matt Damon. He asks if Damon, playing Will Hunting, has a soul mate, someone who opens things up, challenges him, and touches his soul. Will rattles off a list of great philosophers, playwrights, and poets, and Sean quickly dismisses the possibility of dialogue with them because they are all dead. "Not to me, they're not," Will replies.
I agree with Will Hunting— those authors are alive through their books, and they come to life every time I write about them. I really fell in love with literature and writing in high school, especially in AP Literature during my junior year. I loved it so much that I completed an independent English study with Mr. Braithwaite the following year, studying William Faulkner and Joseph Campbell while working as a teacher's aide.
Literature is filled with stories of glorious victories and stunning defeats, roads taken and roads left behind, epic adventures in far off lands and adventures in the scaled-down life we call ordinary. Writing about the tension between those experiences and "problems of the human heart in conflict with itself," in the words of Faulkner, opened my eyes to the truly miraculous nature of our lives.
I have carried my passion for writing with me to college, where I ended up taking four English courses in my freshman year. One of my Harvard professors, in a lecture hall just down the street from where Good Will Hunting was filmed, told us that a great book never finishes saying what it has to say. It is alive, and it thrusts the reader into an enduring dialogue about what it means to be human.
I enjoy journalism for the same reasons— I love entering into a dialogue with someone and finding the essence of their story. Journalism gives the facts, but it also provides an avenue to demonstrate a human connection. I was privileged to work with Fred Barbash, the former national editor and current editor of the Morning Mix section of the Washington Post, during my senior year at HPA.
Learn more about what it's like working with an editor at the Washington Post
In an internship outside of class, Mr. Barbash asked us to pitch Hawai'i-centered stories that could be published. I decided to write about local foods, eventually settling on the Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. After walking through the door of their turquoise shave ice truck and listening to their story, I was most struck by the sense of family that permeates every aspect of their business. I learned how the Ignacios revived the family business after nearly 20 years, bringing "the perfect shave" to a whole new generation of shave ice enthusiasts. The story was eventually published in the Travel section of the Post and was picked up by other publications across the country. But, like Reggie Ignacio says, it all comes back to family. The desire to write about that human connection has been my inspiration.