IRJE #4 – Self-Identity Struggles

The excerpt I chose to focus on for this IRJE is taken from the book Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross. In this snapshot of the fictional world, the protagonist is writing about their confusion – both towards their identity and their figurative appearance. It is clear that the character is struggling with internal conflict, and this letter captures the struggle many face in navigating the judgements of others while living a life authentic to themselves.

Do you ever feel as if you wear armor, day after day? That when people look at you, they see only the shine of steel that you’ve carefully encased yourself in? They see what they want to see in you – the warped reflection of their own face, or a piece of the sky, or a shadow cast between buildings. They see all the times you’ve made mistakes, all the times you’ve failed, all the times you’ve hurt them or disappointed them. As if that is all you will ever be in their eyes. How do you change something like that? How do you make your life your own and not feel guilt over it?

This excerpt can be considered relatable to many, including myself, as it perfectly captures the struggle between being wholly yourself and putting on a mask or, as the character puts it, armour, to portray yourself as the version you want others to see. Vulnerability is difficult; it takes courage to let down your armour, to welcome people to see you as you are. It also highlights the impact of first impressions and prejudgements. The protagonist states that everyone “sees all the times you’ve made mistakes, all the times you’ve failed, all the times you’ve hurt them or disappointed them. As if that is all you will ever be in their eyes.” Shortly after, they question how to change such undeviating perceptions. I, myself, have struggled with shaping the way others view me once they think they know exactly who I am. The fear of being defined by past errors or disappointments can be paralyzing, which can in turn prevent personal growth and the ability to redefine oneself. This is why it is so important to remain open-minded and to take on your life as your own, and no one else’s.

PW#4 – Curiosity

Curiosity. The word itself, a collection of letters strung together to form a cohesive meaning, conveys little to most and none to some. It is simply that: a word. To me, curiosity is boundless. It surrounds me. No moment passes where I don’t question or inquire, challenge or scrutinize. My brain is constantly whirring, looking for answers to questions I may never find. Throughout childhood, some are told that “curiosity kills the cat,” a cautionary tale to temper inquisitive nature. What if curiosity did not kill the cat, but set it free? What if curiosity led it to new places, new experiences, where it found the answers to unvoiced questions? Truthfully, I believe that it does not act as a threat but as a beacon. Curiosity has been my lifelong companion, guiding me and shedding light on my darkest and most uncertain moments. As a child, curiosity held my hand as I walked through the explorative stages of life. I did not know my own name, let alone the vast world I had been thrust into. It was my constant need for answers, and my insatiable appetite for knowledge, that led me to grow into the person I am today. Now, looking towards the future, I am cognizant that I know absolutely nothing. Nothing of my plans, nothing of tomorrow, and certainly nothing of who I am to become. Yet, paradoxically, this acknowledgement of the vast unknown ahead of me allows me to find a profound sense of liberation. Fear does not drive me; my curiosity allows me to gaze into the future with a sense of wonder and anticipation. The beauty of tomorrow lies within the truth that no one knows. To claim that you know your purpose, or your plans, or even yourself fully, is to confine the nature of human potential within the narrow walls of certainty. I find beauty in the uncertainty, the curious exhilaration. I wonder who I will become tomorrow. I hope my curiosity will forever accompany me. Curiosity.


IRJE #3 – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

A short time ago, I read the book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. This biography allowed me to delve into the perspective of King, understanding his journey and perspective. Throughout the book, he separates his thoughts into neatly organized categories. First, he highlights events in his life that influenced his writing throughout the “C.V.” He then goes on to discuss why writing is so important and then the section, “On Writing,” where he provides his advice to aspiring writers. I began reading this book for my personal project, as writing is the focus, and it greatly supported me. Not only that, the quotes from the book inspired me. The following quote was one of the most resonating to me:

It is, rather, a kind of curriculum vitae – my attempt to show how one writer was formed. Not how one writer was made; I don’t believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or by self-will (although I did believe those things once). The equipment comes with the original package.

This phrase provides an insight into how Stephen King thinks, allowing the reader to contemplate and reflect upon the meaning behind his proclamations. With such few words, he encapsulates his whole belief in writing and his journey. He shares how writers cannot be made, only formed. This stuck with me, as it was a new idea that had never been introduced to me. Soon after he writes this phrase, he goes on to speak of what influenced his journey. He includes inspiration, luck, and a little talent. This also surprised me, as his unabashedness and transparency were unfamiliar to me. Overall, this book served the purpose that I was looking for and provided more than I could have hoped for; it fueled my desire to write.

PR#2 – The Psychological Destruction of War – All Quiet on the Western Front

The novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque is a haunting story that sheds light on an intensely human perspective of the war which I had never considered before reading it. Remarque manages to both depict the physical and psychological horrors of war through the pages. He never glorifies any of the notable events, only telling a heartbreakingly transparent version of the conflict. The story captured my attention with immersive plot points, descriptive sentences and settings that added depth to the story and the characters’ identities in each chapter. Throughout the book, Remarque draws emotional responses from the reader through many different techniques, but the aspects that stood out most to me were the imagery, character development, and soldier camaraderie.

Remarque’s use of vivid imagery, along with his captivating exploration of the immersive plot, adds an extra layer of realism to the story that intrigued me from the very beginning. When describing the events of the war, Remarque leaves no details spared, which adds an unfiltered quality to the already brutal retelling. His inclusion of the conflicts, brutish lifestyle, and emotional depravity made it almost hard to read, as the emotions these details evoked were not familiar or pleasant to me. Through the eyes of Paul Baumer, the protagonist, I was able to understand the savagery and futility that went hand in hand with such a conflict. Particularly, I was struck by Remarque’s vivid portrayals of trench warfare’s atrocities, including artillery bombardments, shelling, barbed wire, and destruction. Ultimately, this book challenges the concept of war in ways that not many other authors have had the courage to do, and it opened my eyes to the agonizing truth.

Another jarring aspect that enhanced the emotional toll of the book was the strong character development and camaraderie among soldiers. The way Remarque brings each character to life, whether important to the plot or not, is remarkable and adds to the story’s poignancy. He doesn’t attribute the same aspects to each character and doesn’t make them all good, as people are never purely good. They each possess distinct flaws, whether that be stubbornness, temper, ferocity, or frivolity. It is these elements that made me connect with each fictional character, as it is these elements that I can understand and relate to in myself and those around me. These were the individual features of each character that carried them through the war, and these were also the features that allowed me to feel a sense of great sorrow and connection towards them. Similarly, the connections the soldiers made throughout the war enhanced the sentiment of loss. 

It was inspiring to experience the way Remarque interlinks the characters despite their diverse qualities. Exploring the strong bond formed between soldiers who shared a traumatic experience served as a reminder that light can be found in the darkest of places. Their camaraderie also displayed the stark juxtaposition between the horrors that they faced and the joy they shared in their everyday lives. How they could go from laughing and joking together one minute, to not knowing whether the other was alive the next baffled me. This made me believe that they had become desensitized to loss, explaining their emotional flexibility. While Remarque manages to highlight this camaraderie between the protagonist and fellow German soldiers, he also emphasizes the shared humanity of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. The scene where Paul shoots a French combatant and then regrets his action, reflecting upon himself and who he has become, highlights the discord between his soldier identity and his personal beliefs. It expresses how war pits young men against one another, even when they may have no personal quarrel, and wholly destroys their past persona. 

PW#3 – The Importance of Childhood

When she was young, she would sit by her cottage window and stare out upon the vast expanse beyond, painting the beauty of nature. The rolling hills and vibrant meadows seemed endless, with the small garden in the backyard sprouting new life. The sun that crested over the mountains and the crisp air against her skin made her feel insignificant in the face of the expansive world ahead. She had no worries or concerns in this place of serenity, with all she had to think about being her next breaths and the beauty of the world depicted by her paintbrush.

As she grew older, she found herself forgetting her place in the world. She no longer visited her little cottage on the hill, and time seemed to slip past her as if she were simply watching herself through someone else’s lens and never truly living. Yet, the memory of those early days in the cottage haunted her like a whisper of forgotten dreams. The bustling city she now called home was a stark contrast to the serenity of her childhood. The incessant honking of cars, the ceaseless chatter of people rushing to and fro, and the relentless demands of work had swallowed her whole.

One night, in her upscale apartment in the centre of the city, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. The haunted woman who stared back was a weary stranger, almost completely unrecognizable. She realized at that moment how much time she had spent simply surviving, sleepwalking through life without remembering the importance of her existence; without recalling her aspirations, desires, and hobbies. She had never tried to reconnect with the innocence and wonder of her youth, when she had felt like anything was possible. She yearned to once again become in touch with that side of herself; to return to her cottage and feel the crisp morning air and the warmth of the sun’s rays.

The next day, she decided to return to her childhood cottage. She drove from the city to the countryside, the juxtaposition of the two environments reflecting her own differences. When she arrived, she found the once beautiful place disastrous. The garden, once tended by her loving hands, had fallen into disarray. Weeds and overgrown plants had taken over the plots and once-vibrant flowers. The fields, with no one to cut them, had become a tangle of wild growth. They almost seemed to mirror her own messy life.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, she felt a renewed sense of purpose. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work, weeding, soiling, and planting until the garden looked as it once had. Over the course of the weeks she stayed, she worked hard to rekindle the place that she had once loved more than anything. There was much to do in a short time, so she got to work, cutting grass, gardening, refurnishing, and building. By the end of the two weeks, the place was back to its previous state, and so was she.

She felt reacquainted with nature. The long hikes over the rolling hills and early mornings watching the sunrise behind the mountains had made her remember what she loved so much about nature. She regained that sense of insignificance and even found herself painting once more. She was filled with awe and inspiration.

Over this time, she had found a balance between the tranquillity of her childhood and the bustling nature of her present. She realized the importance of carrying this balance with her wherever she went, no matter what her surroundings suggested.

In the end, she had not forgotten her place in the world; instead, she had rediscovered it. Life was no longer something she merely watched pass by; it was something she lived with intention and appreciation, just as she did in her youth.


IRJE #2 – Women and Weapons

The book that I am currently reading is titled Lady Smoke, by Laura Sebastian. It is the second book in the trilogy and follows a fantasy plot with political intrigue, romance, and adventure. One of the many quotes in this book that stuck out to me the most was found in a scene where the main character, a young woman vying to reunite her country and take back her throne, spoke with another woman about their struggles. The quote is found on page 233, and is described as the following:

“As women, we must have our weapons in this world, whether they’re our minds or our fists or our wiles or our tears.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

This, specifically in the past tense setting of the book, gave me further insight into what the world was like for women in particular. Despite being a fantastical writing piece, Sebastian still manages to include relevance to reality within the pages while also adding a deeper layer of personality to the characters and their efforts. As a woman myself, this provided me with an opportunity to not only read of the characters but also place myself in the character’s situation. Ultimately, this quote added many important aspects and layers, overall enhancing the story.

Today, she is a teenage girl – Personal Writing #2

Today, she is a teenage girl. She wakes to the sounds of a house full of life and the smell of fresh coffee. Everyone is home. Her father watches the television while her mother bakes fresh brownies. She groans at the sound of her pestering alarm and stares up at the ceiling. She is warm, cocooned in her sheets as if she were a caterpillar, not quite ready to leave just yet. It is in moments like this that she reflects upon the future. One day, she realizes, she will wake up alone. The house will be still as never before, and the silence will be deafening. One day, there will be no more laughter echoing through the empty halls, nor will there be any more pestering comments from her siblings. There will be fewer family dinners and movie nights. Fewer long car rides and conversations. Fewer opportunities with less of the world laid out in front of her. She will grow up, and with it, she will lose this piece of her, this aching familiarity. Tomorrow, she will grow up, and all that will be left of her childhood are memories. Moments that she will never relive, reflections of her shattered past, held in her heart and forever scattered across her path.

– Meghan


IRJE #1 – Throne of Glass

The excerpt that I chose to write this IRJE about is from the book, Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas. This is not the current independent book I am reading, but rather a recent read that deeply impacted me. The following quote portrays the characters’ emotions in a deep and meaningful way. The protagonist is discussing the importance of music and the emotions she feels when she plays the piano.

“I like music,” she said slowly, “because when I hear it, I . . . I lose myself within myself, if that makes any sense. I become empty and full all at once, and I can feel the whole earth roiling around me. When I play. I’m not . . . for once, I’m not destroying, I’m creating.”
The way that Maas uses descriptive words within the sentence enhances the meaning and allows the reader to understand and empathize with the character. Furthermore, the sharp juxtaposition between the protagonist’s ferocity throughout the majority of the book to this scene, where we see a deeper, softer, layer of her characterization was very impactful to the story. As a piano player myself, I felt this quote deeply. Musique is a form of self-expression that I value, and seeing this reflected in a character made me feel recognized and also allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the protagonists’ thoughts.

PR – They Shall Not Grow Old

Throughout the documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, I experienced a variety of profound emotions, ranging from sadness to confusion to hopelessness. I am cognizant that I cannot begin to fully understand or relate to the lives of the soldiers in World War 1, as I have never had to experience such a destructive event. That being said, the gruesome imagery and depictions of death so easily discussed provided a window into the unfiltered lives of the soldiers, allowing me to see the harsh reality of war. When hearing of the age of the soldiers enlisting, the stories’ poignancy was only enhanced. I have lived a fairly sheltered life, all things considered, so it seems unfathomable to imagine friends and family members of similar age in the same situation. Knowing that the soldiers had family and friends who loved them equally as much as I love mine is terrifying. No one speaks of the individual losses, always referring to the deaths on a grand scale, so hearing about their identities, aspirations, families, and lives made the authenticity and individuality of their characters all the more real.

How the film used colorization and sound restoration to give life to the war bridged the gap between past and present, humanizing the soldiers and giving them personality in a way that made it even more difficult to watch. It is one thing to hear of the horrors of war through statistics and history books, however, the realism that this film provided and having to watch the horrors unfold for myself was a stark reminder that they were just ordinary people thrust into a devastating situation. The most crushing realization was the juxtaposition between the innocent, and even excited young men, enlisting, to the harsh reality of the brutal warfare and conditions on the front lines. It was heartbreaking to think that most of these boys, who were once full of enthusiasm, never made it back home. This reality puts into perspective just how much they sacrificed for their countries, and provided a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for those who gave their lives for the cause.


PW#1 – The Beauty of Nature

The sun painted the sky with hues untamed,

A masterpiece of colours, unashamed.

And with the symphony of light came signs of wildlife,

Nature’s new wonders coming back to life.


The birdsong rose beneath the autumn haze,

Amidst the glow of the rising sun’s gaze,

With the dappled sunlight glinting through trees,

There was a hint of salty ocean breeze.


The vibrant coloured canopy of tents,

Stirred one by one with their inhabitants.

Eager to seize the adventurous day,

Despite the misty chill in murder bay.


The vast expanse of the calm ocean deep,

Cast a rhythmic lull that put us to sleep.

And as we lay by the crackling flames,

Our untainted dreams of nature remain.

A Window Into My Life – Meghan

Hello! My full name is Meghan Amara Boxshall, but most people just call me Meg. I was born on November 5th, 2008, at Vancouver General Hospital, making me 14 years old. Despite being born in Vancouver, I’ve lived in Victoria my whole life, never once moving from my house in East Sooke. I attended Westmont Montessori until I was ten years old, and from there I moved to Brooke’s Westshore, where I’ve stayed for four years so far. Ever since I was a child I’ve loved everything about travelling; the flights, the countries, the cultures. In total, I’ve been to over seven different countries, each one bringing new adventures but my favourite being Greece. Aside from travel, I love playing volleyball, spending time with friends and family, swimming, and reading.

Ever since I discovered the Ranger’s Apprentice series at the age of nine, I’ve been in love with reading. That series was my first real introduction to fantasy, and from that moment onwards I’ve loved everything about the genre. As a very imaginative person, it feels as though I am transported to the world that I am reading about, and nothing else creates that same feeling. I’ve attempted to branch out, reading contemporary, classic, and even sci-fi novels, however, I always revert to my roots. It was not until I read the Throne of Glass series by the author Sarah J. Maas that I realized the possible world-building and characterization that could go into a book. I fell in love with the characters and worlds that Maas depicted, along with the structure she used for clarity.

Although I don’t often choose to write in my spare time, it is something I enjoy doing. I typically prefer creative writing to most other forms because it allows me to express myself and my creativity, however, I find myself enjoying the process of essay writing more than I care to admit. Despite the somewhat restrictive feature of an essay structure, the final draft’s flow makes the tedious process worthwhile. Although I don’t typically write in my free time, I recognize the importance of writing in various contexts and consider it a valuable skill.