A personal essay by Hope College senior Wade Hoag that began life in an introductory course has been published in the April 2018 issue of “The Sun,” a monthly magazine that features essays, interviews, photography, poems and short stories.
Featured in the “Readers Write: What Really Matters” column, Hoag’s essay reflects on the emotional challenges that he has experienced and the lessons that he’s learned since becoming paralyzed from the waist down in August 2015. In concluding, he wrote, “I’m not good at talking about my disability. Being vulnerable is hard, but I’ve learned that it also heals. The people who have helped me the most are the ones who are vulnerable with me.”
“Here’s what else I’ve learned: That being resilient does not mean pretending that this is easy. It isn’t,” continued Hoag, who has relocated to Holland from Hartville, Ohio, and will be graduating in December. “But it’s only when we do what is hard that we open ourselves up to the pain and the joy.”
Dr. Joseph LaPorte, professor of philosophy, was the instructor of the course, “Real Life and the Good Life,” that led to the essay, and worked with Hoag outside of class as he developed and refined successive drafts. “For Wade to have his essay accepted by ‘The Sun’ is an extremely impressive accomplishment, especially for an undergraduate,” he said. “It is a high-quality literary and photography magazine that is often featured in Best American Essays anthologies and that boasts a circulation of about 70,000.”
“Real Life and the Good Life” is an interdisciplinary, general-education, humanities course that discusses values and the meaning of life. LaPorte was reading an earlier issue of “The Sun” when he saw an invitation for submissions to “What Really Matters.” He immediately recalled insights that Hoag had shared while they had been talking at the college library’s café, and when he next saw him encouraged him to craft them for the publication, which he felt was an ideal venue.
“Wade and I had been talking together at the Cup n Chaucer outside of class, about how he found application for these deeply personal and profound themes from class in his own moving story,” LaPorte recalled.
“’What Really Matters’ is more or less the theme of the class,” LaPorte said. “I thought his story was just about what ‘The Sun’ would be looking for.”
Hoag, in turn, expressed appreciation to LaPorte for the guidance that he feels made publication possible.
“Yes, it’s my story and yes those are my words but without his mentorship and patience, I would not have been able to craft an essay that is good enough to be published by an outlet like The Sun,” Hoag said. “One of the truly special things about Hope is the opportunity for that working relationship and friendship between students like myself who have some raw talent and professors like Joe who are willing and able to cultivate and shape it into something formidable.”