As the ride comes to an end, so does the essay. The narrator explains what he now understands, having finally done the thing he dreaded for so long:
A sense of joy overtook me, that we could all be scared out of our wits together. Maybe we were always frightened of what was coming, had been forever, but only now could express it in shrieks and tears. Fear was like a connective tissue even if our real connective tissue was sustaining whiplash. After all, that’s what the Beast offered: not death but four minutes of life strapped in and beyond the tether of its own control. The train threaded into the station. We climbed out, laughing dizzily, and I felt something commensurate to love: I had survived the monster, and all I wanted was to go back and be tossed around again.
What do you notice about this final paragraph? What are this narrator’s takeaways? How does he express them? Does it feel to you like a satisfying conclusion, one that helps you understand a larger meaning?
Now Try This: Finish These Sentence Starters
To think about what you learned from an experience you’ll be writing about — or what you would like your readers to take away from it — you might begin with one of these sentence starters. But consider these simply ways to prime your thinking. Later, you can go back and edit out our “sentence starter” beginnings and make the reflections your own.
This story matters because …
As it was happening, I was thinking …
This experience made me realize that …
Looking back now, I see that …
More Mentor Texts for Reflecting on an Experience
You know that scene in “Lady Bird” when Saoirse Ronan throws herself out of a moving vehicle to avoid talking to her mother for another second? That was the author, at 14, in the car with his father.
What an Unemployed Millennial Learned at Summer Camp, a 2017 essay from the On Campus column
As the writer coached campers through their anxieties, she started addressing her own.
Running Into Danger on an Alaskan Trail, a 2016 essay from the Lives column
A confrontation with a wild black bear.
Off the Road, a 2015 essay from the Lives column
He never thought he was a car guy until the day his little blue Toyota truck died.
White Shirt, Black Name Tag, Big Secret, a 2017 essay from the Modern Love column
After spending years abroad trying to convert strangers, two Mormon missionaries realize how little they really knew each other.
Questions About Reflections for Any Narrative Essay
What is your takeaway from this essay? That is, what would you say the writer wanted you to learn, understand or realize? How do you know?