Saturday, February 21, 2009

No, No... Change Everything

Oh excitement people. Things are happening. Exciting things. But first, a story about how one (me) learns lessons, the life kind.

Many, many years ago (six) I was accepted into an "innovative" graduate program at a "good" school in the Chicagoland area. I had applied to three other schools, but this school.. this was my "long shot;" it was the offer I couldn't refuse. And so, I moved to Chicago to get a master's degree. For a year and a half, I was miserable. I was an insomniac. I was completely and utterly lost. To this day, I do not know if I actually retained anything from the year and a half program.

But this isn't about me. This is about some guy, whose name I can't even be bothered to recall. Some Guy was in my class at said school getting said degree. He was older than me, probably in his early 30s. Midway through the program, you know what he did? He dropped out. Dropped out of the program! Just like that. Gone. Why? I'm sure I don't know the real answer, but he probably just wasn't happy with what he was doing. But at the time I didn't get it. I thought, "That's crazy! We're almost done. Why would he drop out with only two tiny weeny quarters to go?" Probably, as I think about it now, to avert spending thousands of dollars to get a degree that would prepare him for a career that he knew he didn't want.

I get it now. And though I recognize certain things--like had I left my program early it's unlikely I would have stayed in Chicago; therefore, I never would have met MM, etc.--I wish I could have manned up to the realization that sometimes it's OK to quit. If it's the right thing to do for you. I guess at the time, I was too young to make that call. I was on a path I had chosen. If not that, then what?

Oh question, how you have plagued me. Five years, countless thoughts and ideas, research and weighing. Until now.

A post or so ago, I was all incognito about my evil genius plan for moving forward in my career life. But, allow me to digress... after everything, after all this, after the master's degree in marketing, the love for endurance sports, the total rejection of all things I'm doing now... in a way, I've come full circle.

In undergrad, I minored in English for no other reason than because I was good at it. And because I was good at it, I liked it (or perhaps it is the other way round?). I was good at writing papers, good at personal essays, good at reading and shit. See? That sentence alone should prove my English skillz. As if you need proof... I majored in Visual Communications--a degree which served me well, but ultimately I was really no good at it. I mean, I can layout a page in a pinch or whatever, but I didn't have... how do you say? Talent. That's the word.

I started my career in PR at a nonprofit. I loved my job, or I thought I loved my job, but really I just loved (and still to this day, love) my boss. But I thought I loved it so much that I wanted to take it to the next level, and in my mind for reasons I cannot explain, the next level was a career in marketing. So I planned my escape--a master's degree, in the Big City. I applied at a school in Boston, two schools in Chicago. But even as I sat around and researched various marketing programs, I couldn't help but wander over to the English Department web pages. Perhaps a degree in Creative Writing? A masters in English Lit? No, no. I was on a path.

It's always been a thought, you know? English--mostly creative writing because I did my best essays when I was forced to write them for class. I have probably spent countless hours on websites reading about creative writing graduate programs. But it never felt like that direction was right for me. Maybe I'm too pragmatic. Or maybe I recognize the limits of what I can do as a writer.

Who am I kidding? I can do anything.

Then, you might remember, a few months ago, I went on an organization bender. I ripped apart the house, tossed, filed, cleaned, and set up my office. That's when I found every paper I had ever written since I left high school--every college paper, every graduate paper. I paged through each one of them, reading the comments, which ultimately, all pointed to the same fact: if there was anything I could ever count on, it was that I could, and I would, with very little effort, write a damn good paper. Every time. Without fail. And that's when the most important career-related question I have asked myself in the last five years went through my head:

How do people become college English comp teachers?

And so, the research began.

I had this feeling from the start that there had to be a degree separate of English Literature to provide training for this type of career. So I started by going to college English department web pages and reading the bios of the comp professors. Sure enough, most of them have degrees in "Writing and Rhetoric." More research uncovered the one (exactly one) program in Writing and Rhetoric that exists in Chicago, and it is brand spanking new.

"We've been expecting you."

I starred at the Web site for a several days. Maybe it was a week. Maybe it was two. No action. And then, I was reminded just how much exactly I hate my job. Thanks coworker(s). And that was it. The time had come to take a stand. I contacted the program. I met with the director. I sat in on a class. I talked to MM, who is currently finishing his master's degree, about whether or not I'd be good at this (teaching experience = 0), and he said what amounted to the final nail in my marketing career's coffin. "Lou," he said, "You are better at going over my papers than anyone at the writing center. You know how to help me make my papers better without changing my ideas or my writing style." Or something to that effect. It was enough evidence for me.

I am doing this. This is what's next for me, and I know it. I will decide this weekend if I am able to start before Fall quarter (rolling admissions), which will be based largely on the classes they offer this summer. I will likely continue on in my position while I go to school, but this is light. And I will reach the end of this tunnel.

Oh and there's so much more news to come. Just wait. You'll be ever so surprised!


Roisin said...

We must be living parallel lives. Because what you just wrote is most definitely what I'm going through now...only with French. But, you put it much better than I could ever.

And if you need more evidence that this (teaching English comp) is what you should do, then here's one more: I wouldn't have started/kept up with/etc. my blog if it weren't for reading yours! I say go for it.

Kendra said...

This is so exciting! I've always loved to read your writing. I even remember a poem you wrote about a certain crazy dog you acquired shortly after I moved from Columbus to Texas. Yay for more Lou writing! Also Yay for MM encouraging you on your new path. You've got a good one there!

heidikins said...

Gasp! This is so exciting!! Ohmygoodness, woman! Yay for tunnel-light! You're gonna be fabulous at this, I can already tell. Lou from the Park: English comp Superstar.


Lindy said...

Congrats! Nothing more exciting than finding yourself on the right path...and doing what it takes to be on that path!

For what it's worth, I had a fabulous college prof in my history major days (undergrad), who acted as if he were giving us the keys to true happiness and success when he gave us this paper called "How to write the perfect paper every time". He guaranteed us that if we followed the writing format, research and suggestions, we would get an "A" every time. You should author something like that! You could be like the "Dummy's Guide to Writing a Kick Ass Term Paper" or something like that.

Anyway...YOU ROCK!