The semester I finally summoned up the nerve to go into *that much debt* (which it turns out in the whole scheme of things was pretty minimal) for a college education was the same semester that many of my old high school friends were set to graduate. None of them, I was not at all surprised to discover, knew what they wanted to do.
That type of uncertainty was what I was most afraid of when trying to decide what to do after high school — getting in, spending the money (very little of it actually my own) and emerging four years later with no idea what was next and up to your eyeballs in debt? No thanks. So, I did what seemed to me the sensible thing. I waited until I felt I had a direction to move in and then, when I did, I moved.
Before I ever set foot on campus I knew that I wanted an academic career. Reading, writing, teaching, debating — if I could be surrounded by these things for the rest of my life, then that is what I wanted. While I may not have been engaged or enlivened by most of my public education career, there had never been any doubt that I was serious about being a student. It simply did not take the traditional format of one — a fact that many people pointed out would make me blossom in college. They were mostly right about that.
Of course, I started out on a very different track, one that would have involved Seminary (yes, that type of Seminary), but a serendipitous encounter with an American Lit prof reminded me who I was and I said goodbye to my position as the only woman in the Theology department and signed on with the nut jobs over in the English wing of the Humanities.
It was not a great school that I went to. And while I spent much of my time being dissapointed in the general meh-ness of things, I really made the most of my education. It was an amazing time. I raced through in 3.5 years (all while working pretty much full time) and graduated summa cum laude. It was a great accomplishment, though I tend to poopoo it on a pretty regular basis. I was a big brained fish in a very small brained pond. Hardly something to be proud of. Put me in with some real competition and I’m not sure I could have kept up. Still, it was a good confidence booster.
From day one I was already thinking about what would be next. Then, my Junior year, a strategically placed poster for the Children’s Literature program at Hollins University caught my eye. I applied. I was accepted. I spent one glorious summer in Roanoke, Virginia having the college experience I always wanted. And then I never went back. It was expensive. It wasn’t going to get me anywhere I already wasn’t (or so said the voices in my head). What I really needed to do was to get a job. Work. Save money. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.
It was at first going to be just a year off until I figured out what was next. Then that year became two, became three, became six. Here I am.
I thought I would have more time to write and read once I was out of school, but I didn’t. It became harder and harder to find the time. I suffered devastating bouts of self-criticism that shattered any confidence I had. I took a job I despised and kept it for years. Addiction to a steady paycheck is a miserable thing.
There have been a few half-hearted attempts at beginning the application process to other graduate programs. Always there are excuses and mutterings about the program not being right, or me maybe not being cut out for the academic world or the writing world or basically anything that I would really want in this life. I entertain many “good enough” thoughts about my current path and maintain a career that is just this side of “okay” in order to stay mostly satisfied with where I am. One of my favorite sayings is that “English professors are a dime a dozen.” In other words, it isn’t practical for me to want what I want. As if practical were the deciding factor in one’s life work.
Still, underneath my skin and in my heart and carved in my brain was that original goal — teaching, writing, reading… Ask me right now what I would do if I could do anything and I will tell you I would be teaching English somewhere and working on a book.
But right now, I’m about to go into my office turn on my work computer and write marketing copy for the next 8 hours. Yes, I work at home. Yes, I am paying the bills. Yes, I even get paid to write for a living. These are not bad things. Well, the marketing copy might be, but still, I want something more.
I don’t regret these last six years, but I do have a little remoarse over them. Ever since I decided not to continue my education, I feel like I’ve been running from something. I have no forward momentum. I have let my passions take a backseat to the “practicalities” of life.
About a year and a half ago, I decided it was time to undergo a little therapy. I felt like a shattered mess. And I was. The last 19 months have been about cleaning house. Some of it with assistance, some of it on my own. And I finally think I’m ready. Not ready as in go out and do it tomorrow, but ready to do the long hard work of getting where I want to be. Regardless of how impractical my mind wants to tell me it is. I’m through with running away from my love for literature and convincing myself I am incapable of a career I was born for.