Wednesday, January 30, 2013


You’d think that after three weeks of rest, I’d be ready to take on the last semester of my undergraduate career. You might think that I’m excited about the prospect of graduating. You’d be wrong. Because, as pathetic as it might sound, I get a little bit nauseous every time the word “graduation” flies out of someone’s mouth. And it’s not because I think wearing red and white is tacky; on the contrary, I can’t imagine a better color combination. It’s that I’m not sure what graduating from college really means. When I left elementary school I knew I was going to junior high. And when I left junior high I knew I was going to high school. And, after high school I knew I was going to IU. Now, you could say “Ryan, you know you’re going to Alabama to teach Spanish” or “Ryan, you know that you’re next stop is IPS.” But even if I had made a final decision regarding next year, I might reply with a couple of questions of my own: “Will I be successful at whatever it is I choose to do? How long will I do it? Will I enjoy it?” I suppose it’s these indefinites that concern me most.

Because, if we’re honest, the last 16 years of my life have been spent behind a desk. I’ve known nothing but school and I’ve excelled at being a student. Now, however, it’s my turn to be the teacher. And, needless to say, I’m not certain I have what it takes. I don’t say this out of modesty, and I’m not soliciting compliments by underscoring my weaknesses, but I am saying that there is always the chance that I might not live up to my own expectations. Then what? It’s easy enough to respond with that one cliché about getting back up on the horse and trying again. And I’m not denying that when you fall you should (pardon the forthcoming cliché) get back up again. But what do you do when that one thing you always thought you wanted turns out to be that thing you were never meant to have? Or what do you do when you discover that the one thing you were destined to become is yet something else (along with accountant and professional athlete) that you were never meant to be?

They’re not easy questions, and I don’t expect anyone to comment with the answers. I just thought I’d share a little of my anxiety with all of you cyber readers. But I don’t want this blog to read as a despondent plea to the gods of possibility and futurity. So I’ll end on a more positive note. You see, the thing about the future is that it is, in fact, possibility. It is everything that is possible. And that, I feel, is what is exciting. It’s that idea that anything could happen and that the person I am now might not be anything like the person I’ll one day become. I’m a sucker for a good quest narrative. And although I doubt I’ll be slaying any literal dragons in some crazy quest for redemption or love,  I have no doubt that whatever happens in the next couple of years, I’ll be that much closer to finding out who I’m destined to become. And that, I must say, is pretty exciting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


"These are the times that try men’s souls.” Okay, I’m pushing it, I get it. So maybe the tail end of fall semester of your senior year isn’t quite what Paine was talking about in Common Sense.  You have to admit, though, it isn’t a walk in the park either. I can attest to that. Far from being the “sunshine soldier” Paine scolded in his famous treatise, I have bravely endured what senior year has to offer. Last Wednesday is a testament to my academic ardor. With a test the next morning and a paper due in the afternoon, I decided, of course, to wait until Wednesday night to buckle down and take care of everything. My thought was, “I already have three pages of my essay done, and I’ve already studied a considerable amount for my Ecology exam, so why should I shouldn’t I be in bed by 1:00 a.m.?” It turns out I greatly overestimated my ability to simply finish an assignment. I didn’t go to bed until 6:00 the next morning. The paper, I thought, turned out just fine. The test, however, didn’t go so well. Though I aced the multiple choice section, the short answer questions left me confused and frustrated. How was I supposed to know what effect Gypsy Moth immigration might have on Lyme disease outbreaks in some hypothetical community? And, who cares about the Island Biogeography Theory and its applications?

Such, however, is senior year. In other, more important news, I find out tomorrow whether or not I got the Teach for America position. Needless to say, I’m anxious. It’s amazing how one outcome has the potential to make or break your fall semester. Now, I have back-up plans, and I haven’t, to use a cliché, put all of my eggs into one basket. If Teach for America doesn’t work out then I still have IU’s grad program in Higher Education administration. And, if I find out that Teach for America isn’t an option, then I’ll also apply to the Indianapolis Teaching Fellowship, as well as Higher Education programs at Vanderbilt and possibly Penn State. I just really want the job. And, you know what, it’s not so easy to understand why. I’m not  sure if it’s always been my ambition to be a teacher, or if there’s just some part of me that recognizes that Teach for America would be an interesting challenge. What I do know, and what I really can’t explain, is that I want to take on Teach for America. I love the idea of having my own classroom and teaching my own students.  I refuse to be the “sunshine patriot.” I want my spirit and soul to be tried. For, I believe, it is only when we really push ourselves that we discover what we’re made of. I’m not convinced I really know who I am just yet. I’m not trying to sound profound. I just believe I have yet to discern a true sense of self in coursework and academia. I’m ready for a challenge. Until next time.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I was perusing the internet the other day when I stumbled on a funny comic strip aimed at English majors. The comic was titled “The Perks of Being an English Major” and went something like this. In each of the four panels the main character, Jacob, finds himself in situations where his literary prowess makes him a desirable commodity. In the first panel, Jacob finds himself in a real predicament as two girls vie for his attention. “Read me a book, Jacob” screams one girl. From another corner, a girl begs Jacob to “analyze this poem for me, baby.” Cool and collected, Jacob responds by informing these love-struck ladies that he’s a very busy man. Apparently Jacob isn’t lying. Citing Jacob’s “exceptional prowess in English,” In the next panel an old man offers Jacob “all the jobs.” And, in the third panel, Jacob finds that the president himself is need of Jacob’s skills. “I need you at the White House to analyze the Shakespeare play” the president says. Jacob dutifully rushes off in order to save America. The comic ends with Jacob, after all his hard work, rolling in a big bag of money.

As an English major, I’m confounded, and quite frankly, a little disappointed. The only time women have fought for my attention was that one time we had to work in groups on a science project, and I was the only one who seemed to know what we were doing. As far as being offered
 “all the jobs” I guess that comes after you’ve completed your degree. And, come to think of it, the only time the president has ever contacted me personally is via email, and he’s usually just telling me that now is the time to toss five dollars his way to make a change. I guess I’m just wondering where this guy Jacob went to school. Maybe he focused on Elizabethan poetry. Maybe that’s where the money and the women are. I mean, I guess it makes sense that people would rather hear Marvell’s “To My Coy Mistress” than Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Maybe I’m just stuck in the wrong time period.

Either way, I’d like to put it out there that although I’m pretty positive that this particular comic is satiric in the way in which it represents the perks of being an English major, there are actual perks to studying writing and literature. Firstly, I’d like to point out how much I’ve grown as a writer and thinker thanks to my major. Though I have always considered myself a critical thinker, I have learned to be even more discerning in everything that I do. I know that this is thanks to my major.  Secondly, I’d like to point out how nice it is to go to classes that naturally interest me.   If you love literature as much as I do, it isn’t a drag to go to classes on literary theory or William Faulkner. It makes your academic career that much easier.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I truly believe that literature is a subject everyone should study. As readers, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and are consequently asked to imagine and reimagine relationships, hopes, dreams, and desires. “A good book is the precious lifeblood of the master spirit,” Milton tells us in the Areopagitica. Through reading, we gain access to a another consciousness and being. I can think of nothing more exciting. So I guess there are perks to being an English major. Though I don’t anticipate rolling around in bags of money anytime soon, I do anticipate a bright future. At least it better be bright. I’m going into my senior year. Well, I’ll let you know. One more week until I find out whether or not I got that job with Teach for America. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I decided last night to be productive. With everything due all at once, I don’t have the convenience of completing one assignment and giving myself a well-deserved day off. This, unfortunately, is the pitfall of being an English major. Though I’m grateful for the relative dearth of exams that comes with being an English major, I’m simply suggesting that essays have the inconvenience of being assigned a couple of weeks before they’re due. Now, I’m not sure where I fall on the laziness spectrum, but if I had to guess, I would say I’m an 8 on a scale of 10, with a 10 indicating an individual who cries a little when thinking about having to grab that pencil that is a couple of feet away. Naturally, I push off that essay until a few days before it’s due. Now, usually, I have planned my classes out in such a way that there is a convenient amount of space in my schedule between essays. This, I usually use to cool off from two days of rigorous writing. Now, unfortunately, my essays have due dates which overlap.  Is it inconsiderate on the professor’s part? No, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, maybe. Well, I mean  if you think about it, probably. It certainly couldn’t be my own failure to budget my time carefully, if that’s what you’re suggesting.

All I know is that last night I finished an essay for one of my classes and then went to bed, and dreamed of all the things I had yet to accomplish. That’s October for you. I just keep telling myself that it’s only a couple more months until the tree will be decked out, and I’ll be sprawled out by the fire reading a book that I have chosen to read. Until then, there is much to do. I am making progress though. Today I submitted an application to IU’s Higher Education and Student Affairs graduate program, and on Friday I have the Teach for America interview. And, I’m almost done with Vanderbilt’s Higher Education graduate application as well. It’s all looking promising. My goal, however, is not to be almost finished with Vanderbilt’s application. My goal isn’t to have almost turned six applications. My goal is to have completed those six applications. Keep your fingers crossed. I know I will. These next two months are going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I think I mentioned a couple of months back that October was going to be the month to end all months. By that I mean, that October was going to be the month where I accomplished everything needing accomplishing. I’m ashamed to say that things are looking a little bleak. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t managed to accomplish anything. I have managed to qualify for the final round of interviews for Teach for America. I have not, however, managed to start an application for IU’S Higher Education Master’s program. I have not managed to finish my application for Vanderbilt University. I haven’t even started an application for the A.C.E teaching fellowship, and I still don’t know if I’ve completely abandoned the idea of going for a P.HD in English Literature.

What’s strange is that for a second I thought I had figured it all out. I was convinced that if I got the job with Teach for America, I would take it and start my “adult” life. I would change lives. I would stand on top of students’ desks and passionately recite the poetry of Keats, Byron, and Coleridge. Those ideals seem to fade into the background as reality begins to inch closer and closer. Maybe it would be best to teach those who are already as passionate about literature as I am. And, who’s to say that I would even be able to handle the reading and writing that comes with graduate work in the humanities? I don’t have much more time to think things over. Maybe I won’t get the job with Teach for America. In fact, it’s statistically  more likely that I won’t. Who knows? Maybe that will force to make a decision. Wish me the best of luck. I’ve got a lot of deliberating left to do.