Any accomplished writer can tell you that in order to perfect and hone your skill, you need to practice it often. While that’s pretty self-explanatory, things can get a little complicated under certain circumstances. This blog is my story about my journey in writing. At the same time, it is an outlet that allows me to write about what *I* want to write about. Sidenote: That doesn’t happen often.
When I was 28, I hit a point in my life where I was slapped in the face with the reality that I was nearing 30, and I had absolutely no job security. I was laid off from my factory job, and let’s just say I gained a new perspective about my future. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life feeding parts into a machine? Was my mission in life to be a robot? I didn’t like it, and that was about the only thing I was SURE about.
About a month before the big layoff, I was having a conversation with an engineer who was working on my machine at work. We were talking about the possibility of layoffs due to the automotive industry problems that were going on at the time. While his job was fairly secure, it was an unspoken fact that mine was not. Now, in my mind, I’m looking at this guy who makes more in a couple months than I probably made in a year, and I had a few preconceived ideas that people with those types of jobs were from a different planet than me. When I graduated high school, the idea of college was filed under the “Yea Right” heading. I worked a full-time job to support my lifestyle of having a car and doing whatever the hell I wanted. But our conversation turned into a life-changing experience for me. You never really know, do you? Whatever force or being or God is out there has funny little ways of pointing you in the right direction. Mine came in the form of a 45 year-old engineer at an auto-parts factory.
He told me that when he was my age, he was working on an assembly line, much like me. He had a wife and three kids, and one day, out of the blue, he was laid off. Sound familiar? Well, that was his wake-up call. He started college at 30, got an engineering degree, and by 37 was making triple what he was making before his layoff. While it was a most inspiring story, my thought process went something like, “Well, that’s just great for you, but it’s just not for me. Besides, I probably won’t get laid off anyway.” The most dangerous place in the world is a comfort zone. Generally, if it’s comfortable, you’ve been sitting still for too long. And once your comfort zone gets that little butt indentation, it’s time to get off your ass and get moving.
Needless to say, I got laid off. Shocker! Don’t laugh. I was in denial. It happens to the best of us. After about three months of sitting on my ass and feeling sorry for myself, I told my fiance that I was thinking about applying to college. Now, if you don’t already know this… Making a big declaration like this is a good way to know who truly has faith in you. My fiance was excited for me and my biggest fan the whole way through, as was my family. However, there were a few remarks from people like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Believe it or not, these small expressions of douchebaggery are more motivating than all the support in the world.
So, what did I do? I applied to college. I got accepted. I got accepted for financial aid too, and when the time came for classes to start, I had a mini breakdown. You see, I had year and years of social anxiety packed away in my backpack with all of my brand new top-of-the-line pens, notebooks, highlighters, calculators, staplers, index cards and freshly sharpened pencils. Yes, I went a little overboard in the beginning. Now I’m lucky if I remember to bring something to write with to class.
But, back to the social anxiety… I was scared shitless. Absolutely terrified. I walked with my head down, I sat in the back of the class, and I even dropped classes if the professor mentioned presentation assignments on the syllabus. Then I noticed something. Almost ALL college classes have presentations, and in order to graduate, I had to take a public speaking class. Oh hell. I was no longer even on the same planet as my comfort zone. What did I get myself into?
I started out as a business management major because I had eight years of experience in retail management, and I hadn’t yet been exposed to the awe-inspiring inspiration afforded to me by getting out there and experiencing new things. I had always loved writing, but we all know what everybody says about English majors… “Oh, I’m sure you’ll make a great teacher.” Not interested. And to tell the truth, it never even crossed my mind. I was surfing websites like salary.com trying to find out how fast my college degree could make me a millionaire. And then, three semesters in, I realized, “This sucks!” I hated it. I hated everything about it. I could do economics and accounting and even marketing, but I sure as hell didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.
And then my second life-changing experience happened. English200- Intro to Literature. I have always been an avid reader, so I was pretty excited about this class. One of our first assignments was to write an essay about how the women in William Faulkner’s, Barn Burning were treated. Our professor gave us a week to finish it, and on the second day we were supposed to bring in an outline to show her our progress. I was the only person in the class who did their outline. The only person in the entire class. When my professor looked at it, she looked up at me and was silent for a moment. I got all fidgety, shifting from foot to foot.. wondering if I broke some unspoken classic literature/higher education rule when she said, “Are you an English major?” When I said no, this look of disappointment passed over her face, and I was absolutely confused. I mean, it was an outline, not a thesis. “You really have talent. Are you interested in writing?” she asked. Of course I was interested in writing. I loved it, but what could you do with it? Later that night she emailed me with the email address for the English advisor and links to the university website that lists professions you can pursue with different degrees.
To make a long story short…. well, shorter… I changed my major. I am now a 32 year-old junior, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Professional Writing, and I have never, in my entire life, felt so sure about the path I am on. My life is full of inspiration and hope. A few months ago I was a finalist in a fiction writing contest, and you would have thought I won the Pulitzer.
Five years ago, I would have laughed if anyone had told me what my life would be like today. I’m married to the man of my dreams, my best friend. I’m an honor-roll junior majoring in my passion…. and while I’ve never been so financially strained in my entire life, I’ve also never been so happy.