An Absurd Pastime
When I enrolled at Western as an undergraduate in the fall of 2012, I never thought I’d be where I am today. Truth be told, I didn’t even know if college was the right fit for me; I was what you would call a knucklehead in high school. Since the age of three, I always knew I wanted to join the military like my father before me and his father before him. Needless to say, going into high school I had no real clear understanding of what I wanted for my life other than to join the military. And that’s what I did. In February of my senior year, a mere three months before I graduated, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I was on cloud nine; my dreams were coming true! But if you have seen any film about how life doesn’t go as we plan it, you can probably guess what happens next. That’s right, in August of 2010 I was honorably discharged from Air Force nine days short of being in a mere two years. I was completely devastated, lost even, from the turmoil that life threw at me. I came home to Illinois with no plans whatsoever.
After looking for work, finding work, and working various odd jobs, I was willing to give school a try, which is when I applied to Western for the fall of 2012. My first semester I was a psychology major as a freshman at almost twenty-three years old. I made the switch to English after taking a section of English 180 with Barbara Ashwood. I’ll speed things up here a bit: three and a half years later, I graduated from Western with my B.A. in English. It was early on in the spring of my senior year at Western when Dr. Tim Helwig invited me to apply to the Master’s program. I knew nothing about it, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt any, so I applied. I was conditionally accepted into the program going into the summer after I graduated. Truth be told, those three and a half years were full of ups and downs that, again, I never saw coming. I got married, I had a child, I lost a child, lost work, gained work, and because of it all, my grades suffered a little bit. The graduate program requires a 3.0 GPA for assistantships and I knew that I needed those assistantships to help pay for my Master’s degree. I was given the opportunity to take two graduate classes that summer after undergrad in order to establish a 3.0 graduate GPA. I took those classes, did well enough to establish the required grade point average, and began fall 2016 as a first year graduate student in English.
Through those two summer classes and the classes I took last fall, I have realized that graduate study is not only intense, but also much more focused. Transitioning from undergraduate to graduate hasn’t been easy, but I will say that it also hasn’t been completely hard either. I’ve found that if you can stay three steps ahead of the reading, writing, and work in general, you are doing pretty good for yourself. If you can dive deeper into your study and do more than just read and write, you are putting yourself at an advantage. I think it was Dr. Banash who said to my English 500 class, “Read deeply, define what kind of intellectual you want to be, define what you believe in, and write your own project” and I couldn’t agree more. I wrote this down on a sticky note that I leave taped to the monitor of my computer. It is his wisdom, through me, that I pass on to you (the reader of this article). If you feel like graduate study might not be for you, find what you are passionate about and own it. Own your work, immerse yourself into what you are doing, and lose yourself into your passion. Legendary track coach, and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, has a quote about running that I have adapted for my own use and I encourage you to do the same: reading and writing, one might say, is basically an absurd pastime upon which to be intellectually exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning in the kind of reading and writing you have to do, chances are you’ll find meaning in that other absurd pastime – life.