Oh Captain, My Captain

Robin Williams as Professor Keating, or "Oh Captain, My Captain"

Have you ever seen the movie The Dead Poet’s Society?  I love that film.  Growing up feeling estranged from my small town upbringing and a writing future that looked bleak and penniless, it meant the world to me to have a few teachers throughout the years that encouraged passion for writing and creativity.  In the film Robin Williams plays an english teacher who introduces his students, impressionable young men with a thirst for freedom and newness, to the Dead Poet’s Society.  The society is a secret group that meets to read poetry about everything raw in life.

With a helpful nudge from fellow blogger, CM Stewart, I was given a quick review of what my blog says about me as a platform, or writer’s profile.  “Close to Home” she said, and urged me to expound on my About page and explain why I panicked the moment college graduation started ticking down.  Here goes.

I wanted to be a writer since I was three.  My first story, entitled “Ho-Ho and the Missing Key” was a story about a bear named Ho-Ho who loses a key.  It ended with him finding the key, in case you were curious.  My parents were always supportive of my writing endeavors and praised me as their gifted youngest child.  Now and again, as I got older, my father would be pouring his morning glass of orange juice and fill his cup with flax seed, stare up at me and ask, “What are you going to do for money?”  Sitting on the counter top staring out the same kitchen windows I had for years, swinging my sock feet over the cupboard door my mother repeatedly told me not to do as it would break the hinges, but it never did, I shrugged.  I’ll figure it all out. You all know what I thought.  I’ll be so brilliant the agents will clamor at my door and beg to publish my work.  I’m going to be the next Adrienne Rich of poetry, the next Sloane Crosley of satire, the next best thing to hit Hollywood!

My middle and high school years included some amazing literature teachers who read my scribbles and said “bravo!”  In fact, I got the greatest written recommendation letter for a college scholarship I’ve ever read from one those teachers.  She described me as having an arsenal of strength.  Who wouldn’t be flattered?  This teacher had also stood up for me and spoken to the principal about my senior exit interview.  My interviewer was a retired Doctor Hartwick.  He was a tall, midwest bellied man who always wore a tie.  He had combed wavy gray hair and typically read Bible passages at the Catholic church I grew up in.  Going through my portfolio, he skimmed right over all my extra writing samples, my forensics awards, my extracurricular activity participation and told me I didn’t have enough math examples.  And that writing was fine for free time, but what was my fallback plan?  When I told my teacher about how I was grilled about making a better realistic choice for my college plan, she went straight to the principal, “You don’t tell a top 20 honor student that her dream is unrealistic!”  Dr. Hartwick was never asked to help with senior exit interviews again.

In college, I found similar professors who encouraged my out of the box project delivery.  Instead of papers, I often wrote and performed spoken word pieces.  I became involved with performance pedagogy groups and worked on a few literary journals.  Hell, I was a student slave in the English department copy room, making copies of all the professors’ class assignments and reading!

My senior year I joined the company I currently manage for.  It’s a higher end retail department store, and I began in customer service.  Happy in my new job, I was drawn to their service manager position, which focused on answering the customer issues on the floor.  I spoke with the store manager several times that I’d be interested in doing it.  I hadn’t made any plans after graduation, stalling at the time unsure of how life would affect the relationship I was in and suddenly unsure of what I wanted to do with my life anyway.  A month before graduation and I seriously considered not going through with it and changing my major to business management!  Chaos broke loose.  I was interviewing with Americorp, I had bookmarked the peacecorp site on my computer, and talked to my boss again saying please please please.  Obviously, you know where I ended up.  I was given a full time sales position to learn the floor before moving a few months later into the service lead, and few months later into the sales manager position I currently am in.

I go back and forth remembering my decision making process after graduation.  I am currently in a well paying job that is allowing me to pay off my student loans much faster than my siblings were able.  And I hadn’t wanted to go to grad school right away anyway.  My panic about what field to study made adding more loan payments on while being unsure of the course seem like a bad idea.  So, I decided I’ll work a few years and then decide what and where I really want to be.

The problem, which now brings you all up to speed, was that two going on three years have passed and I miss writing.  I wasn’t doing it anymore.  And this blog, which I started to document my return to words, has been difficult to maintain regularly, but feels like the best thing going on in my life right now.  So, here I am, talking about things “close to home,” sharing stories, memoirs, and support for anyone making a teensy weensy change or a monumental move in their life.  If your ambitions are in writing like myself, I highly recommend you check out Kristen Lamb and her book We Are Not Alone.  She is just one of the many wise men I am meeting on my happiness project.

13 responses

  1. I’m glad the blogging is something good in your life. Your posts are something good in my life. 🙂

    I was a Spanish Language and Literature major in college. (I also studied Italian and Russian.) Everyone asked what I was going to do with that? Um, how about enjoy it? When I dropped out of Pre-Med, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I took an office job after graduation, which eventually led to my falling into a job as a technical writer. The rest is history. Back in the 80’s, there were no majors in technical writing. So, even if I knew what a technical writer was back then, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I have no regrets. I have a fantastic career and I can tell taxi cab drivers in several countries where I want to go.

    1. Aww, thanks Margaret!

  2. I love your writing! I’m so glad you found an outlet for your “return to words,” and that I am able to watch your journey from afar. You are very talented, and it truly is a shame that someone tried to hose down your passion.

    When I planned on going to law school in high school, I had a teacher ask what my fall-back plan was. I’m always quick to flame up, so I told them that law school WAS my backup plan. My real dream was to become a homemaker, but I didn’t think they had the aptitude to help with that one. LOL. They didn’t think I was too funny.

    1. Thank you for the praise Jessica! It really has meant a great deal to me to have the support from other writers here visit me and share their experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      1. I hear ya, and right back atcha!

  3. Well, I for one think you have a real talent with words. Thanks for catching us up to speed – I was wondering why you aren’t doing something that involves writing, and this answers that. Don’t give up the dream! 🙂

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 13. At the age of 3, I probably wanted to be Winnie The Pooh or something like that.

    1. Well, Mark, if you don’t hear back about the Groupon job, but I’m sure you will, you could always fall back on that Winnie the Pooh idea. If I lose faith in the near future I’m happy to tagalong as Piglet. I bet we’d rake in the cash!

  4. One of the best things about writing is that it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. You can work a full-time job to pay the bills and still write. Not that it’s easy, especially when you’re tired, have financial obligations, and relationship responsibilities. But if it’s inside of you, you’ll find a way. Clearly, it’s been inside of you for as long as you can remember. And for what it’s worth, I agree with that literature teacher who described you as having an arsenal of strength. I’m rooting for you.

    1. Coming from someone who is so eloquent himself, thank you! I am finding it motivating to write more these days but you are so true when you say it’s difficult managing work and relationships and writing. It feels like a slow process at times, but then again, when has writing, or writers, ever been something quickly processed?

  5. I think you have the right idea. Don’t pressure yourself about writing, or you’ll lose your passion for it. So what if you can’t regularly maintain a blog? You still maintain it… which is worth more than you probably think. There is so much advice out there about how to succeed at writing that it can quickly lose its appeal and become simply a business. And that’s not what most writers want when they start out. I think if we remember why we enjoy writing, it will always be there for us despite our guilt for neglecting it at times.

    1. I am finding it most refreshing to have an outlet for my words again.

  6. I’m sure that the movie Dead Poet’s Society had something to do with my wanting to become an English teacher.

    When I told my parents I wanted to major in the Classics (Greek, Mythology, etc.), my dad said the same thing your dad said about money. When I told them I was majoring in English, it wasn’t much better, but it was better than Mythology.

    1. I too love mythology! I would’ve supported you! Who’s your favorite god or goddess?

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