Some people really do know you better than you know yourself.
Last Fall, I began taking classes at Chattanooga State Community College after dropping out of college over eight years ago. When I re-enrolled, I began work toward an Associate of Applied Sciences Degree in Web Based Design. It was a program that I believed would expand my skill set and make me more attractive to employers in my current field of marketing, advertising and e-commerce. I was somewhat interested in the building and coding of websites, and, for the most part, I enjoyed my classes.
However, something wasn’t right. And, as it so often happens, it took someone else pointing it out to me for me to realize it.
One evening at home after I had finished some particularly troublesome homework, my wife came to me. “Okay, I’m curious about something,” she said. “Why did you choose Web Design?”
I explained my reasons, also stated above: Expand skill set. Useful in field. All that.
It wasn’t good enough.
“So it’s not something you’re passionate about?” she replied.
“Well . . . no, not really. It would just be useful.”
“Why would you want to go back to school and spend years getting a degree to do something you’re not really passionate about?”
I had trouble finding suitable words to say to her — an odd occurrence if you know me at all. I mumbled a repeat of the same words I said before: Useful. Skills. Job.
In that moment, however, I already knew that she was right.
While I wasn’t necessarily wasting my time learning about web design (I do find it interesting), I was wasting my potential and sidestepping my true interests in the name of acquiring a bankable skill in today’s job market.
The problem with that is . . . so is everyone else. Programmers are a dime a dozen these days, and a great deal of them are looking for work right now. Degrees don’t guarantee jobs; all they do is put you in a shallower pool of potential hires. If the pool is already filled with experienced, degree-clutching programmers ready to take a pay cut for the sake of actually being employed, what chance would I have fresh out of school? By nature, I am a writer. Why am I learning how to be a programmer?
Then my wife said the magic words: “You should be a film professor.”
I just looked at her, allowing the words to sink in and realizing how much I agreed with her. A million equations ran through my head, all adding up to exactly what she had just said to me.
She continued: “When you talk to me about movies, you’re a completely different person. You sound so enthusiastic, and you constantly try to explain to me what I’m missing in this movie or what’s so amazing about that one. You look for all of the little things that no one else notices. You remind me so much of the film professor I had at KSU; you have a genuine passion for movies, and you want to do everything you can to foster that same passion in others. You genuinely love movies, and the people who are happiest in their careers are the ones who genuinely love what they do.”
There it was. One of the most sensible things I had ever heard anyone say about me, just laid out in front of me.
She went on: “You wouldn’t even have to be a film professor. You could focus on literature; you get equally excited about it. My point is, you need to be a professor. You need to teach. It’s in you.”
Funny story: At one point, I wanted to be a teacher. This moment occurred while sitting in my AP US History class my junior year of high school. It lasted for approximately ten seconds. However, it was a very revealing ten seconds.
[Note: 10 points to anyone who can name the movie reference in the above paragraph. Hint: it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. We’re talking Top Ten material here.]
When I first had the idea in high school, I quickly dismissed it, citing my general lack of patience as a reasonable excuse to not pursue the idea any further. However, occasionally the idea would pop back into my head, where it would float for longer and longer each time. Ten years later, it has finally stuck.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to be a professor.
I switched my major from Web Design to English, with the intention of transferring to UTC to finish my Bachelor’s Degree once I complete the general education requirements at Chatt State. From there, I plan to pursue a Master’s Degree in Literature, Film Studies, or another Humanities-related field, and then pursue a doctorate.
It’s a huge undertaking — one that has seen my two-year program explode into an approximately ten-year program — but I believe it will be worth it. It’s given both me and my family a direction. We know what we are aiming for . . . and that alone brings about a peace of mind I have rarely known.
So there it is. In a few years’ time, The Writer will become The Professor.
By day, anyway. By night, I will still be husband/father/novelist extraordinaire. Nothing will ever change that.