One of the crappy things about being young when you go to college is that you don’t have a clue what you want to do with your life. Not really. You’re 18 years old, still a kid, dedicating four years and tens of thousands of dollars to a path that, eh, it sounded good at the time.
Me, I got my degree in ecology. I liked nature, and wanted to save the coral reefs, and I was good in science. Ecology seemed a natural choice. The courses were interesting when a passionate professor brought the material to life, but when I got home, I resented the textbooks and the equations and the biochem courses that required I actually study. I resented them because they got in the way of my reading.
I should have gotten a clue when the classes I got excited about were my literature courses. When every quarter, if I could squeeze an elective in, I sat with the catalog and my highlighter, devouring ENGL course descriptions and wishing I could sign up for every one.
I don’t know why I didn’t know then. It seems so obvious now. I think my ecology choice was largely influenced by an aptitude for science that seemed special somehow. In high school, I saw classmates struggle with chemistry and algebra, and when those subjects weren’t that hard for me, I thought, “Well, I guess this is my talent. This is what I should do with my life.” And then I’d crack a Stephen King novel and read til 3 in the morning.
Now, as a near-40 woman who left the scientific field years ago (turns out I don’t have the aptitude or stamina for practicing science, only for learning what other scientists have already figured out), I regret I didn’t know myself better when I chose my path. There is a craving in me that is difficult to quell. The courses I would take if I had the chance now! Creative writing, post Civil War American Literature, Creative Nonfiction, African American Fiction, Literary Magazine Editing and Publishing. I want to read and write and discuss and learn, not science, but language and literature. There is so much I do not know, and I feel like I’m spinning around in circles trying to figure out where to begin.
It makes me sad, the groping in the dark, the missed opportunity. Like most college aged kids, I just didn’t know. I didn’t know to take a close look at how I liked to spend my time, what my natural tendencies were, that Should was different from where my heart and mind truly lay. Now, it’s too late for that formal education. We need to be saving for our kids’ college, not another degree for me.
So, here I am, trying to find my way as a writer on my own, spinning around in circles, looking for a spotting point. A direction to look so I won’t get dizzy. A place to focus so I won’t fall down. I’m doing it, in the sense that I’m reading books and writing words on a page. That’s a start, right? But I wish I would have known then, when I still had the chance. When I would have had guidance, and mentoring, and feedback. When I would have had classmates and teachers. When I wouldn’t have been so alone.
This is my entry for the Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits/LEARNING.