Yesterday I met with my English teacher to speak to him about my research paper. I was a little nervous going into the meeting because I felt that I wasn’t quite as organized as, ideally, I would have liked to have been, and I worried that he would be expecting a lot from me based on my previous performance in the course. Also, because the course is online, I have not spoken to this man face to face or even seen him since the first orientation back in the beginning of February. I could not remember what he looked like and wondered if talking to him in person would be as easy as emailing him.
The conference was also expected to take a limited amount of time. Fifteen minutes, he said, was all that was needed for a “focused” conference. He had more time than that, but I was borrowing time out of my math class; I didn’t want to miss any of it and I only went with this time because it was the only possibility, so I intended to try and keep things brief. I didn’t think, really, that I would have much to talk to him about.
The plan going into the conference that he’d described via email was a question and answer format, with the student asking the teacher questions about the research topic, process, and paper structure. I didn’t have any questions that I wanted to ask him; I feel like I’m handling things fine on my own. When I told him this, though, he said that was fine and asked me to explain what I was doing then. “Walk me through it,” he said. “What do you have planned?”
So I just started talking about the ideas I’ve got floating around, from memory because I didn’t have all my notes with me, and he listened with interest. He was happy to hear about the specific examples I’ve been able to find and the larger ideas I’ve developed, and made me realize that I am a lot more organized on this than I originally thought: this paper is practically written already. He made a few suggestions about sources I could check out for specific research questions I hadn’t found the answer to yet, and lent me two books from his own collection, one of which I’d already heard about and was trying to hunt down.
Once I started talking to him, though, I had difficulty stopping. We began discussing the course in general. When I told him about how I’d enjoyed writing the last paper, he caught on quickly that I’m serious about writing, and he pounced on that eagerly.
Now I remember why you don’t talk to English teachers about your love of writing: they all want you to drop whatever you’re doing and become an English major. I ended up admitting to him that although psychology is my first priority when it comes to school right now, I was considering the idea of taking on a double major and studying both psychology and writing of some form. “The creative writing program they have in the literature department at UCSC really interests me,” I said. “If I could transfer there and get into that as well as studying psychology, I would love that, but I’m not sure if I have time for both.”
Then I received the classic lecture on why I should “follow my dream” and do what I really want to do, no matter how big of a risk or difficult it may seem to be, etc. “Even if you fail, then you know at least it was your choice, and not someone else’s,” said the English instructor. “You can do both if you try, I’m sure! Be a psychologist and a writer!” I began wondering when he would break into song.
Honestly, though, I enjoyed myself. The last time I was able to speak to a teacher about writing was when I was fourteen. Julie of my junior high homeschool class was an enormous help in my writing, and I miss her feedback and encouragement. This teacher isn’t like Julie, but he has his good points. I don’t know enough writers that I can talk to about writing anymore! So it was good — for the research paper, and for myself. That’s why fifteen minutes turned into nearly an hour . . . fortunately, I didn’t miss too much of the important parts of math; I missed the long question-and-answer part on things I already understood.
I am seriously considering this double major idea, for more than just my teacher’s encouragement. I just wonder if I’m limiting myself on my psychology education by picking UCSC for its creative writing program. The writing program sounds great, and I know it would be very hard to find something else like that, but UCSC is not the biggest or most prestigious of schools. If I’m looking to pursue graduate school later, a different school might be a better choice than this one. I work hard to get good grades and they might be able to get me somewhere good, if that’s what I want.
I’m just not sure at this point. Right now, I’m trying to keep my options open; I’ve started planning for next year so not only can I finish my general education requirements and the lower division classes I need in psychology, but to also include lower division classes in literature. Certain classes that satisfy part of GE are also lower div. lit classes, so if I just try to take those . . . but this all depends on what times they’ll offer these classes next year, if they offer them, and if I can work out a schedule that accomodates everything I need and hopefully doesn’t leave me overworked. And if I’m not driving myself, I’ll have to take the rest of my family’s schedule into account as well, along with how much driving my father will be doing, and that may prove to be a very tricky combination.
I admit it: I’m ambitious. I have a decent amount of confidence that I can make it all work out somehow, though. Circumstances have not gone against me yet.
In the meantime, I’ve found a few people I can talk writing to online. At first it was only poetry, and I learned some things about refining some of my work that I hope to use on other poems when I get the time, but now some of the talk has turned to prose, particularly fiction. I can be very long-winded when it comes to discussion stories, but hopefully I’m not just talking way ahead of everyone and boring them all to death. I can’t help it; I haven’t spoken to writers since November, and that was mainly along the lines of, “Oh my god, we’re all nuts! How are we going to do this? I am so behind and I’ll never catch up!”