The following post is my own answer to the prompt I will be giving my students on the first day of class in a little over a week. I’m posting it as an example and as a sign of good faith that I will also be posting on a deadline this spring.
By the time I was halfway through high school, I couldn’t wait to get out of the state, for good. I wasn’t a world traveler, but I knew enough to want something different than north Texas heat and a particular type of religious politics. It took me six years—finishing high school and college—to do it, but two months after my college graduation I set out alone, with my azure 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage (Molly) traversing 1300 miles from Mansfield, Texas to Washington D.C. to start my new, broke life as a writer. I only brought what I could cram in my car—which was mainly books, clothes, and cds. I purchased some cheap Swedish furniture for the room I rented in a house with three other twenty-somethings and borrowed a futon.
Ten years later, I’ve taught in DC, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but not in Texas. There are fewer and fewer reasons for me to go back. In fact, before my recent trip to Ft. Worth, the last time I’d been back was 2011. But even though it is far from my body it is close to my mind. I think about Texas often, but I don’t ache to return the way I once yearned to leave. It is a complicated love, but it is love. I believe in leaving home to understand how you feel about it.
When considering who I’ve become since I left home, I can easily list in a minute several things I believe in, but my identity is most connected lately to two things: The first is that I live to see and understand connections–that’s part of what good writing is: making a connection between what I’m just now seeing, knowing, discovering and things that I’ve already seen, known, or discovered. If my life were a car, the bumper might read #NerdAlert expressly because I think that if we look at anything close enough and consider it carefully enough, it isn’t boring. Boring means you haven’t given it a chance to be not-boring. I like the phrase “Geeking Out” better, only partially because I relished the short-lived late 90s show Freaks and Geeks, but alas, I am not as technological as I think the word “geek” signifies. Nerd, on the other hand, seems to imply not only that I know a thing or two but that more importantly, I LIKE learning.
I think English–and composition specifically–chose me because when a person studies writing, it means she is studying how other people think, react, create, and understand. And, you are forced to consider and question how it is that YOU think, react, create, and understand. As a writing instructor, every subject in the world is available to me. Because as students of communication, we can and should use many perspectives and tools. I love that writing, as a form of communication, can involve all of the other fields of study. #NerdAlert
The second thing my identity is most connected to these days is a sense of priority. I think that with each passing semester and year I’m getting wiser at choosing my short-term priorities and my long-term priorities so that I have no regrets about how I’ve spent my day, my week, my month, etc. I’m not there yet–having absolutely no regrets–but I’ve come a long way, and I can celebrate that. For instance, I will be teaching two different courses this spring, directing the PARC with its tutors and SI Leaders, training for and running some races, and being a first reader for Creative Nonfiction–among the other everyday things (like spending time with my Drew and our cats [and watching Netflix through our Apple TV when we can’t bring ourselves to just go to bed already]). Like all of you, I struggle with what needs to get done each day and with making the time for the things that truly matter in the long run to me, but (hopefully also like you) I’m making smarter decisions about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I believe in continually redefining [your]self. I am excited that I get to work and learn from a new group of writers this semester as I continue to work on becoming more like the person I’m meant to be each day.