This note either finds you A) completely oblivious to the summer I've had, B) a product of the rumor mill, or C) someone who kind of knows what's going on but doesn't know all the details.
So let me clear it up...
To make a long story shorter, I have always been the kind of person who joins organizations and seeks leadership opportunities. I have always tried to be the best at what I am involved with. As a result, from sophomore year of high school until this moment, I have been recognized in several different avenues as a go-getter, as someone who can get things done. I wasn't and am not perfect, and sometimes I drop the ball, but I am a very hard worker.
I realized during my years at OCU that I had a tendency toward workaholism. My freshman year, I was the editor-in-chief of a publication and a sorority officer and an award-winning staff-writer for the campus newspaper. I had a mini-burnout sophomore year, where I quit the paper and changed my major. I started to change it to English Education but when I realized that required fifteen hours of student teaching a week, I settled for just an English major with an emphasis in writing.
People have always told me I should teach, but for some reason I have always fought against that assertion. When I was a sophomore I had too many other extra curricular obligations for student teaching.
My best friend and roommate transferred from OCU after sophomore year. She had decided that instead of being a career dancer, she wanted to study and likely teach math. That and OCU was getting too expensive. I thought about making the same move, but I had a sorority and several organizations that I didn't want to leave. I had always thought "you get what you pay for" and so the fact that OCU was expensive meant it was the best possible thing.
Junior year was basically a mass of mini-breakdowns. From a broken heart in November to a spiritual battle over Christmas break. The mini-panic attacks started in February. I know I was playing at least seven different roles at that time and I didn't want to quit any of them. My friend Christian kept telling me I need to drop a few things and focus on school but I was bound and determined to do it all, to be superwoman.
I made it to the end of the year without really quitting anything, and if I remember right I didn't majorly let anyone down, but I will say that if my professors hadn't been generous and understanding, I would have failed three of my classes. I spent very little time sleeping and a lot of time crying. Jennifer can tell you that I told her several times, "If it wasn't for Alpha Chi I would leave." She and I even discussed my moving to Kansas with her to study and teach. But, I felt like I absolutely had to finish what I had started at OCU.
At this point in the story I have to pause and say, I'm sure there are a number of you who think that I should still finish what I started. It's just one more year, people are counting on me, I can do it, etc.
If you are not inclined to make huge life decisions based on a moment, you probably will never understand this. But I encourage you to read on so that at least you will know the real story.
In case you didn’t know, I’m a poet. I have spent the last 15 months or so observing the local poetry scene – which is fantastic – and trying to decide where I fit in it.
I’m also a Christian. Regardless of how I’ve struggled with that label for the last few years, I am a Christian, albeit a liberal one, and a churchgoer.
On May 21, I was watching TV and passed by a show that my poet friends had been telling me about. Brave New Voices is a youth poetry slam competition that the admirable Russell Simmons decided to turn into an HBO series. Kids ranging from 14 to 19 years old perform (approximately) three-minute poems individually or as groups. I have seen several poetry slams and even more non-competitive performances, but the youngest people I ever saw participating were myself and one other 19-year-old. I specifically remember thinking I had to wait until I was older and had experienced more of the world to be able to write poems good enough for performance and competition. Brave New Voices taught me that I was wrong. No offense to the mature poets I know, but I heard better, more raw, more real, more hard-hitting poetry come out of those kids than I had heard come out of adults.
Right after I saw the competition, I cried because I thought I had missed my chance. I am too old to go to youth slam competitions. I’m officially an adult (as of Saturday). But the second time I was watching the shows, I started paying attention to the coaches of the youth teams. I could say a light bulb turned on in my head but it was really more like a lightning bolt. If I can hone my skills as a performance poet, it’ll be okay that I can’t compete in the youth circuit because I might be able to coach in it.
That thought led to a second thought: I want to teach English. I want to spend my all day everyday working with high school aged kids, teaching them to appreciate (or at least understand) literature, to express themselves with correct grammar – verbally and in written form, and, if they are so inclined, to become good creative writers. That’s what I want to do with my life everyday for the foreseeable future.
So I needed a plan.
I could change my major at OCU to English Ed., but I would still have the same problem that I had as a sophomore: no time to student teach. I also would have to be in school longer which meant MORE debt. I had settled for the option of finishing my degree in English (with an emphasis in writing) in May 2010 and then going back to school somewhere else to get my teacher certification. That was my plan.
But every time I thought about it, finishing my current degree, taking the classes I was enrolled in, seemed like a waste of time. I wanted to teach and I wanted to be taking the classes that would get me there. I also wanted to stop being worried about the debt I was accruing. Jennifer told me about how she has a couple scholarships, a couple grants, and the rest of her tuition money is so little she pays it in-full in cash at the beginning of the semesters. I had a plan, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, especially not by comparison.
Summer came and I was glad for a break. I got a job the week after school was out, and I was ready to just coast on through. I lost that job a few weeks later and was having a hard time finding a new one. Employers don’t really like to hire for the summer anymore and I knew that once school started I would be too busy with my extra curriculars to do much off-campus work. I was kind of a sitting duck.
In my overly abundant spare time, I researched other colleges in the state. I even had a meeting with a faculty member in UCO’s department of Education. I called myself just checking it out. I thought the earliest I would transfer would be the spring 2010 semester. That would give me time to tie up all my loose ends at OCU. I continued to straddle that fence until one church service with my friends on Weds., July 8. The pastor said, “the problem is that we do everything halfway.” And I knew he was talking to me. He said, “there’s only one way to do this now, and that’s all the way.” I knew then that I was doing school and my career and my life halfway. As a confirmation, this Bible passage popped into my head,
Matthew 8:19-23 (New King James Version)
Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Everyone has their own interpretations of the Bible, but to me that meant, do what you are being called to do and let your previous obligations handle themselves. That night I decided to transfer to the University of Central Oklahoma for the Fall 2009 semester and finish my Bachelor of Arts in English Education.
When I realized I would now have time to work, I went and re-applied at Chili’s in Midwest City. I finished my training last Thursday and am now primed and (basically) ready to work for the stuff I have (rather than take out loans for it).
I have applied and been accepted to UCO. I need to set up an advisement appointment and then I will be able to enroll. I need to register to take a teacher certification eligibility test. I don't know exactly how long it will be before I graduate, but I'm hoping and praying that I'll only be one year behind (2011). For the first time since I don’t know when, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
This past Saturday at LifeChurch.tv, Craig said the difference between where you are now and where you’re supposed to be is the hard decision you refuse to make. If I hadn’t already made my decision, Saturday’s message would have pushed me to do so.
I don't plan to just leave everyone in the lurch. If we were on a committee together, please call me, so that we can discuss what I can do to make the transition easier for your organizations. I don't intend to just drop everything and never speak to you again. Let me know how I can help between now and Aug. 24.
So, to my Alpha Chi Omega sisters, I love you. The standards of our sisterhood are part of what helped me reach this decision. I will miss you, but not too much, because I will be close by to help and to hang out.
To the members of the Black Student Association, y’all taught me how to balance being the life of the party with staying on the grind. I am still learning from you every time I am with you. I love you, fam, and I’ll be around to visit.
To my professors and administrators, thank you for showing me what excellence looks like. I will take OCU’s standards with me everywhere I go. I appreciate the way you all take a personal interest in your students.
To the people I'll meet and reconnect with at UCO, if you knew me before now, pretend like you didn't, because I'm a different person. I study, I attend class, and that's about it. Don't ask me for more. My days of campus involvement are pretty much over.
I currently spend my days reading, writing (poetry and prose), making plans for the school year, working, thinking about Stomp the Stage (more on that later), memorizing my poems, volunteering at LifeChurch.tv's youth ministry - Switch, and daydreaming about the days when I'll have a classroom and kids' lives to change.
I’m glad to be on the right track. Thank God for guidance, for the Church, for inspiration, for poetry, for the beauty of youth, and for the desire to be the change I wish to see in the world.
Questions, comments, concerns? I am an open book.