I decided to become an English major after I graduated from high school. I always got the best grades in my English classes and teachers often used words like “insightful” and “well written” to describe my essays. English was my strong suit. I loved to write. I loved to read. We seemed to be a perfect match for each other.
When you go to a four year university and you declare your major you receive a list of classes that you are required to complete in order to receive the credits necessary to graduate with the desired degree.
I was looking at about 17 English classes and I’m not even going to begin to tell you how much reading and writing and thinking too hard is involved in that.
I’m not a smart person. We covered that with the whole “getting in a car with a stranger” post. School is not something that has ever come easy to me. It doesn’t help that I would procrastinate on 5 page essays and begin them on a Saturday before their due date, after a night out drinking with other struggling undergrads.
I quickly learned that what was “insightful” and “well written” in high school had become “over simplified” and “sloppy” in college.
Entering my Junior year I had put a big dent in the required courses for English teaching majors, but I still had to complete a course studying a major literary figure. In this case, John Milton.
The class I was enrolled in met once or twice a week and was two or three hours long. When I entered the room that first evening, it was dark and snowing. I stripped the layers of winter wear off of me and snuggled into my seat to learn about a guy oozing with sex appeal.
How were they going to teach an ENTIRE course based on one dude?
As I watched the other students file in I became slightly intimidated. Most of them were grads working on their Masters. Some of them actually taught basic English classes at the University.
The professor, Dr. Stacy, was a bore and slightly scary. I thought about how my roommate and cat and best friend were sitting at the apartment eating pizza and watching Survivor and felt pangs of jealousy as Dr. Stacy talked about the requirements for the course. Looking at the syllabus I was overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of writing assignments we were to complete and I wondered if the extra work was in part due to the grads in the room.
Dr. Stacy asked us to read the first five lines of a poem written by John Milton.
Could someone tell him what the first five lines meant? Anybody? Anybody?
Surely not me. I didn’t have a clue what the guy was talking about in the poem. It may as well have been written in Spanish. I believe it went something like this
Hath how runneth me poureth through covet,
Shant now me covet runneth through?
Though thou covets poureth runneth through
Doth thou dare covet thy runneth ever poureth?
Wander the wandering poureth through covet.
OK I just made that up, but I literally had not the VAGUEST idea of what I had just read.
I mean I was LOST!
Stacy: Can someone translate for us?? What is Milton saying here??
Some whispering, but no hands.
Stacy: Shy tonight?? I’d like one of you new faces I haven’t met yet to help us out here…what is Milton saying….uhhhh……Kathy!
Me: (Gulp.) Ummm….I’m not exactly sure…
Stacy: Oh surely you can come up with something…
Mmmmm. No. No I can’t.
Stacy: Well what is he saying when he says thouh hath covet poureth through??
Me: Yeah….umm….I really don’t know.
Stacy: What’s your interpretaion?
Me: I don’t really have one.
Keep in mind by this point my face is BRIGHT red…I can’t believe I’m making an ass out of myself and I can’t believe he won’t move to someone else. Teachers are not supposed to take no for an answer…we’re supposed to try to pull an answer from the student and not give them the easy way out. I knew that’s what he was doing, but I had NOTHING to add. I had ZERO inclination of what was going on in the poem and I officially HATED John Milton.
This back and forth went on with the professor for what seemed like too long before a kind soul saved me from my slow death by offering their own interpretation. As the class I continued I had an inner freak out moment.
How was I going to survive that course when I couldn’t even understand the first five lines of the first poem we read in the first hour of the class??? But the class was a requirement. I had to complete it.
Midway through our lesson Dr. Stacy dismissed himself for a 5 minute break. My heart was pounding…I had to get out of there. And with that I threw my books together, grabbed my winter gear and hustled my little petunia out the door as fast as I could. I ran straight into the arms of my roommate and my cat and my best friend to join them for pizza and Survivor.
Two months later I passed a friend of mine who was cramming in the library in an attempt to crank out a TWENTY page essay for the very class I bailed on.
Thank GOD I’m a quitter!!! Aside from crack, saying no to that class was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
And because that class was impossible I ended up switching to a Language Arts teaching major which is basically the same thing as an English major only instead of the John Donne class I took a class on puppetry and theater work.
But I still say I was an English major because it’s just easier…and I sound smarter.