Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One opinion can change your course.

One person's opinion changed my direction during my first sememster of college. I was young and still believed that people, older or smarter or in certain jobs or a host of other experiences, knew more than me. And "knowing more" automatically meant they were right.
But now that I am in "their shoes" I am finding that I should have listened to myself all along. I skipped my senior year of high school through a "post-secondary program" and instead took all my classes at college. I only needed 2 credits to complete my high school requirements, so I jumped at this opportunity- to get out of HS early and to get one year of college paid for. It was perfect for a person like me who didn't ever fit in at school and who loves to save a buck. So, I was assigned to an advisor who looked at the credits that I needed and stuck me in a senior English class for the one English credit I needed and he stuck me in a political science class (all seniors except for myself and one other kid doing the same program I was), and the rest of the classes I took were freshman general credits.
I had always loved English- reading, writing, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, all of it. I was thinking of English as a major- but decided to not declare any major until my sophmore year- just to make sure it's what I really wanted. Here is where course in life took a turn. That one senior English class apparantly wasn't the place for me. No matter what I said or what I wrote in that class was "wrong"- according to my professor, Natalie. Looking back I wonder if she just thought I was too young and inexperienced- or if I really was that much of an idiot that I couldn't write or speak anything of importance or relevance. I wish I had some video footage- or some transcripts to document what really transpired in her classroom.
I remeber that by the third week of class I had gone from sitting in the front row, to the furthest corner seat in the back. Natalie had made me feel worthless and I decided that she must be "right". Afterall, this was her profession and certainly she had a great deal of experience- therefore her opinion of me must be correct.
Fast forward several years to the current day and I have a very different opinion. I am sad in some ways that I listened to Natalie's opinion, all but gave up on writing, and had a low self-esteem in college. I always felt like I wasn't that "qualified" to be there...and I don't think I actually pushed myself hard enough or tried my very best. All because of one professor's opinion. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it over. Don't we all have certain regreats on life in light of our experiences?
I ended up majoring in media/communications- but never thought I was that great at that either. It wasn't where I truly felt I should be-I went along with it, and I graduated in it and even ended up really liking certain aspects of it. But it hadn't been my first choice. And I think my heart knew that.
Now I get comments and emails all the time saying things like, "You should be a writer." Or "you have a way with words" and "This is what you were meant to do."
I'm working on believing all those comments. I'm trying to "erase the tapes" of negativity that I've played over and over in my mind- the ones of Natalie's criticism of my writing and my thoughts. I bet she has no idea that she changed the direction of my life to that extent. I doubt she would even remember who I am. Afterall, I spent almost a whole semester slumped down in the corner seat of her English Lit class.
I am happy that I am able to look back, reflect and now choose a new course in life. And maybe all that happened in my life for a reason. Maybe I was a terrible writer. Maybe I still am. But I am happy that my heart wants to find out for itself. I am excited to realize that sometimes the most important opinion is not one that comes from a "smarter, more experienced" voice- but instead the most important opinion comes from within. I guess I learned something from Natalie afterall.


Jody said...

As usual, please forgive my spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. I don't proofread my blog entries before I post them. Thus- authentic, including typos, me.

yolanda said...

I can totally identify with you on this . I am in the same boat except it was and still is my father. Love your thoughts on life as they totally jive with mine.

Knit and Purl Grrl said...

So true, Jody!
I listened to my mom, who told me "journalism is a tough career for a woman. You don't want to be a writer." But it wasn't a choice -- I WAS a writer. I denied it for years until I met my husband who saw the spark within me and supported me and here I am, ten years later. I've written for some of the largest newspapers in the country, once had my own column, and have had my essays in many books. I am working on getting my first novel published. The funny thing -- my mom wonders why I haven't given her my novel to read in its draft form.

Listen within and trust that voice.

Katrina said...

It's amazing (and unfortunate) that we learn to listen to those tapes. I always wanted to be a broadcaster/news anchor/reporter. Somewhere along the line, a teacher told me that I'd never make it b/c I have a damaged muscle in one eye that causes it to move a little slower than the other eye. He said that it wouldn't film well. I gave up on that dream. Funny, I had a lot of success in public speaking & debate....so I guess in person no one cared.

I do still wonder what would have happened if I hadn't listened to that. Perhaps I'd be on the couch next to Matt Lauer!

Deanna- yep Dee-na said...

that is just not right girl! i'm glad you are seeing the light... you are a great writer!my first college engligh i bombed.. made a D! the teacher made me feel like a total loser also. then i went on and took the other english classes and did very well... hmm... just doesn't add up does it? lol
i even ended up teaching english myself for a couple of years.
not that i'm any super writer either... but i sure don't believe in being anything but positive to kids who have specific interests... encouragement should be a teachers middle name. i hope it was mine.
great thoughts... thanks for sharing!

K :) said...

I come to your blog on an almost daily basis looking to read your words of wisdom and insight. I think you have truly proven that professor wrong with the words you share with total strangers, like me. Thanks for writing and sharing.

Elizabeth said...

Well, let me just tell you that my lifelong dream to pursue art was rudely crushed by my studio art teacher my senior year of high school... he embarrassed me badly in front of my class, and at that point I decided "fine, that's it." It took me a few years before I realized what a total _____ he was, and that maybe my vision of art wasn't his. I'm sorry I lost that time, and I'm sorry I didn't pursue getting my certification to teach art too, but I'm happy I don't care about his opinion finally : )

And yes, I still think you have an awful lot to write about. Maybe you should start small and query a magazine for an essay, and see where it goes from there : )

Emily said...

If only Natalie could read this now! I so understand how one person's opinion can change your life! Perhaps that's why I've changed my college major twice and still haven't figured out where I'm headed in life (as far as a career path goes). The first time I switched was because of a college professor's comments about what a "good" art teacher is-and according to her I wouldn't be because I felt that children should not be able to express their own individuality in their artwork adn not just copy the teacher's work all the time! Now looking back, I wish I would have just stuck up for myself and my beliefs and not have let shoot down my hopes and dreams!

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Oh please, I listened to those older and wiser than me and wound up being stuck in a job for 6 years that I hated instead of pursuing what God wanted me to pursue.

Anonymous said...

I can sympathize (sp) with you on that one. I've loved to draw for as long as I can remember. One day during my senior year of high school I decided to show my art teacher some of my own personal cartoons. After he looked at them he went through this long speech about how I wouldn't make it at an art college and I didn't even say anything about my thoughts on art college even though I WAS planning on trying to get into one. After that day my dreams of becoming an artist was pretty much squashed.

Good for you for deciding to no longer listen to what your old college professor's opinion of you was. I definately think you have a way with words and think you will do very well as a writer. You'll have to let us know when your first book gets published. :)

patterns of ink said...

Wow! This is a nine-month late comment. I don't think I knew about Nitty.Gritty when you first wrote this, but you linked to it in November of 06.
I taught English for about 20 years--with a couple years of college teaching. Some thoughts: (1)it broke my heart to hear of how you went from the front of the room to the back as your confidence was deflated--but your ability to write about that so effectively today is a hint of your talent. (By the way, one of my "projects" in the works is writing a book that is a gathering of powerful classroom moments. This would be a welcome part of that on-going project, years in the making). Secondly, you have learned from this teacher as you pointed out at the end. She would probably regret this as much as you do. It's safe to assume that she has likely "grown" through the years even as you have. Which brings me to this next thought: You are not the same girl who sat in that class. That girl is an important part of who you are, look kindly on her, but know that you are now Jody 2006. As Paul Mccartney sings "In My Life" some changes are "forever not for better," but in your case your life experience has given you both a need to write and a renewed ability to do so. It's possible you had a smaller brush then and only the colors of that age. Pain brings the most vivid hues to life's pallet.
You are a good writer. Writing is hard work. I am an okay writer, but it does not come easily to me. When I was in high school--no one would have guessed that I would someday teach English or be a school administrator. I had to take remedial English Comp my freshman year! We are constantly "in the making."
Keep writing, and don't choose the first editor/publisher that offers to help you. Your experience and thoughts deserve the right match if and when you choose to take on the arduous task of a book.
Here is a post that tells of a time when I was in high school.