There is Always More to Learn (Writing 101, Day 5)

My younger brother recently turned twenty. On his birthday, we jokingly pointed out, “You’re not a teenager anymore, Sam. You no longer know anything.”

It’s amazing how age and study decrease your sense of importance.

Recently, I graduated from college and, if I learned anything in my four years at the University of Minnesota, Morris, it was that I am incredibly small. There is so much, no, too much to know. Even in my area of study, literature and writing, I feel like I know nothing.

If I decided to get a doctorate in literature, accumulating deep knowledge of texts and cultures from times gone by, it would take the majority of my twenties. Even then, my knowledge would be limited to a single subject—Victorian novels, Renaissance drama, Romantic poetry. I could study for years and years and barely scratch the surface… and that is in my field!

There are so many avenues I wish I could have visited in college. If I could go back, I’d up my Communication minor to a major and take as many rhetoric classes as possible. I’d insert a minor in Art History just because I love the subject. I’d delve into more History classes. I’d take another course in Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, simply because the topic is culturally relevant and fascinating.

But college is over. Maybe I’ll go to graduate school someday, but that’s at least three years down the road.

Education truly is a gift. Through it, you learn how small you are. You learn that your point of view is one of millions. You learn to empathize with those who are different from you.

But academia is only one kind of knowledge. Now that I’m out of school, it’s time to pursue other studies—how to be a responsible adult, how to be good to my family, how to blog well, how to keep strong in my faith, how to take joy in every day. The biggest lesson is learning what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

The beauty of education is that it really never stops. Inside or out of the classroom, there is still so much to learn.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Bill Nye comes to Morris!

A couple of days ago, a certain scientist/t.v. show host dropped by my small town on the prairie!  He found himself face to face with a full gymnasium (1,700 people in all… that’s nearly 2/5 of the town!) of students screaming “BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!”.

Bill Nye gave a fantastic talk.  He was a charismatic, engaging speaker.  I was surprised at how genuine he was.  Most speakers I hear are used to the speaking circuit, and each talk is just another stop to get through.  I fully expected a fairly dry hour of science talk that would go over my head.  That was not the case.  He spoke for over two hours and seemed genuinely interested in us.  He cracked the stereotypical Minnesota jokes about cold winters, ice fishing, the Vikings, and promised us that there are such a thing as hills.  (Morris is known for being very flat.)

Photo taken from UMM’s photo archives

Instead of sticking to facts and figures, Nye’s talk followed a narrative.  In essence, he basically told us stories for two hours.  He took us through his family’s history, including his father’s obsession with sun dials, and lead us in stories about deep space exploration.  He was a passionate speaker and continually told us we could: “dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD!”

The one thing about his talk I didn’t like was that I felt he was unnecessarily harsh towards Ken Ham, Creationist opponent in a debate that took place last February.  I thought he could have shown more kindness and respect towards Ham.  I wasn’t offended by what Nye said because, although I do believe in Creation, I don’t side with Ham’s extreme views that the world is only 6,000 years old.  But I thought bringing Ham up was unnecessary.

One of the questions at the end of the talk had to do with being taken seriously by an adult audience after being on a children’s show for so long.  Bill said that, yes, the transition is sometimes difficult, but it’s a process.  He also said that he never regretted the t.v. show.  I realized that, twenty years later, he was still speaking to the same audience.  Most of the students in the crowd grew up with his quirky show.  Now, here we were twenty years later, and he was still speaking to us.  It’s come full-circle.

One of the cool things about the event was that it sheds VERY good light on my university.  Being a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, we often get sidelined, despite the fact that we are one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the state of Minnesota.  And having a nationally known cultural icon like Bill Ny did, and will continue to do, wonders for our public relations.  I mean… we got a hashtag trending on Twitter!

Taken from UMM’s Facebook page

It was a great night, though.  Although I’m not a science major, I loved his excitement as he encouraged our generation to engage in the world of discovery.  I grew up with Bill Nye–he’s the man who taught me all I know about magnets and nuclear power.  I used to run around the house singing his theme song at the top of my lungs.  Countless study-worn students, myself included, left the talk bright-eyed and refreshed to learn all they can and, dare I say it, change the world.

Weekends in Morris

Weekends in Morris are… well… let’s just say they’re not very riveting.  Let me elaborate.

The town has 5,000 people, one grocery store, and a one-screen locally owned theater that gets movies two months after they are released.  The nearest Target or WalMart is an hour away.  The place to go when you get the munchies at 1 AM is the Casey’s gas station because it’s the only place open past ten.  However, visit Casey’s at your own risk! It’s usually filled with sketchy townies.

Without a wide variety of places to go and things to do, my weekends are usually spent bumming in my apartment in leggings and an oversized flannel.  Which is fun for a while, but a BBC miniseries marathon gets a bit old after the fifth hour.

What can you do, then, to keep from death by boredom?

Stargazing is always a good option.  There’s nothing like curling up with friends under a mound of blankets and staring at the night sky.  If you go a little ways out-of-town, the Milky Way is especially striking.

Studying in the library is also a safe bet.  Meeting up with classmates to go over notes in preparation for a test or quiz always breaks up the day well.

There’s also the option of sitting around talking with friends.  But, if you’re an introvert like me, this can only go on for so long before you need to crawl away into your hole to recharge.

The nice things about weekends in Morris, though, is that by the time Sunday night comes around, you’re so bored that you’re almost excited to go back to class the next day.

A literary breakup

Dear Virginia Woolf,

It’s been a long haul this semester.  We’ve been through a lot together, you and I.  But I think it’s time that we go our separate ways.  It’s not you.  It’s me.  Okay, that’s not true.  It’s totally you.  I think it’s time we break up.

Our first meeting, way back in my Brit Lit II survey course, went exceptionally well.  You sure do know how to make a good first impression.  Thus, I was optimistic.  But then our relationship turned out to be rockier than I expected.  Your short fiction had me stumbling about like a silly lady trying to figure out what was going on.  But I attributed that to your innovativeness, and that I just had to get used to it.  Then there was Jacob’s Room.  Ugh.

It wasn’t all thistles and thorns, though.  We had some good times, Virginia.  We really did.  We were reading Mrs. Dalloway on February 14th and you were my Valentine.  That book took my breath away.  It had me singing stupid love songs, declaring my passion to the skies.

But then To the Lighthouse happened over Spring Break.  Although I appreciated what you were doing there, Virginia, it was a bit of a slog to get through.  I ended up writing my fourteen page final essay on that book.  Mr. Ramsay is a piece of work, so props to you for creating a character that made me feel like I was suffocating while reading his thoughts.  All in all, your rendering of visual perception is fascinating, but kind of took away my will to live.  (In a scholarly sense, that is.)

For a while, Virginia, I thought there was no hope.  I thought we were doomed to fail, you and I.  But then Orlando came along.  I sat there thinking, “I didn’t know Woolf could be funny!”  And you were!  You were downright hilarious!  If you could go back, I encourage you to do more work like Orlando.  It’ll bring more joy to the world.

Ultimately, though, you slaughtered me with The Waves.  What on earth were you thinking?  Why was that a good idea?  I didn’t understand a single bit of it.  And oh my goodness, my professor’s lectures on it only made it worse.  Was it your goal to make a book that’s absolutely impossible to comprehend?  Because if so, you definitely succeeded.  What is the price of your success?  My happiness.  My hope.  My joy.  My dreams.  My will to continue our relationship.  You sacrificed those things by choosing to write The Waves.

So, Virginia, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.  And, frankly, I think it’s time we take a break from each other.  Some time and distance will help strengthen our relationship.  You wrote some things that were pretty miserable to read and I don’t know if I’m ready to forgive you.  Don’t worry, though, I’ll come back to you someday.  I still remember the way my heart raced as Mrs. Dalloway exclaimed “What a lark!  What a plunge!”  There is good to be found, Virginia.  So take heart.  I’ll be seeing you eventually.  Until then… I think I’ll spend next semester hanging out with the Victorians.  Charles Dickens and I have some catching up to do.

Happy summer,

Amelia

Leapfrog writing

A great and glorious tale was born during my innovative creative writing class today. It was an in-class activity that our textbook referred to as “Leapfrog”.  Here’s how it works.  We got into groups to write a collaborative story.  The only catch was only one person could write at a time.  When the professor gave the cue, we had to switch writers.  The time slots weren’t consistent, so at points we would madly get a few words in before handing it off.  At the end, everyone read their creations to the class.  The result was a bunch of hilarious nonsense that, somehow, seemed like creative genius.

Here is the story I worked on with classmates Meara and Adam.  I just read it aloud to  my roommate, Katie, and she insisted it needs to be shared with the world.

~~~

The gladiator stood in the center of the dusty floor over his vanquished heathen foe. “GrrrRAR,” he said. “GRRRRRARRARARARAAGGHH.” He was a skeleton imprisoned in a deep pit of a great gelatinous beast.

“Oh my goodness,” he cried one hundred years later. “I have been trapped in this pit for so long, I no longer remember the taste of peanuts!”

Then suddenly, he died. From the peanuts.

We pan over to an empty field, below a forlorn mountain.

There was a cave at the bottom into a lake of lava.

A rabbit stood above the field and cave, majestically adorned with a cape made from the FLAYED scales of the leviathan that dwells in the lava. “Ahoy!” The rabbit was dead. THE PLAGUE HAD CLAIMED ANOTHER.

And no one heard of the terrible beastie again, for he had sated his hunger for impossibility, and died.

~~~

Can you tell what parts are mine?