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A Reason for Writing

May 27, 2011

As I mention in my About Me section, I am a teacher. Specifically, I am a middle school English teacher. I became an English teacher because I love literature: I love reading it, analyzing it, discussing it, writing about it. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was in college, I had to choose a focus area within my English major, and on a whim, after taking my first ever African American literature class, I decided to focus on “race literature.” This niche became a deep passion of mine over the course of my four years at college; I was consumed with all things race lit, and I read it for personal enjoyment just as much as I read it for class.

When I started my graduate work this past fall, I was faced with a decision: take the practical route and choose a “literacy” focus (obviously practical considering I am an English teacher), or follow my passion and choose what my graduate school refers to as a “liberal studies” focus (really a course load that delves into all sorts of race studies and issues in society and education in particular). Being the ever practical person I am, I barely gave it a second thought and I chose literacy. Of course I chose literacy. It was safe, it was useful. Safe and useful is what I do best!

On the last night of my grad class for the semester, I went out for drinks with two girls in my class, as well as my professor. While we were having our drinks, I happened to mention that part of me wished I had specialized in liberal studies, as opposed to literacy, because it is one of my true passions. When my professor asked why I didn’t do that in the first place, I told her that literacy was the more practical choice, being that I’m an English teacher and all. Her response? “Oh, Hillary. That’s a self-constructed idea. You need to be true to yourself and what you want.”

I was blown away by this statement because of its simplicity, its honesty, and its truthfulness. I am so caught up in being practical and doing what I think I should be doing that, way too often, I stop myself from doing things that I WANT to do or think would make me happy. Does that practicality serve its purpose most of the time? Of course. Running away to Hawaii and sleeping on the beach all day would certainly make me happy, but practicality tells me that isn’t something I should go off and do next week.

After thinking this over and reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and to be honest, after some rough weeks that I’ve had at work, I realized it’s time to start thinking about what makes me happy. What do I enjoy doing? Do it more. What makes me unhappy? What do I not enjoy doing? Do it less. What feels right? Do it more. What doesn’t feel right? Do it less. What an easy concept, right?

This is another reason I started this blog. On my list of things that make me happy: writing, food, running. Ding! Why not write about food and running? Hell, why not just write in general? I procrastinated on starting this little project because it never seemed like the “right” time (whatever that means). I was always “too busy,” or I couldn’t think of the perfect thing to write about. Well, I finally realized, I’m always going to be busy, and I’m never going to think of the perfect thing to write about. I need to stop putting things off because they’re not practical or perfect or exactly what I thought they’d be and just DO THEM.

Anyone else in this boat with me?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Evan permalink
    May 31, 2011 7:32 pm

    I can’t see a single reason why you shouldn’t go to Hawaii for a week.

  2. Lauren H. permalink
    May 31, 2011 10:16 pm

    I went through the same thing this year which is interesting considering we’re both at the same point in our teaching careers. I had to decide what made me happy and make more time for it in my day. I felt like I’d lost some of my identity because I’d stopped doing some of the things that made me happy. I think grad school helped me rediscover what I wanted.

    I hope you don’t get discouraged thinking you didn’t choose the right grad program.

    • June 1, 2011 6:53 am


      I do think that a lot of people who are in the same point in their career as us probably feel similarly—the four year itch, right? I think I just kind of fell into a slump, and as you said, grad school definitely helped to pull me out of that. As time-consuming and hardcore as it is, some of the classes I’ve taken thus far have really energized me and given me a new perspective. I don’t necessarily regret the literacy path that I chose, because it has been interesting and helpful, but I do wish there was some way to experience the other program, too (without shelling out another $475 a credit!).

      Thanks so much for your insights. I’m right there with you!

  3. June 11, 2011 5:09 pm

    Sometimes I think about my decision to go to graduate school for Sociology and think “WHY? WHY DIDN’T I BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT?!” Sure, I love Sociology, but it would’ve been easy for me to do math all day and make bank. I suppose I made the less practical choice, and I still feel regret sometimes.

    I think that people often talk about their life choices as though there is a RIGHT ONE that will provide limitless happiness and fulfill some deeper core of our being. But I’ve decided it might be better to think about how I can find happiness in many different things. I think you can too. 🙂

    • June 11, 2011 9:13 pm

      You’re right—too often, people think about their life choices in terms of “right” and “wrong,” as though these decisions are absolutes. They’re not. There is no one, right choice (or one, wrong choice for that matter) for us to choose. And I like your idea about finding happiness in what you HAVE CHOSEN. That’s the kicker, isn’t it?

      There was this quote in my Educational Innovations textbook that I think I’m going to write an entire post on. In summary, it said something along the lines of, “No matter how much knowledge you gain about a decision/change before hand, you can never account for every single thing that will come as a result of that change.” This was huge for me; I am the definition of a planner. I like having all my Ts crossed and all possibilities explored before I make a decision. But as I constantly have to remind myself (or, really, as Nick has to remind me), you cannot account for random chance, or for life as it happens. You can prepare as much as possible, but at a certain point, you just need to trust that you’ve made the right decision and go with it.

      Thanks for the comments, Jules—and thanks for reading!

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