When I was 12 years old my parents gave me a typewriter. Getting that device was akin to the moment John Boy Walton was given his ticket off Walton Mountain. I recall sitting on the floor in the living room fighting to stay awake as my family gathered around the television set to watch those Walton’s living their simple lives. I would think to myself how cool it was John Boy could be a writer. I, too, had aspirations to someday become a writer.
When I was in college I struggled at first to decide what I wanted to do with my life. At first I considered trying my hand at computer science. One look at the requisite math courses killed that dream. As I poured through the course catalog reading descriptions of each major three stood out to me. The first was Broadcasting. This was in the communications field. I thought it would be cool to work in radio or television. The second was theater. In the back of my mind I thought I wanted to become a filmmaker someday and figured theater would put me on the path towards that end. The third major I considered, painstakingly so for three full semesters before letting go, was English.
Way back when I was 12 I poured my heart and soul into the keys I pressed on that rusty old machine. I dabbled in various genres ranging from fiction to journaling. I knew someday I would make a living using the written word; I just never knew what that would look like back then. Despite my lack of direction I fell instantly in love with the English language. I even had considered declaring English my college path when I was still in high school. I figured I could study literature while learning to write.
During my college studies I had to make choices. Because my major was in Broadcasting (journalism) and minor fluctuated from one semester to the next, I had to choose courses that fit into completing that catalog. I was given many choices for required courses to fulfil certain aspects of the degree. One such choice nearly drove me to pivot the entire trajectory of my course of studies. As a communications major I had a functional English requirement than necessitated I take either a Grammar or Linguistics Course. Unlike the majority of my peers who chose the easier grammar course I took the harder road and signed up, gleefully, for linguistics.
When I tell people I studied English in college I often confuse them. A journalism degree can be broken down into four component parts of equal importance. The first is the news side. You take courses in news gathering, print theory, graphic design and news writing. The second aspect is the technical courses. You have to learn computer software such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Premiere. You take courses in web design, html and photography. Then there is the knowledge side. You have to take courses in political science, history, philosophy, ethics, communications law and sociology. Finally there is the English side of it.
A degree in journalism is basically and English light degree. While I broke it down, as did the university, into four components, it was evenly split between 50 percent English and 50 percent everything else. I really was getting an English Degree minus a handful of courses that would have qualified me to teach it in schools across the nation. I took a lot of English courses. Some of my favorites were rhetoric, creative writing, prose, poetry, playwriting, research and academic writing, and that coveted linguistics course.
I cherished every moment I got to learn the intricacies of my mother tongue. The heart of a writer, the tools we use to craft our art work is built upon our grasp of how phonemes work together to produce sounds that convey the emotions behind our intentions. The deep level of respect I gained for the language. The admiration that course instilled into me regarding the layers upon layers that exist in our often maligned language fascinated me to no end. I fell in love with English. I began a love affair with her that remains vibrant and passionate to this day.
In my final semester before being kicked out of school I was talking to my college advisor about contemplating changing my major from Journalism (English lite) to English proper. I even wanted to drop my political science minor I picked up along the way in lieu of an English major with an education emphasis. I was to replace those technical communications courses with courses diving deeper into the rich history of English works. I would add several literature courses to my work load. I would go back and take that grammar course I skipped along with a few sister course to it. Then I could graduate still qualified to write for a newspaper but also with the right tools to teach should the need arise.
When I look back at my unfinished bachelor’s of science in journalism I have one thought. I would give anything, do anything to go back to college one more time and finish that degree. This time I would throw everything I studied before out and start afresh. I would pursue a proper English Major with an appropriate minor in literature. I would love to go back to my estranged lover to rekindle our previous affair. The metaphor loses it’s meaning from there. But the point remains. My one regret in life is not picking English as my major up front.