Embrace the Weirdness

This is not the “embrace the weirdness” post you’re expecting.

I wish it were. I wish it were one of those “One day, I decided to accept myself for who I am, and I’ve never been happier” posts, or even one of those “Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about who you are” posts. I wish it were empowering and inspiring.

But it’s not. It’s more of a pragmatic, “accept reality” kind of post.

For me, “embrace the weirdness” is an acknowledgement of defeat. Continue reading

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You Can Hate Grammar. That Doesn’t Give You an Excuse for Butchering/Ignoring It.

I understand that not everyone appreciates the English language and grammar the way I do. Heck, I’m aware that there are people for whom my respect of both falls dramatically short of theirs.

I am also aware that many people struggle with grammar rules, especially the really obnoxious ones (many of which came from trying to force a fundamentally German language heavily infused with French influence to conform to unnecessarily Latin rules).

But you know what? That’s where my understanding ends. Continue reading

New Challenge: The Million Roads Project

I don’t know about you, but one of the most frustrating aspects of the college application process was the difference in how adults and I viewed my prospects. Adults were always going on about how many options I had before me – “a million roads you can choose from” – whereas yeah, I saw a million roads, but only one that was “mine”. I was terrified of choosing one of the 999,999 that weren’t mine, then spending the rest of my life trying to recover from such a major mistake.

Looking back now, I’ve learned that there is no such thing as choosing the wrong road. You make your own road, and so it is as “right” or “wrong” as you make it. And the fact that it twists and turns isn’t an indictment of your decisions, but rather a natural result of the way life throws us curveballs and we adapt.

But I still remember the thing that frustrated me most when adults started talking about the millions of options I had: “What millions? I couldn’t even list a dozen options, much less a million!”

It’s a problem that I think a lot of college students and college-bound students face. How can you even begin to figure out which degree will help you get a job when you genuinely don’t have any idea what kind of jobs are out there? (And sorry, looking on jobs sites isn’t going to help you with that, unless you are only interested in a bunch of bland entry-level jobs.)

Now that I’ve been working for a bit, I’ve been amazed at the range of jobs that are out there – jobs that I never heard of while I was in school, nor that I ever would have imagined! And lately, I’ve been thinking that if only there were a list of what kinds of jobs students were getting after they graduate – and not just immediately after graduation, but long-term, too – more college students would feel confident about having “millions” of options to choose from.

So I’ve decided to start what I’m calling “The Million Roads Project“. Specifically for English majors, I’d like to compile a list of all the various jobs and degrees people have pursued after earning their English degree. I’d like for it to be a resource for those still in school, as well as a nice rebuke to the common joke that English degrees are only good for getting you a job as a barista.

I’ve added it as a page to this blog. You can see the link at the top of the page, although you can also click here. If you’re an English major, please consider adding your job to the list. If you know an English major, please encourage them to contribute.

My goal is to have such a long list that no English major will ever feel completely overwhelmed by the question, “But what can you do with an English degree?”

I know you can do a helluva lot. You know you can do a helluva lot.

Let’s map our million roads, and maybe help someone else find theirs.

True Story: I Once Ate a Book

I like to joke that I was too young to understand figurative language and so was eager to literally “devour” a book.

But it’s true. I tried to eat The Little Engine that Could as a toddler. It’s a story I’ve mentioned before, and with good reason; it’s one of those stories I’ve been told and told my entire life. As the undisputed queen book geek in my family, it’s the perfect kind of family story because 1) it happened when I was young  (and too young to remember it) and 2) it serves to illustrate the whole “book geek” thing about me in a cute anecdote.

And lest you think I’m complaining about it: I love this story. Why else do you think I have a one-liner prepared? I started off my college essay with that story. If I ever write a memoir, that’s going to be one of the leading stories. It’s a great metaphor and foreshadows nicely how voraciously I would consume books as I got older. (Never mind that the more likely case was that I was teething and my parents didn’t know any better about buying me paper books.)

But as much as I love that story, for a good bit of my life, I thought it was…well, an exaggeration. We’re prone to that in my family. (For instance, my dad’s story about his long-distance phone bill when he and my mom started dating was originally $100 when I first heard the story. In recent years, it’s been $300. I’ve been teasing him about when it’s going to be $900.) At most, I thought, someone stumbled upon a toddler-me gnawing away at a book and it blossomed into the whole “Brooke ate a book” story.

But oh ho, good reader – that’s not where the story ends. Continue reading

Literary Quotes You Should Stop Using Now

If you like quotes – if you love stumbling onto one that’s worded well, with a poignancy that echoes in your soul and a name at the end that inspires respect and admiration – don’t became an English major. A lot of the quotes that people like throwing around come from the books, poems, and short stories you’ll be studying. And as I’ve said before, you’ll come to appreciate how thoroughly context shapes the full “meaning” of a line (although usually there’s more than just one “meaning” you can apply) – and you’ll discover that that quote you thought was beautiful and inspirational was actually “about” something very, very different than you thought.

If, on the other hand, you’re stunned by the idea that you could be misusing quotes in a way that suggests something very different from what you intended, here’s my guide for some of the worst offenders (aka the ones that get on my nerves the most): Continue reading

The Silver Lining: You Learn More From a Bad Boss Than a Good One

(Hm…I scheduled this last night to go out at the usual time, only to find out it didn’t. Argh. My apologies for the lateness.)

Don’t worry, bad bosses of the world: You still suck, and we all hate you. (Yes, even those of us who don’t have to work for you at the moment.) Luckily, it seems like data is coming in that shows that you are not only a problem for your employees – you’re also a problem for your company’s bottom line.

However, bad bosses aren’t going anywhere, and unfortunately, it’s an important part of your career and job skills development to work for at least one. One of my friends is dealing with a frustrating work situation, with a boss who’s contributing to the situation. While on the one hand it sucks to watch a bad work situation, my friend and I were talking about how much they were learning from having to deal with a bad boss. (And luckily, it’s a “put in your time now for a better situation later on” kind of work situation. Which doesn’t make it suck any less, but does help provide the determination to get through it.)

Yeah, it’s true: you learn a ton more from a bad boss than a good boss.

Continue reading