It was never about accumulating data, memorizing formulas, or learning the routine of a mere vocation. We got into English for the roving insight not particular to one discipline or a single calling. We are students of aesthetics, history, rhetoric, and philosophy. We read the likes of Joyce, Faulkner, and Yeats because only writers of that caliber can penetrate to the marrow of our minds. Had we but world and time enough to take in every typeset page, and what would be the worth of study if it didn’t, as Emerson said of the American scholar, lead to action?
I found possibility in a graduate-level study of Literature, which took me to the southeastern coast where the interstate narrows to a highway, the highway a road, and the road a gravel lot at the battery for loading and unloading fishing boats–in short, the furthest I could go. Realizing this was symbolic of my formal education, I finished my degree and lit out for a job market that had no niche for a poetry ponderer. Until then, I saw the worth of my study reflected in a graduate school acceptance letter, a successful first day of teaching college writing, and an exciting thesis defense; however, my break with academics and foray into a job market revealed one of the greatest benefits of my education–versatility. We have all the fruits of a decisive major–analysis, introspection, structured argument–with none of the impediments, as when a former zoology student struggles to explain the relevance of their work to a hiring manager of a law firm.
My perspective is this: you are poised for study and for life, and whether you choose inveterate scholarship or spontaneous defection (I use the word humorously as an apostate myself), you can and will flourish. After all, at one time Melville was a customs inspector and Eliot worked in the basement of a bank.
I’ve been pretty busy since graduation, but not entirely in the English vein. My degree was a B.A. in English/Secondary Education with a minor in creative writing. After graduation I continued to work as an instructor at the Sylvan Learning center in Bowling Green, where I have since taken the Director of Education position. I love teaching on a small scale where I can have a huge impact on individual students, but my true passion is in my music.
I have been playing with a band called The Lost River Cavemen since 2006 <http://lostrivercavemen.com/>. In the last year and a half we have toured from the Gulf of Mexico to New York City and played in almost every state east of the Mississippi. We are currently working on our third studio album, and we are touring to California in April. I mainly play drums in the band, but I also get to use my ninja-like English skills in the business side of things: emails, promotion, design, sales.
We pride ourselves on being a true D.I.Y. band; we don’t rely on a manager, booking agent, promoter, or any of the other staples of the music industry. We’ve been lucky enough to play with some pretty big names like Ghostland Observatory, Keller Williams, and Fleet Foxes, and we’re working on setting up some shows with The Farewell Drifters. And, of course, our good friends in Cage the Elephant have been very supportive of us and the wholeBowling Green music scene. I don’t really think we will ever become famous, but I do think we will be able to play music on a scale that allows us to live comfortably while we do what we love.
I graduated from WKU in May 2011 with degrees in English Literature and International Business, and I moved toChicagoin October. Currently, I earn salary as the E-Marketing Specialist at Media Tec Publishing while repping iWish events at night and teaching creative writing camps in the suburbs.
The story on how I got here started with an uncomfortable conversation with my daddy my sophomore year. It began with, “What can you do with an English degree?” I don’t like saying, “I don’t know.” I would rather lie. So even though I really didn’t know, I rattled off various occupations I could be interested in—paralegal, personal assistant, marketer, journalist. The conversation ended with me exclaiming that I was also going to get a business degree.
To complete a business degree, one must have an internship. The semester before my senior year, I was freaking out, and I was applying to every internship the business school and the English department sent my way. One such application came from a small stationery store in a wealthyChicagosuburb. Theresa Patton, owner of TT Patton, gave the application to her husband’s best friend who works for theUniversityofKentucky, and the application made the short, viral journey to my WKU inbox by some means or another.
In Barrington, I designed and started up a summer creative writing program for middle schoolers. Theresa and I became very close, and I visited her and her husband several time over the next year. She and her stationery store even hosted a book signing when my short story, “The Age of Maturity,” was published in Dr. Bell’s and Dr. McCaffrey’s 2010 Commutability. After graduation, with no other job prospects, Theresa invited me back to run the summer writing camps. This second summer in the area I was determined to meet more people, so I took a sketching class at a local community college.
In class I met Tad Waddington, author of Last Contribution. He and I struck up a friendship. So when former colleges of his, Jerry Prochazka and Stacy Boyle, needed a research temp, Tad gave them my information. The 20-hour-a-week job at Media Tec Publishing was just what I needed to forget my reservations about moving toChicago permanently. I picked up shifts at Theresa’s store and started working for the event company iWish to supplement my income. Money was very tight for a few months, but when the position of E-Marketing Specialist opened up at Media Tec Publishing, I was right there, eager for the opportunity.
My story is unconventional and contains a bit more struggle than I’ve set to this page, and it would certainly be a great feat to recreate. From my six months of post-graduation, I have this advice:
- Do your best work at every job, even the unglamorous ones like my research job pushing around information in Excel, because you never know who is watching.
- Be versatile with your skills and experiences.And always argue when someone condescendingly asks you what can be done with an English degree.