Successes, failures prompt greater insight into major

I’ve written many-a-column in the past two years expressing my love of being an English major at Gannon University.

I love the classes I take, the professors I study under and the students I learn alongside.

But I have to admit that there are days – maybe more than there should be – when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing.

Health science majors, feel free to agree – I’ll feel much better knowing it happens to you, too.

All it takes is one dumb mistake, and I’m second-guessing the last four years of my life.

And now the next two, as I will be in graduate school at the same place for the same thing. Figures.

I’ll write a nice, professional email to a professor only to catch too late that I’ve used “to” instead of “too,” one of my biggest pet peeves.

Or I’ll blush in class after proudly announcing that I think the green light in “The Great Gatsby” symbolizes envy. (In case you’re wondering – which I kind of hope you are – that is the wrong answer.)

Of course, the professors here are too nice to make a big deal about it.

In the case of the email, s/he won’t call me out on the blatant mistake.

And in the case of “Gatsby,” s/he’ll kindly say something like, “that’s an interesting perspective,” and then make sure the rest of the class knows the correct answer.

(The green light is a symbol of Gatsby’s hope. And you better thank me for that small tidbit of literary analysis if it ever comes up in your life.)

Instances like these, though they’re usually few and far between, can make a student – or at least me – feel incredibly incompetent.

It can serve as a pretty big reality check when you tend to think you’re pretty good at your major.

But then there’s other moments, like when I do get a question right or catch the most minute grammar mistakes, that make me feel as though I was born to do nothing but English for the rest of my life.

I guess you could say these are the moments I live for, not because I need to be the best editor and the best literary scholar, but because they reassure me that it is possible to be really good at English.

And, perhaps more importantly in this case, it’s possible for ME to be good at English.

It sounds silly when you say it, because we all speak this language fluently, and that should entitle all of us to be pretty good at it. But that’s not necessarily true.

It’s why we have writing and speech centers; why we have to take College Composition and Critical Analysis.

The rules and mechanics of English just come more naturally to some native speakers – and non-native – than they do to others.

I didn’t really mean to get all brain-y here, but it just amazes me how differently people’s minds work; how one person can be so good at biology and completely unable to write a proper sentence at the same time.

Which is why, I guess, when you pride yourself on being good at something, it really sucks to be wrong.

 

KELLY MORELAND

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