A major identity crisis
Remember that alumni retrospective I was scared to write? Well, we received the published newsletter in the mail recently, and I was pleasantly surprised with the final result.
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One might say that I was an English major convert.
During my freshman year at the University of Delaware, I was an eager chemistry major. I planned to do research and earn my doctorate, and I launched into two semesters of math and science. However, those two semesters were completely bereft of reading (other than technical tomes) and writing (other than equations). Much to my parents’ panic, I claimed to have “a major identity crisis” — wasn’t I clever? The following year, I changed my major to English, with a chemistry minor on the side.
Compared to the structured chemistry curriculum, coming over to the English department was a burst of freedom, if not chaos. I saw that there were core major classes, but the order wasn’t that important. I was confronted with the choice of courses based on the content and the instructor, instead of a proscribed sequence. In my new classes, I was a square among amoebae with my frantic note-taking and constant referral to the syllabus. I did not take naturally to the ebb and flow of discussion, so I read diligently and wrote as best as I could.
I did not stay disoriented forever. Before long, I built up a strong affection for Memorial Hall and the hours I spent there puzzling over literary criticism, picking apart the renaissance man, and laying out mock publications. When I went to my evening lab sessions with my chemistry cohorts, it was no longer my primary residence; I was fully ensconced in the “arts” part of “arts and sciences,” and they never let me forget it. I was, however, greatly sought-after when it was time to produce formal lab reports.
As a medical editor, I’m lucky to work in the writing segment of the scientific sector. My two worlds have collided, and it suits me well. Outside the office, I can see how my conversion to the English department affects even the smallest parts of my life. I can’t stop myself from pausing to listen to political ads just to tease out the rhetoric. I automatically correct typos in newspaper ads, look for the redemption aspect of plots, and identify frame structures in novels.
I knew I was in the right academic field when I attended the first class of my Biblical and classical literature course. The instructor handed out the syllabus, and another classmate whispered to his neighbor, “Man, there’s a lot of reading and writing in this class.”
Meanwhile, I could only think, “Yes, please.”