My mom named me after a Fleetwood Mac song (click the YouTube video above) and I think because I was named after a song it’s only natural that I have an obsession with music. I go to sleep listening to music, I wake up listening to music; my entire day revolves around music- and food. Good songs tell stories and that’s my favorite part. I’m extremely envious of artists/writers that can say so much using so few words (that’s lost on me). A few times my mom referenced the Fleetwood Mac song and told me I was the poet in her heart. This actually makes me laugh, because there once was a time I thought I hated poetry. It wasn’t until college that my notorious procrastination did me a favor.
I was late signing up for Literature from the 1950’s to Present and the only class that was open was Literature from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. I was ANGRY, I mean raging mad! All of my friends were in the other class and they were going to be studying exciting pieces and I was going to be in a class filled with hipsters and overachievers who enjoyed overanalyzing the stuff that put me to sleep. This was a true tragedy! But I wasn’t too worried. I always signed up for classes late and if my slowness taught me anything it was that I could show up to any class on the first day and the professor would add me to the roster, it worked every time. Except this time. Lit from the 1950’s to Present was completely full and I was forced to sit through a semester of literature written by the angriest and most emotionally twisted people. The thought of Emily Dickinson made me want to puke. What the hell is she talking about?! Nobody knows! Reading Dickinson is like reading those ambiguous Facebook posts. Why are you having the worst day ever?! Why could the day not possibly get any better?! JUST SAY IT! (As I just realized I’m writing this post because quite a few of you can’t figure out what the songs have to do with my posts. Womp womp!) -__-
The first day I walked into class I decided I would hate everyone for their willingness to study lame-o literature. I grabbed my seat and started scanning the room. They totally all drank PBR and strongly disliked Britney Spears. We were not going to get along. However, during my scan and full on stereotyping I did find a nerd hottie that was a noticeable overachiever, he already had the anthology on his desk and was scanning through pages. I never bought books for classes until after the class started, most of the time they were unnecessary purchases. Less money spent on books was more money spent at the bar. The professor walked in and opened up the discussion about some significant literary works and I zoned out. I came back around when my nerd hottie started talking; I was immediately disappointed. He was the obnoxious literary know-it-all. This class was going to be a disaster.
The first unit we started was poetry and every piece of me wanted to die. It’s no secret that I have no poker face, so when the professor told us to turn to the section on Walt Whitman and begin with Leaves of Grass, my sigh of disgust and dramatic eye-roll did not go unnoticed. He looked right at me and said,“Awww, what’s the matter? Not a fan of Whitman?”
I twisted awkwardly in my seat and started to panic. A room full of Whitman loving hipsters all had their eyes on me. I was for sure Elle Woods and my blonde hair, blue eyes, and push-up bra were doing enough to make them hate me without any needed commentary. I was over it, and I was about to let all of them know what I thought about this bull shit class and this bull shit literature!
“I HATE poetry.” BOOM!
They of course rolled their eyes and shook their heads. Just as I had unfairly judged my nerd when he opened his mouth, they were doing it to me. And I have this major problem. For as wordy as I am, if I really hate something, or if I really love something, I have a VERY hard time quickly putting it into words. So it usually comes out sounding like something a 3 year old would say. The key to this is to know that if I say I love something or I hate something, you better ask me to go out later and discuss this over a bottle of wine or 6 because it’s something that I could talk about for HOURS.
My professor looked at me indifferently and asked one question.
“Do you like music?”
I stared at him like he was crazy. Was this a serious question? Then I realized that I was in a room full of people that were going to get into their cars and throw on NPR on their way home.
“Well then you like poetry.”
I sat there expressionless. My wheels were turning and I knew he could actually see them turning. This guy was good.
“Lyrics are poems, so you like poetry.”
DAMN IT! All these years! I feel like I really had something I passionately hated and he just called me out! The rest of the class was a blur, I went home that night and grabbed a glass of wine and thought about Eminem, Tupac, Biggie. They were all poets. 50 Cent is a poet! I pulled out all of my cd’s and listened to everything. The thing I did every day, the thing I was obsessed with the most, was poetry.
Each day I went back to class a little more open-minded. I actually ended up loving my professor, he had a son that he would always talk about that was the same age as me. I decided if I ever had a little boy via surrogate or adoption (because my friends’ stories about child birth have traumatized my vagina) that I would name him after my professor’s son. And his son had a pretty amazing Irish name and I’m Irish so it really just works.
The semester wrapped up and because 5 years of school and student teaching wasn’t enough, I had to take the dreaded Praxis test to officially become an English teacher. I held my new, very pointy No. 2 pencils in my clammy hands and stared at the testing booklet that was sitting in front of me. When the lady told us to begin I turned the page quickly and laughed at the first question. “Who was the author of Leaves of Grass?” I smiled as I darkened the circle next to Walt Whitman’s name. I got to the next question and stared, there was no way. I started scanning the questions, I had learned from the others that there was always a theme- the majority of questions would cover a certain time period or genre. The majority of the questions in my testing booklet covered literature from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Procrastination for the win!
At the beginning of each school year I’d tell my classes we’d begin with poetry. I’d eagerly await the moans and groans and then present them with lyrics to songs – Eminem, Kanye, Common, Dixie Chicks- you name it I used it. Not only did my kids love it, but it did some serious work for my street cred! Throughout the entire unit students worked on a project called A Soundtrack for My Life. They created a booklet of songs and had to write a few paragraphs explaining why each song was meaningful to them and then choose one to present to the class. One by one they walked up, played their song and told their story. One boy went up and talked about how he struggled with the death of his brother from a drug overdose, another girl talked about taking care of her dying father, and then there was another girl I’ll never forget. She was a little punk rocker, her hair was always a different color and she was just tough. Nobody knew anything about her, she was new in town and never said too much. She walked up and played her song and said she chose it because it made her strong. For about 20 minutes she told an intense story that ended with her being raped by her step-father and how she had to escape with her mother. The bell rang and nobody moved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just created a family and my classroom was their home. I’d watch this group laugh together, cry together, fight, makeup, and fight some more. But they never crossed the line and for as different as some of them were they protected each other. I’d play music while they would write and if somebody’s “song” came on they would shout out to the class, “Hey, this is so-and-so’s song!” They’d give a head nod or flash a smile. They’d beg me to make my own soundtrack but I never did. Each year I swore I’d put something together but I always got too busy or felt like I had nothing to share. So finally, here it is after all these years. The soundtrack for my life.
Me and nerd hottie were never a thing.
I still hate Emily Dickinson.