If I told you how many times I've tried to give up studying English, you probably wouldn't believe me. You'd think I hated it. Not true. It just took me a long time to dig up that passion from deep in my subconscious, and draw it out into the open. Accept it.
The first time I tried to quit, I convinced myself I wanted to grow up to be an interpreter for the European Union. I lived in England at the time. I found out the hard way that I hated speaking French in front of my class. So how could I possibly do that in front of complete strangers? And to make a living? That year, I was sixteen, and it was the year I fell into the arms of Raymond Chandler and Edgar Allan Poe. Our love affair lasted another twelve months or so before I convinced myself I couldn’t commit anymore.
A few years passed and I moved to Tampa, Florida, to earn my bachelor's degree. I started out as a French major. What was I thinking? I knew it wasn't going to work out when more of my schedule was spent fueling my Shakespeare obsession than, well, anything else. My interpreting career quickly fell to the wayside.
In early March of this year, I found myself holding an acceptance letter to the MFA program at Florida Atlantic University. Yes, it belonged to me. The shaky hands, those tears wearing holes in the folds of the page, those were mine too.
We’re now on week three of my first semester as a graduate student, and the MFA at FAU has far exceeded my expectations. I finally feel I am where I’m supposed to be. It helps that the program offers funding, so there’s no worrying about when and where my next meal will come from. Maybe I’m still eating Ramen noodles and microwaveable pots of macaroni cheese; maybe this is a personal choice.
The people I’m studying with actually care about what they’re doing. My instructors and mentors are masters of their craft. It’s refreshing. But the biggest change since moving into graduate studies is adjusting to a schedule split between the classes in which I’m a student, and those I am teaching. The opportunity was one I couldn’t refuse: three consecutive years of teaching English, gaining professional experience in the field, and escaping from waiting tables at run-down beachfront diners. When I’m not studying, I’m grading assignments and planning lessons for my forty-four unsuspecting undergrads. There I was, convinced I’d given up on English forever. I’d never be a teacher. And yet, the faces of my students are already haunting my dreams. I suppose that shows how much I care about them. I’ve gotten so used to being part of the sea of drooping eyelids and blank faces, that I can’t quite believe I’m here; I’m on the wrong side of the podium and I think I could get used to it.
Rebecca Jensen graduated from the Honors College at the University of South Florida in 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English (creative writing) with a minor in French. Her writing is mainly creative nonfiction, focusing on the themes of travel and identity. She has worked as fiction editor for the literary magazine Driftwood Press, and is a new member of the Coastlines editing team at FAU.