Typically, the first year I live anywhere is a blur. It’s
that unsettling year of confusion trying to find out how a place works and
figuring out how to make a routine and friendships. The first and only year I
lived in El Paso, Texas is an exception. I remember lots of things—the
mountains and the view of Mexico from my bedroom window, the day we had to put
our dog down, the afternoons I spent riding and grooming my horse Connie, and
starting community college.
I remember when I was signing up for my classes in community
college and my advisor sat me down, glanced at my high school records, and
asked if I didn’t want to major in law instead of English. Essentially, why
would anybody want to waste talent on studying a language they already speak? I
was flattered at the remark on my previous grades, but I stuck with English
anyway and breezed my way through my freshman year.
As the spring semester rolled around, my dad received orders
to move to Germany. And I was determined that I would go along with my family.
There was only one problem—my education. How would I manage to major in English
in a non-English speaking country? After much consideration, and several
changes of plans, I ended up attending Evangel University that fall.
And many more things changed.
I still majored in English but I also took up a minor in
writing and joined Epiphany, the
university’s literary magazine staff. But it didn’t take me long to learn that
university life was much harder than community college. I panicked when I received
my first D on an essay, and not for lack of trying. Having been used to getting
all As, such a grade was an unheard of disaster. And while I adjusted to a new
level of work, I never quite got used to the reading lists—there were so many
readings lists for so many literature classes.
Sitting in British Literature one day, staring at the
assigned texts for our course, I realized that I recognized most of the titles
but had only ever read maybe one or two of them. And I was an English major!
Looking at my friend and classmate, Faith, I said, “I feel like I’ve been
living under a rock my whole life.”
Wasn’t I supposed to be a bookworm? How was it that twenty
books for a college class should make me feel so ignorant? That semester
passed, and the next, and the next. Now that I’m in grad school studying
English literature, I still don’t think much has changed. Yes, I’ve read
countless books in the past four years, but I’ve also learned that there is so
much more to learn.
Studying English in my undergraduate gave me some of the
basics, and majoring in English literature at a postgraduate level showed me
there are even more things to learn, let alone read. I may have taken a class
on Shakespeare, but I haven’t read all his plays. I have studied A Tale of Two Cities, The Faerie Queene, and The Great Gatsby, but I have yet to read
Great Expectations, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and 1984. And my to-be-read (TBR) list is
Studying English has given me a mere sampling of the world’s
literature. It’s shown me that learning is a continual process and that there’s
more to being an English major than being a Grammar Nazi. (Which I’m not by the
way. I don’t want hold people up to such standards when I can’t spell half the
time.) And it’s like my mom used to say, “The more you know, the more you know
you don’t know.” I don’t have to feel like I’ve lived under a rock my whole
life, basking in ignorance just because I had different experiences.
I may not have read Les
yet, but I’ve seen Paris
twice during summer break visiting my
family in Germany. I may not have studied Antony
, but I got to see it performed at the Globe Theatre. I may
not have read Black Beauty
Connie had a beauty of her own despite her
shy, awkward temperament.
On the other hand, I’ve visited Israel with Sherlock Holmes
in O, Jerusalem when I might never
visit in person while turmoil continues. Through reading, I’ve seen fictional
worlds such as Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts. I’ve even visited Mars
within the pages of Out of the Silent
Planet and A Princess of Mars.
So no, I haven’t lived under a rock my whole life, though
sometimes it feels like it. There’s just more places to discover, more books to
read, and less to take for granted—even the ordinary days when I’m at home with
family and a shelf full of books.
Have you ever felt like you’ve lived under a rock when
considering what you haven’t read? How many books are on your TBR list?
Literary references: Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
The Great Gatsby, Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,
George Orwell’s 1984, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, and Edgar Rice
Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars.