Saturday, March 5, 2011

Taking a quick break to ponder a career change

Okay, not really. But, I am taking a momentary break from writing a paper (not fun) to muse about how I would have loved to be a historian. For the paper I'm currently working on, I've been reading chunks of the National Book Award-nominated Land of Desire by William Leach. It's about the rise of consumerism and the department store in America, and it's the sh*t! Well-written, engaging, super smart, and without the slightest hint of judgement on its part, the book's even managed to make me feel shallow, materialistic, and ashamed of my love of stuff. This is economic, social, and cultural history at its best, if you ask me. And I'd rather read this than a book of literary criticism any day. 

The problem with the become-a-brilliant-historian plan, however, was the usual problem: I couldn't imagine ever coming up with an idea to write a dissertation about. (Yes, as a 21- and 22-year-old undergraduate, I was already thinking things like that). So that got checked off the list with psychologist and all those other things that required original ideas I'd never have. 

Plus, there was this bizarre instance my junior year: 
(Me:  me; Professor H: history professor who taught my junior seminar and from whom I earned an A and wrote a long-arse paper on Patton, Montgomery, and WWII). 

Me:  Would you be willing to write me a rec. letter for law school? 
Professor H:  Sure, I'd be glad to. Your paper was really good, by the way. Law school sounds like a great idea. The market for history jobs in the university is so bad right now, I don't really recommend that people go to grad school for history unless they're really really the top of bunch. 
Me:  Right, cool. 
Professor H:  Yeah, like Jackie, she's got a great idea about WWII and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. 

I mean, was it really necessary to shoot me down when I hadn't even suggested any interest in pursuing graduate studies in history? Was I really that bad!? 

(I would like to note that I took two graduate courses during my MFA program, and the teacher of one of those classes - from whom I earned my only A- during my three-year program, grrrrr - recently published an essay in an OXFORD collection in which he credits my paper for his class with providing some of the ideas he "adapted" for his paper. Isn't it lovely that he cited me by name only after noting that I had been a graduate student in his class? That is, only after basically trying to say he was responsible for me having had the ideas in the first place!)


  1. do you teach high school? despite my blog (which btw is a grammar free zone) I majored in history up to my last year in college then switched to economics. I would think you could easily get a side gig working at a public history center. I mean you should have the research skills from your english degree. Thats what I did for awhile for fun. I mean its not Indianna Jones stuff but it was fun...

  2. I actually double majored in English and history and did an internship at the history museum in town in college. I hated it! Haha. It was sooooooooo boring. I just like writing about and reading about history . . .

    No high school English for me - I don't have the patience to be a public school teacher. (Three cheers to those like my mom, sisters, aunt, and cousin who do!) I teach college English - I'm a PhD student, so this will be my gig for awhile. Hopefully teaching college English will be my gig for a good long while, actually - like 30+ years. That is, if I can manage to find a local-enough job when I graduate . . .