I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too?


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I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog – 

To tell one’s name – the livelong June – 

To an admiring Bog!

                                                                          Emily Dickinson

Who is that woman sitting alone?  I am not your typical fresh-faced, eager college student experiencing academia for the first time.  I do not have that excited amazement wondering what life has to offer.   I don’t even have a peer-group my age.  I probably graduated high school with the parents of my classmates.  I have daughters who are closer in age and have more in common with the people seated around me in the classroom.  Why am I here?  I have found empowerment and self-worth studying English at Western Illinois University.

I chose an English major my first semester at WIU-QC.  Having spent the past twenty years married and raising children, I felt unaccomplished, unappreciated, and worthless.  Sitting in my first English class I felt out of place and nervous.   Looking around the room I found not one person with whom I could identify.  I was ready to give up my dream of a degree in the first week of class, facing the fear of ostracism.  Then I found the literature.  In that first English class I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and recognized my life.  Without mental stimulation I, like Jane, was destined for a destructive emotional break.  The journal entries of Jane’s growing depression and resulting social fear was a concept I related to wholeheartedly.  That short story, read in a Gothic Introductory to Fiction class, reminded me why I so badly wanted this degree.

My age and life experiences allowed me to interpret and make thesis arguments a young student would not understand.  I learned about literature.  I spoke about literature.  I shared my opinions and personal interpretations of literature.  I was given an opportunity to discuss my thoughts on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and someone actually listened.  My opinion had value.  I wrote a paper which explained that opinion, and used quotes from the fiction as evidence of my interpretation.  It was then I realized the function and purpose of an English major and recognized something I absolutely appreciated.  I felt a whole new world opened for me.

As a non-traditional English student I not only juggle the many reading and writing assignments for my class load but also a job, children, housework, and have recently ended a twenty-two year marriage.  For an older non-traditional student (above age 45) comes the additional stress of time.  Seeking an English degree, with sight set on advanced graduate level and teaching adult education, becomes a race against the clock.  The constant concern of, “by the time I graduate I’ll be…(whatever my reply)” creates an added pressure to succeed.  Being late to the game does not offer room for repeating classes.  Being an older college student I have to follow a plan-of-action; and reaching my goals on deadlines becomes the driving force.  I have wasted too much time as it is and can’t afford to frivolously interrupt my education once again.  I have little patience with the younger students treating their educations lightly.  I wish I had their youth to do over.

I am the oldest student in class.  I sit in the front to absorb every word spoken.  I am excited to answer questions and share my opinions because for years I was denied a venue to express myself at all.  I write papers I take pride in, which are submitted on time, if not early, because I am committed to my deadlines.  I’m not sitting in class to make life-long friends, or look for a love interest.  I am there for the education.  I am a no-nonsense, older, non-traditional English student.

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