Junior Year of Freedom

Boosted and encouraged by a summer a self-discovery,   I jumped both feet into my junior year.

I liked being an English major. I finally had a major. My year was off to a great start. I quickly chose my classes and I  began composing poems and vignettes about my grandparents. College was new again, like I had pressed restart. I volunteered to help with Freshman Orientation and participated in all the activities. I went to the welcome parties and events and felt like a kid again. Color came into my vision. I felt free and alive.

I was assigned by random lottery (completely not my choice) to Okada House, the Asian-American theme dorm, and my Resident Advisor was Ed Iwata, a newspaper journalist. He invited authors Amy Tan and  Gus Lee, playwright David Henry Hwang and other prominent Asian Americans to give talks at our dorm (lucky me!) He gave feedback on my writing and encouraged me to keep it up. He left books about writing in front of my door. I considered him a mentor and couldn’t believe my good fortune.

I pursued creative writing with a fearless abandon. I asked the well-known Poetry professor, Dianne Middlebrook, whose class I had taken, for feedback on my poetry. She agreed and even sponsored me for a mini grant I had applied for to spend a morning with American poet Ruth Whitman. I enrolled in Advanced Composition with a Lecturer names Jane Emery.  She already had a distinguished career in Australia and had recently taken the part-time position in her seventies. She took me under her wing and pointed out the potential in my writing. We kept in touch for decades after graduation and she became not only a mentor but a dear, cherished friend.

I did not do particularly well in my English classes. I earned Bs in all my classes, but I was not discouraged. I knew that my writing and my thinking skills were improving. I felt like a motor was being started, like car in park while being revved, about to take off.

I spent hours in quiet corners of the university–in the library, at cafe tables, underneath a tree, or on a lonely bench– reading, praying, jotting down notes on napkins, journaling, experimenting with ideas on scraps of paper, enjoying my thoughts. I didn’t t think about careers or what I was doing after graduation. I was lost in my art.

Author’s Reflections:  Looking back, that  year was a gift. After the last two years of confusion and shame I finally began connecting with myself. I started to find my voice.  I had been looking desperately looking for career direction and had not found it, but God had given me through writing what I needed most–self-awareness, self-acceptance, a means to unpack my own thoughts. Writing brought hidden sadness  into existence and I began to heal.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever been flooded by gifts you didn’t ask for or deserve? In my case the gifts were mentors.  What are some gifts in your life right now?

I had put career planning on the back burner and delved into my art. Was this a wise use of time?  Should I have been making plans for my future after college? 

Author: Patricia Tina Wu

I'm a teacher educator, realtor, mom, and now also a blogger. I've worked in corporate sales and marketing and as an elementary school teacher. Settling into a career has always been difficult for me. I hope that my experiences will help career seekers, young people, and their parents navigate what is sometimes a confusing and difficult area of life. I'm not out of the desert yet, but things are finally starting to make more sense.

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