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Education a funny thing

By Michael Howlett

7 months 23 days 16 hours ago |1148 Views | | | Email | Print

I recently came across an article entitled “Top 5 Most Regretted Majors.” Well, this caught my interest since I specialized in useless classes, as my parents called them, during my illustrious college career. If I remember correctly, I needed 198 quarter hours to graduate, but had 222 when I finally received my diploma. My parents were, as you might guess, ecstatic about the diploma, while at the same time chagrined since my major and minor weren’t exactly tickets to a life of wealth.


Now, I looked at college as a place to sample as much learning as I could get away with, so I took a diverse selection of electives, such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, Russian history, women’s studies, race relations, and … well, you get the idea. Since this was the 60s, I also took courses on such esoteric subjects as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and science fiction novels.


When I entered college I had no earthly clue as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, therefore my approach of diversifying my education seemed like the way to go. Even with all that diversifying, however, I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. When my parents would speak to me about the classes I was taking, the question that most often arose was usually, “What is this leading to?” My usual answer was something along the lines of “I don’t know.” This was not the answer they were looking for.


Eventually, my college advisor told me I had to declare a major, so I choose art. When I told my parents this, I was met with stares of incomprehension. “What are you going to do with an art degree?” they asked. My answer, “I’m not sure.” Although their stress mounted with this declaration, mine eased, I now had a major. Now, art is a fun major, but also a demanding one. My fellow art students and I sometimes spent all night in the art building working and stuff. Although I loved my art classes, I realized that was not the field for me. Luckily, I soon stumbled upon something that I found even more satisfying.


A friend of mine, who had also started out as an art major, talked me into taking some classes in his new chosen field of study. I was hooked almost immediately. My new field of study was … theatre. Now, I’m not talking about how to palm money when selling tickets or how much butter to dump on the popcorn. No, I’m talking about ACTING. Yes, I found I was a born thespian.


I loved everything about theatre, the acting, the directing, the acting, the scene design, the acting and, of course, the acting. Okay, I admit it, I am a big ham. Being on stage in front of a full auditorium is a magical feeling that I dearly love. During my acclaimed career, I performed in 10 plays, directed one, did the scene design for one and the lighting for another. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing.”


When I came home one weekend and told my parents that I had switched majors, their eyes lit up like a magnificently decorated Christmas tree. When I told them that my new major was theatre, their faces dropped like the stock market in 2008. They were shocked, disappointed, confused and, especially my father, angry.


After my fourth year of college, as some of you may know I got a neatly-typed letter from the government requesting my service in protecting this great land. I even acted while in the army, both on stage and off. The off-stage acting involved crawling under my desk and when my First Sergeant asked what I was doing there, I would reply, “I want to go home.” His response was usually, “Well, Howlett, when you decide to come out from there, I need to talk to you.” The First Sergeant was a tough audience.


Anyway, after returning to the real world, that’s what we trained killers call society, I began looking for a job. After trying such mentally-elevating jobs as selling cemetery plots and census taking, I once again stumbled; I do that a lot, this time into the field of journalism, where I have been 30-odd years. By the way, journalism was fifth on the list of “Top 5 Most Regretted Majors.” Hey, ho.

Reach at or (276) 728-7311.

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