My wife Andrea is a High School English teacher. This doesn’t necessarily make her smart. There are some really sub-par teachers out there, it’s a wonder that some of them even made it through High School. Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t even do two years in the Education department at BSU doesn’t bode well for my intelligence. I maintain that it wasn’t a matter of intelligence, but of motivation that kept me from coming out the other side with a hirable degree or prospects of a successful career. I think that that same analysis can apply to just about every success or failure in my life. I might for instance have stayed at a job I hated for three years not because I was too stupid to know any better, but because to quit that job would mean that I would have to find a new one. Which requires starting over, job interviews, training, workshops, all of the horrible useless things that are absolutely the worst part of any day. It’s a little bit status quo and a little bit of apathy. What you can’t account for on the other side is how you will feel after all the mindless busy work is over with. My pessimistic mind tends to assume that things will just be a different sort of miserable monotony. But with my latest career change this has not been the case.
I am fairly certain that I got this job only by my association with my wife. I know that sounds a little bit nepotistic and it was not purposeful on our part. She did not put in a good word for me. The guys who hired me were looking to hire a male, which I happen to be. They were looking for someone who wouldn’t be afraid to deal with a physical situation, but also someone who could serve as a good role model for the male students, many of whom do not have fathers or any steady male authority figure. I don’t know that I have anything on my resume that would lead someone to believe that I could fit the latter stipulation. I have essentially been a kitchen burn out for the past decade. There is nothing impressive about that, it just shows that I was able to keep a job for a period of time. Maybe that’s enough? I don’t think so. There are things that a resume has no way to show. These are things that an interviewee needs to demonstrate with his attitude, body language, choice of words and appearance. Any one who knows me knows that this is not my strong suit. I am an awkward, floor-staring mumbler at best. This is especially true when I am under pressure, and also especially true when I am wearing a tie. I am sure I was sweating and probably smelled like smoke. We discussed some hypotheticals: How would you handle this situation? How would deal with this kind of kid? Then, at one point the interviewers had to share with me how much they thought of Andrea. They were impressed with how dedicated she is to her job and how well she seems to identify and interact with the students. Thereby implying that if I am anything like her, I would be an asset to the organization. I just agreed with them, not wanting to break the spell. Not wanting to blurt out what was in my head: I am not Andrea, I am not that good, you should just pass on me!
I may never know why I was hired, but one thing is certain, it really has worked out well. What made me think of this was the image I chose to use as our header. It is an excerpt of a project Andrea works on in her spare time, diagramming and analyzing sentences. In this case it is the victory speech of our current President. If you are not familiar with the art of diagramming sentences, it is an exercise taught to grammar students who are learning about sentence structure. It is a way to visualize a sentence by breaking it up into it’s components:subject, predicate, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunctions, prepositions…etc. You start with a line labeling the subject and the verb and the rest of the sentence branches off of that. It sounds simple, but the more complex the writer or speaker, the more complex and the more challenging the diagram.
Take a look at opening line of President Obama’s victory speech last year: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
Now compare that to the opening line of President Bush’s victory speech in 1999: Our country has been through a long and trying period, with the outcome of the presidential election not finalised for longer than any of us could have ever imagined.
Not only is Bush’s speech simpler in structure, but what I think is very telling is the content. I won’t burden you with a more detailed analysis. For one thing I am unable to properly explain the complexities of the English language. Even the smallest deviation from childish sounding simple speech is beyond my very rudimentary vague understanding. Oh sure, I could probably read up on it and figure it out. But rest-assured when whatever task it was required for was done with, the knowledge would quickly fade, like so many things; higher math has disappeared in it’s entirety, for instance. But she’s got it figured out, it’s fun for her and that’s amazing to me.
Anyone who spends any time around an English enthusiast will soon notice there is something different about them. They are always looking beyond the external layers for deeper meanings. They are always looking for dramatic themes and comparing events to historic literature. This can be fascinating if you’re in the right mood and I usually am, on the other hand, if talking during movies bothers you, don’t come over to our house. I have proposed a system of hand signals to indicate when the question she is asking is a rhetorical one and when I need to pause the film and actually listen to what she is saying. Watching anything to do with Shakespeare is hopeless.
So, I guess I lucked out. Things went my way, for once. The stars aligned with the planets. Now if only she were rich.