My sojourn to Queens College wasn’t born out of anything but necessity.
In the four years previous, I had already gone through what amounted to an epoch of collegiate experience at Hunter College—a period marred by paralysis, intellectual insecurity and self-doubt. That stultifying period was something like being adrift; you felt it most in the anonymity of being in a crowded subway car, or a mundane lecture hall, or a dimly lit tavern. I felt dissociative, taking classes out of habit not purpose, attending lectures out of routine not utility. And eventually you reach a place where you’ll do anything to break up the stasis, and like Hoagland’s “Sweet Ruin” I thought “how one day soon I might take this nervous paradise, bone and muscle of this extraordinary life, and with one deliberate gesture, like a man stepping on a stick, break it into halves… simply for the pleasure of the sound.”
My response was to leave my untenable situation at Hunter—an act of impulsiveness and some measure of desperation. I had accumulated plenty of credits but had no direction or waypoint to steer towards. I knew that writing was a strength of mine, but I couldn’t see the usefulness. My understanding of the collegiate experience was one that commodified a student’s education, and of liberal arts as an avenue towards financial instability. But for all my trepidation on the usefulness of my field, I found in the literature and words of great writers the source of what would be my salvation.
In the midst of that period following my hasty retreat, I found solace in the words of Guare, Baldwin and Sagan. I began to see writing and the studying of literature not just a means of understanding the contextual world around me, but as a means of interrogation. The tools of the writer: introspection, analysis and curiosity existed as a methodology in the pursuit of truth; but the understanding I sought remained my own motivations; the great interrogation was an interrogation of self. Guare writes, “we are all strangers to ourselves,” but he acknowledges that writing is the method and the craft to create a path to our unconscious, the place that reflects truly who we are, the place that is the most inaccessible.
This realization drove me to give the field of English lit a second chance, and I saw Queens College as a chance to reaffirm this new perspective. What I found was a spiritual kinship between the material that was taught and the professors who taught it. I had traded ambivalence for clarity, and each course challenged both the presuppositions I had about the world, but also about myself. I learned how to avoid myopic thinking, to communicate my positions effectively and concisely, and I began to appreciate the rigors and necessity of analytical and rational thought. What the Queens College English department gave me was the tools needed to continue this asymptotic approach to self-knowledge, and to the ability to think critically in a world that appears increasingly entropic and indiscernible.
I currently work as a business development representative at an insuretech company called Attune, where each and every day I employ my communicative skills to help small business owners get access to insurance. If I could leave a note for any anxious future English graduates it would be that the opportunities for success exist, the paths afforded to you are endless. As long as you continue the methodology, practice acute self-awareness and maintain a healthy skepticism you will give yourself the best chance.