I don’t know how; but, somehow, following the “cooling” stages of what transpired, after my jack’o’lantern’s having been carved, in 1987 and, even in the early stages of undergraduate school, I was able to provide other people amazing amounts of assistance with their writing assignments.
Usually, I could plan on achieving approximately one half to one and a half letter grades lower than the classmates and/or dorm mates, whom I assisted. It was slightly annoying; however, I was lucky to be alive.
Anyway, after taking my first degree in Creative /Professional Writing, I was never able to attain gainful, full-time employment. This, at first, was annoying, yet not troubling. I figured that, sometime, something would turn up.
Eventually, I hit the road, in search of writing employment, based on the fact The Baltimore Sun refused to hire, The Baltimore Citypaper (which I learned, recently, is defunct) refused to hire and, eventually, many of the local newspapers around Baltimore, suddenly were owned by The Baltimore Sun or another company: Patuxent Publishing. (I still don’t know whom one would have to pay to acquire employment at any of the highly respected media outlets.) (wink-wink)
Like an ass, instead of thinking: “maybe I can tutor other writers”, I bugged out, in the dead of Winter, for the West Coast. Just after New Years Day, of 2001, I turned my car westward and headed for the coast.
Actually, first I headed South; that year, in early January, it was really, really cold! Having attended school for a year in Greensboro, NC, I knew that U.S. Route 40 ran right through Greensboro and feeling that less snow represented less potential for getting stuck in a snowdrift and, hence, based on the lesser potential for freezing to death, I chose to go this way.
Yet, even though I drove to the West Coast a lot further South, it was unbelievably cold! I remember thinking that Tennessee, along 40 West, was not really all too enchanting; then, crossing from Tennessee into Arkansas, I could only think about passages from T.S. Eliot’s: The Wasteland.
I mean, it looked like frozen, gristled hell. Banjo music bounded through my mind: dueling banjo music. Memphis, surprisingly, looked really pretty damned decent.
Don’t ask me why I thought this; I think it must have been based on the fact that, years before, I had been to Knoxville and had figured it was likely the cream of the Tennessee crop. I was wrong.
I think it might or must have been the fact that it was the coldest time of year and that, even though I was in the South, it was so bitter out that things just looked depressing in Arkansas.
Essentially, I could only think that the Mississippi River was the River Styx and that Arkansas was Hell. I can visualize that image, quite readily; its image sticks with me: as I was immersed in its experience, I immediately had it seared into my consciousness: visually and from a tactile point of view, as well.
Luckily, at the time, there weren’t any state troopers around because my second-hand Toyota Tercel was traveling slight faster than the posted speed limit. Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, as far as I was concerned, were better seen than experienced, in depth: at least in the dead of Winter. I have been back to Texas…once. When I actually hit California, I didn’t even know it; it was just as Arizona-ugly as every inch of I-40 that existed in AZ!
Then, I made it to Las Angeles… When I first made it to LA, it was kinda early in the afternoon; and, based on this fact, my friend was still at work; therefore, I parked my car at her place and headed out, on foot. Wouldn’t you know it? She was living pretty close to Sunset Boulevard.
Due to this fact, I was not at a loss for things to see. I had a late lunch, somewhere, and poked around, totally unaware of whether my surroundings were safe or not.
Anyway, by the time, two or three hours later, I made my way back to her place, B.T. was home…even though we hadn’t hanged out in quite awhile, B.T. and I were thick as thieves.
She and her L.A. friends, one of whom was Australian (continentally-speaking) and I went out on the town.
We rolled our horrible eyes and gnashed our terrible teeth until we all agreed it was time to take a nap. (We, unlike Sendak’s Max, for sure, did not go to bed unfed…) We woke up the next day, said our goodbyes and I got the Tercel back on the road, northward.
Now, I can never remember the name of the Northern California town or city, along I-5, at which I stayed the last night I was in California.
I do know two things, though; it was definitely Northern California and I also know that I left a massive amount of clothes I had packed in the closet in the motel room.
As soon as I landed in Eugene, OR, this memory dawned upon me. Eugene, OR is where the University of Oregon is. It’s the site of U of OR…the movie: “Animal House”, was filmed there…(moving on).
I was led to believe, by someone, that I wasn’t going to be in Eugene very long; therefore, I didn’t ever query as to the existence of a writing center, there…in reality, I really should have looked into writing center work at The University of Oregon.
However, I didn’t. I was such a jackass. Due to a bus-contingent situation, meaning the piece of guano vw bus I was in started smoking when I was up around Portland, I had to return to Eugene, to change back into the Tercel…Ah…I love Japanese cars. Back, again, I was off to the races, on a collision course with Seattle, WA, in the Tercel.
When I arrived, I chose to stay at the Green Tortoise Youth Hostel, on 2nd Avenue. Here, I remained, for what seemed five hundred years; this was due to the fact that, even though I had been apartment-hunting, while putting out some cursory job-finding tentacles, there was a maggot, waiting to metamorphosize into a fly, in the ointment.
To my surprise, though, in exploring the town of Seattle, WA, I was able to find a number of community colleges that were, to my way of thinking, kind of chaotically-peppered through the area. Like an idiot, I never considered looking into any of them to try to find any employment, due to the fact that, in my experience, you needed at least a Master’s degree to teach on this level of education.
I never even knew of the existence of writing centers…however, while staying at the hostel, I did make it up to the U-District, found my way to the Writing Center and filled out two applications for employment. One of these was for full-time employment and the other was for part-time employment.
In reality, I don’t know if the University of Washington’s Writing Center ever tried to contact me, in response to my submission of the application, due to the fact that, in 2000, having only recently acquired my first cell phone, I really wasn’t accustomed to keep it on or even charged.
Now, when I think back to this situation and reflect on the degree to which I am ensconced in digital technology, I can only curse my previous self. If I would have kept my phone charged, on my person and on, likely, I would still be in Seattle; I would, maybe, have landed full- or part-time writing tutoring work at the university and never have had all the things happen to me that are positive, that have led me to commence to start this blog.
While living in King County, I worked, briefly for Amazon.com and for the Seattle chapter of the American Muscular Dystrophy Association; when I was not looking for employment, I was, in general, writing poetry or attending poetry readings.
Also, I was published in two Seattle publications, that never let me know that they were publishing me and that, to my knowledge, would have likely never have had me be let know. This was poetry, mind you.
Honestly, the idea of becoming employed as a writing tutor never really crossed my mind, after the initial submission of my application of the University of Washington; as I’ve asked, before: “what kind of jackass was I?” (HEE HAW!!!)
After several months of very spotty employment in Seattle, I turned my Tercel, eastward, on I-90 and hit the road; that first night, I made it to Ellensburg, WA; here, I checked into a motel, spent the night and left the next morning, forgetting that I had had to submit a credit card in order to check in; several months later, on the East Coast, I received a bill for several hundred dollars in erroneous charges.
Luckily, I was able to verify that the charges weren’t racked up by me and was absolved of any responsibility for them.
I think it was equidistant from Seattle to Ellensburg as it was from Ellensburg to Spokane. I had been to Spokane once before; it was approximately 1 1/2 years before and, at the time, it had looked, to me, like hell.
Only, Spokane does have more than one university and, I’m assuming, more than one writing center, and most likely, it does have a community college, or two.
Is possible these schools had writing centers? I have no idea; I think the sole thing I was concentrating on was getting back to the East Coast.
(37.) Thinking back, it is strange how fast a used car can travel through the state of Idaho. Montana, on the other hand, was a different story; it was beautiful! If you ever have the chance, I recommend Montana, along Interstate 90, to anyone who wants to be amazed by nature…and, the best part is that it, for a while, parallels the Yellowstone River!
(38.) Butte, Billings and Livingston…were the names I remember on the exits; only, I didn’t have time to stop; and, in hindsight, I really should have stopped at each.
Sadly, I only stopped at one of the towns in Montana for the purpose of spending the night; I don’t know which one it was, other than the fact that I know it wasn’t Livingston.
Next, I know I hit Wyoming, and, even though I’d been there, previously, for about an hour, I know it wasn’t, solely, to this portion of the state. A friend of mine had moved, from Baltimore, to Western South Dakota and I remember flying out to stay with him. One time, my friend and I drove out into Wyoming at night and found a ghost town-esque, abandoned gas station.
Amazingly, the Wyoming I was experiencing, driving solo from Seattle, was strangely exhilarating to me, to the extent that, every fifteen to thirty minutes (I guess), I found myself, blurting out, aloud, “WY-O-MIN'”.
To my knowledge, even though it is and was considerably shorter, mileage-wise, than Montana, Wyoming is a pretty damned long state, latitudinally speaking.
I really know and knew nothing about it, other than the fact that my two aunts had gone to school there…however, I had been to South Dakota.
Truly, I was right in my milieu…at first. When we were in early high school, a friend of mine, who is now deceased, moved to Western South Dakota and I flew out, thrice, to visit him.
The first time was before I had my monster stroke and the other times were post-stroke majora. Wyoming, to me, was no Montana; however, it was no Northern Idaho, either. In my travels through Western South Dakota, this time, it was kind of neat.
Actually, I recognized several aspects of it that I had seen, previously, and felt right at home; however, due to the weird Seattle climate, I, somehow, had it in my head that, even though it was early June, I would run the risk of hitting snow, were I to venture far from I-90.
This was so, even though, at one point, when I was stopped for lunch, I heard someone mention the town in which my friend had lived in the second time I visited him in S.D. It would have been kind of nice to have seen the Belle Fourche River, in the town of Belle Fourche, again.
However, I was on a mission to get the hell back to the East Coast; therefore, I sped on, straight, on I-90, passing into central, then eastern South Dakota…welcome to Minnesota.
Somewhere in Minnesota, I detoured off from I-90, I think onto I-94, and headed into Iowa; then, from there, I headed East, through, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and, finally, arrived back in Maryland. (Ta-Da!!!)
What, you say? What happened to the diatribe about writing tutoring? It’s still coming…back in the Baltimore area, I don’t remember how or why; however, I somehow, entered into the writing tutoring line of work, not knowing that it was really going to be my true calling.
I remember, at first, thinking that it was something I could do until I lucked out and found the perfect writing job. This was my thinking, based on the fact that I held, and still do, a degree in Creative/Professional Writing.
However, when was the last time you heard of someone who hasn’t got a pre-established mega-network being able to make a go of things, in the absence of buckets of nepotism and/or without the willingness to compromise and take the path or paths of least resistance? How about the same individual who has a spooky short-term memory deficit that messes with his or her ability to processes information that or she reads or hears.
For me, in reality, information that was repeated, to the extent I became nauseous, seemingly, was the only new information that was able to be successfully acquired by my brain well enough to allow me to deeply process it. Deep processing, for me, was the only way I could actually use new information.
The frustrating thing about undergrad school, for me, was the fact that, a month or two after I would have finished a semester, suddenly, I’d be able to expound amazingly in depth about the most amazingly in depth aspects of what the course entailed.
This was how undergraduate school went off for me. (For anyone who has a memory deficit yet, simultaneously, is in school, studying English, consider changing your emphasis to English Ed. or Writing Education.)
Anyway, once back on the East Coast, I don’t remember how; but, I heard about the opportunity to tutor writing at a nearby community college…thereby, I got in touch with the people in charge of the school’s writing center and, lickety-split, I was gainfully employed, part-time! Okay, when I, first, worked in a writing center, I really wasn’t aware of exactly how amazingly well-suited it was to my strengths.
In reality, it really was nearly a perfect fit. If an individual came to me, in need of assistance with an English 101 assignment, I looked it over and let the student know where an assignment needed amendment, if, at all, it needed it.
If a student brought me a 200-level English assignment, I was easily-enabled to look it over, kick its tires, read it over and, quite easily, give the student pointers as to how to change the writing, such to have it be able to be flawlessly articulated, if not highly-freaking supercharged. I was in hog, stinking, heaven…
I actually was able to work amazingly effectively, have knowledge that I was doing, at least, a plausibly good job, and not have the need to go to amazingly overboard lengths, checking and re-checking my work, in order to perform at an amazingly high level, qualitatively.
It was amazing! (Finally!!!) After one semester of working at one community college’s writing center and getting the amazing impression that I was doing an acceptable job, I saw fit to look for other, similar places to work in a similar capacity.
I found another community college, way the heck on, almost, the opposite end of the universe at which to work! Yet, when the “totally unforeseen” economic downturn of the final days of the Clinton Administration ensued, the employment opportunities that I had been enjoying ceased to be to my avail…thereby, it being true that my girlfriend, at the time, was working in Washington, DC, we, together, decided that we would move down closer to where she worked.
This, as well, I hope, would make it possible for me to be is to find employment, more readily. I mean, at least Washington DC area had a thriving newspaper that, every time I looked in its Employment Section, I saw several, sometimes more than 100 open positions for writers and editors.
(63.) Even if I was still unable to find more writing tutoring employment, at least I would have a better chance of finding work in the DC area; before this time, I had worked in the DC/Northern Virginia, every blue moon, whenever I could find an opportunity, respond to the ad, then successfully find my way to the jobsite.
(In reality, this didn’t really happen all that much, based on my difficulty I would experience while attempting to find a job site I needed to show up at, in order to begin to work a contract, the first day, or in being enabled to find the same site, on subsequent days of a given, particular, contract.)
After having moved down to the region I am currently in, things became a lot easier for my short-term memory deficit not to foul up. However, despite the fact that I was working for less money, at first ($7.00 per hour and $8.00 per hour), I was, once again, enabled to work…The $7.00, per hour rate of pay was what I received, working for the University writing center.
The other amount was what I made, working for the University’s athletic tutoring program. I worked for these two entities, simultaneously, or one full semester.
Then, based on a miscommunication, I was let know by the head of the second I entity for whom was him that I was not going to be eligible for continued employment; at this, I merely doubled down and began to work 11-hour shifts at the school’s writing center; only, this lasted just one semester or two.
My boss at the Writing Center had to let me know that, as an outsider to the university, I was only allowed to continue to work there if I intended to become a student; thereby, I got all my ducks in a row and proceeded to apply to the school. This, of course, in my mind, was just doing what I needed to do, in order to maintain my ability to work.
As an individual who had been through a lot, neurosurgically-speaking, I knew that, as an undergraduate student, I had been able to take the SAT with extended time and that, previously, I had been able to take the GRE in the same way, as well.
Thereby, I figured that I would be able to use my previous GRE scores to attain admittance to the program I wanted to enter. You’d think it would have been that easy; only, bureaucracy exists! I was forced to have my learning disability re-documented.
This is and was, despite the fact that, if you didn’t know this, brain cells are extremely difficult to repair, once they have been damaged, the rationale for making it so difficult for an individual to have access to accommodations for him or her to return to school or to engage in school for the first time, and it’s absolutely wrong.
However, if I had not experienced all of these drawbacks, I might not have had the mind-set I have now, which is to make everyone aware of all the existing gaps that still exist in much of today’s higher education systems for individuals who are of learning disabled status.
By contrast, in order to do what I wanted to do, I had to, not only, re-take the GRE (graduate record exam), but, in order to be granted the ability to have extended time for the test, I was required to be re-tested to re-confirm the fact that I had a disability…the state I am a resident of, rather deplorably, requires learning disabled individuals to jump through hoops, in order to attain full accommodations.
To tell the truth, I think this is deplorable, based on the fact that, comparatively, it’s as if an individual in a wheelchair was forced to spill out of his or her chair, prior to being allowed to access a ramp; but, the reality is what the reality is; and, in order to re-take the GRE with extended time, I had to enlist a private practitioner to test me, such to have my LD re-documented.
This is a sort of “funny” story; in that, my whole life, even after having nearly died, in 1987, except for directly after I returned home from having surgery for the next to last time, in Canada, I have always had a way with words; when I was being re-tested by the practitioner, he had to have me go through a battery of tests, some of which I had been administered before. Woodcock-Johson, I think, was one of them.
The one I know I definitely had to be assaulted with was the WAIS-III. I remember this, due to the fact that, previously, when I was enduring “Cognitive Therapy”, after I returned to Baltimore, in 1987, when I would go to physical, occupational and cognitive therapy, three days a week, after high school.
In 1987, the test I was repeatedly administered was the WAIS-R, or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised; actually, I was given the same types of tests, before I went away to college, for the sake of accessing extended time when I took the SAT; anyway, the most-recent practitioner used the WAIS-III. The funny thing was that, even though an extremely long time had elapsed between testings, one thing became screamingly evident.
Despite the fact that, in the nearly fifteen or so years that had elapsed between my final stroke and that present time, nearly all of my mental faculties had resurged to very near, if not at or above their original levels, one component of my “cognition” had been dramatically left in the grey mattered dust; that key element was my SHORT-FREAKING-TERM MEMORY!!!!!
As far as writing tutoring goes, the resurgence of short-term memory, I don’t think, had much impact; yet, as a tutor who is now blogging like crazy and interacting, daily, via several zillion different methods, having a re-revamped short-term memory rocks righteous rump, really!
THE WILD THING
The wild thing that was inherent in my being forced to go into the writing tutoring field, as opposed to the writing field was that I had never thought there was a huge amount of difference. This really isn’t true.
The reality is that there are a number of profound differences. First of all, the difference that exists between most English 101 curricula and the type of writing that anyone has to do, usually, in a real-world situation. Its my opinion that there ought to be a restructuring of the English 101 curriculum that any learning disabled student takes.
My reason for stating this is the fact that, having worked as a tutor of as a means to afford to complete a degree in Writing Ed., I came to, both, work and grad school, with an “outsider’s” unaffected perspective.
The reality is that I got an A in English 101; however, in the majority of my undergraduate classes, I got B’s. Some of these B’s resulted from a lack of understanding on the part of my professors, some of the B’s came from a lack of motivation on my part and some of the B’s came from my learning disability’s ability to merely cause my short-term memory deficit to make it nearly impossible for me to perform well on comprehensive exams.
If I had been able to peer into the future and see my future self taking to the Writing Education classes that I took as a grad student, I would, immediately, have changed my major to Higher Education: Writing Education Curriculum and instruction; only, I would have had access to a working crystal ball.
The rationale for my having begun this entire post is to communicate, outwardly, to the community of people who have experienced less-than 100 percent rates of success, that there are always other paths that can be used when a path that one first tries to use winds up not paying off. Please contact me, via e-mail, at:
at: http://www.facebook.com/mattramzzz1971, to pose any questions, to make any comments or to inquire as to writing tutoring assistance.