What Did I Get Myself Into
Choosing to get my AA in English at Frederick Community College was a spur of the moment decision. Four years ago when I graduated high school I was all excited to come to Coastal until a month before classes were supposed to start and I got a letter saying that there were more freshman than they expected registered to come so I was assigned to live at UP. I wanted to stay on campus my first year but I wasn’t as upset about that fact that I was when I kept reading the letter and found out that I had to share a bedroom with someone else. I am someone who needs their own space so I decided that was not what I wanted and quickly registered at the community college just so I would be doing something.
When it came time to pick a major there English was the closest thing to Communications the school offered and I did not want to go the General Education route.
Once I got past all the core classes I made it to the English literature courses and I still really wasn't into it, but at that point I was a year into the program and figured I would just suck it up so I can graduate and move on to what I really wanted to do, which is photojournalism.
When it came time to choose electives darkroom photography was an easy choice. I already had a grasp of the concepts and love photography anyway. The big thing that was stressed was finding a focus and sticking to a narrative instead of just random ducks and flowers. One thing the teacher suggested was starting to put ideas down on paper, just random thoughts every day. And after a week look back at the list and see if any of those ideas repeat or work together in any way. If they did then that was what you are passionate about and your photography narrative should be about.
Doing this really helped me narrow my focus on to abandoned buildings around my hometown so that is what my semester long project turned into finding and taking pictures of. As I started to think about what the story of my pictures were, I started to think about what the stories in my English classes were telling and trying to relate the two classes. I realized that in order to relate the classes I had to start putting real effort back into these English classes and not just try to pass through them which is what I was doing.
Switching to start paying attention in English class was not an easy change. I had spent so much of the semester just sitting there not reading but still getting A’s on the papers that it was a real challenge. I ended up switching teachers just because I really wasn't getting anything out of the class I was in, and the teacher really didn't seem to care if anyone listened or not. When I started taking classes with Dr. Taft I really started appreciating the stories themselves and felt like I was learning something about who I was as a writer too. The papers we wrote for his class were completely open ended, but had to focus in on how three stories were related, no matter how abstractly, as long as there was a solid explanation.
I spent long hours in his office trying to figure out what he was looking for and just writing parts of the paper over and over asking him to look at it and what he thought. One day when I went to go see him, he told me that he would look one last time but then I needed to have the confidence in myself to know that I understood what I was writing about, and if I didn't then start the whole thing over and figure it out. At the time I was really frustrated because I thought I really needed help.
We were sitting in my photography class and talking about teachers during down time and I mentioned what happened to my teacher and he told me Dr. Taft was right. Brady explained that the same thing works with this photography narrative that if I couldn't explain what I was thinking and trying to express, then I didn't understand it in the first place and I needed to start over and pick something else I knew more about. Once he said that everything started to make sense and I realized I just have to have the confidence in myself to know what I am talking or writing about is correct if I explain it well.
After that conversation English didn't seem like this horrible class to go to anymore and I was glad I stuck with the concentration. All it ended up taking was making the idea of free-writing relate to photography in the sense that you take hundreds of shots over quite a few rolls of film in the hopes of getting a few good shots. My literacy narrative took writing and rewriting over again to figure out where I was headed and what my style is.
When I finally graduated and transferred to Coastal my adviser and the department chair of English told me they could move classes around to make my AA count as my minor as well if I wanted to pick up another minor besides photography, all I would need is to take two more classes here. At first I was hesitant just because of the bad experiences I had with English teachers, but I decided that I should anyway because it would be something that would help me stand out from everyone else graduating in the Communications department looking for jobs in May and it was only two more classes so it wasn't going to hold me back from graduating on time either.