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Saturday, August 30, 2014

An Open Day Experience

WARNING: May contain ranting.

I was lucky enough to be asked by one of my teachers to work at the open day for my university last weekend. She wanted me to be a student ambassador for the Professional and Creative Writing major and because I am ridiculously organised and checked out the course rules and mapped out all my units for the entire three years the moment I enrolled I knew I wouldn't have a problem doing that.

So open day came around and I got a cool blue Deakin shirt that all the other student ambassadors were wearing. I stood outside the little stall set up for the PCW major. We were sharing a stall with Children's Literature, which I know a little bit about through my minor study, and Literature, which I only know of through a few friends doing it as a minor study.

I was having a fantastic day. I love my course and I was really happy to have the chance to share my experiences and knowledge with potential students for next year. I'd start each conversation by telling them which units they had to complete and what they entailed. I'd tell them how amazing the lecturer Dr Pont is for the first unit they would have to do. They seemed so amazed by the flexibility they could have in choosing units and the opportunities for networking with other writers and chances they'd have to get published if they kept their ears and contacts open. I was impressed with myself for being able to answer so many of their questions, even the parents who would pipe up and ask me something seemed satisfied by my answers, especially when they'd ask something like 'what's your goal at the end of your course? What career opportunities will you have? What will you be qualified to do?'

Then this one guy was standing in front of our stall, looking at the names of the majors we were representing on big signs on the wall behind us. He stood there for a few minutes and eventually I stepped up to him and asked if there was anything I could help him with. For all I knew, he was a mature aged student, or the father of some kid who was about to finish high school with no clue of what they wanted to do next. At first he said no, he was just waiting for someone. Then he asked me what course I was representing and I held up my little info flyer and pointed to the Professional and Creative Writing heading.

I won't say he laughed. He didn't laugh. But he may as well have.

He made one of those sounds of disbelief that I never know what to call (I don't always want to say scoff, because it has some mean connotations, but it's probably fitting in this case). And he did it with such condescension that I physically had to force myself to keep smiling and appear unfazed.

His body language changed. He started casually hopping from foot to foot as if he was bored, and started throwing and catching the little stress ball in his hand. While he was doing that, he asked said, 'Alright, sell it to me.' Then he said something to the effect of, 'Why should anyone bother with this course?'

I was mad. Who the fuck did this guy think he was, knocking my course right in front of me? But I'd been selling this to people for two hours already and doing a damn good job of it. So I started listing the skills one could acquire and improve if they did the Professional and Creative Writing major. I told him how much better I am at writing, both professionally and creatively, and how I could edit other people's work like no one's business to make it better, and every business, company, corporation, institution etc. put out any sort of publication (text advertisements, information booklets, video campaigns which need scripts, etc.) needs a good writer and/or editor to do that sort of thing for them if they want it to look professional.

Then he cut me off and said something to the effect of, 'Wouldn't it be better if they just taught kids all that stuff in high school? I mean aren't you just creating a bureaucracy?'

He didn't care to listen to my defenses. Every time I started speaking again, he just cut me off and started going on about bureaucracy and speaking to me in such a pretentious way that frankly he was lucky I was working, in a uniform, with my peers and superiors nearby. Under different circumstances, I probably would have referred him to the My Vagenda article I wrote for the Awkward edition of WORDLY, to give him an idea of what I thought of him.

We were interrupted when his wife came over and I realised she was a staff member at my university. She was working at the next table over, representing the journalism, media communications, and public relations side of things. I had thought it was interesting that both of our stalls were together under the Writing and Communications banner, but not only were there two separate tables, we had taken up different colours to distinguish the obviously more creative majors under that banner from the more serious (for lack of a better word) majors.

In that moment, I knew that there was no way this man would ever be convinced that my course was worth undertaking. There are a lot of people I know who ask me what I'm studying, and when I tell them I study writing they immediately turn around and say, 'So, like journalism?' It ticks me off, probably to an irrational extent, that so few people (except those also doing my course) consider what I'm studying to be substantial, to be worth studying if I want to get a job at the end of it. I spent the rest of open day refraining from shooting this jerk dirty looks as he hung around the journalism/communications/public relations table and trying not to let it get under my skin.

Later, when I had some time to myself, I sat there contemplating all the things I could have said to this guy to shut him down and prove that my course isn't as useless as he makes it sound. I knew his argument had holes and then I could make them bigger if I poked them. If it weren't for the sake of maintaining professionalism while I was working, I wouldn't have let him cut me off so easily. I probably would have cut him off at a few points.

Describing him with a few choice words aside, I would have argued that for him to suggest that we just teach kids the things I was telling him about in high school makes him an idealist. While in theory, yeah, great plan, it would be like communism once it's put in to practice: epic fail. In saying that we may as well teach high school students the stuff I learn in my course, he may as well have suggested we teach high school kids everything a university student is capable of studying and cut out the idea of university altogether. But that wouldn't work. Not every kid is an Einstein. And frankly, even the ones that are usually only excel like that in certain areas. The thing is, we do teach all those things to high school students: at a high school level. For me, the point of coming to university was to take what I excelled in during high school and study it at a higher, more in-depth level to make myself even better at it.

I suck at science. My maths is pretty average. But I am in my element when I'm writing (especially creatively) and when I'm editing. However, there are heaps of people who have it the other way around. They might be ace at science or maths or IT, but have terrible professional English skills. The thing is, because we all excel in different areas, we balance each other out. I'm writing a pantomime for a bio-medicine student at the moment! If that isn't a perfect example, then I don't know what is. Does this guy, and everyone who thinks like him, want to live in a world where there is no creative stimuli for them to take in? No great books to read, regardless of whether you prefer commercial or literary? Movies and television shows couldn't exist if someone didn't write a script, and all those pop songs you hear on the radio sure as hell don't write themselves.

I had a great time working at the open day. Not only did I get to tell heaps of potential students about my course: I realised how truly passionate I am about what I'm doing and how much faith I have in what I'm learning and my potential to utilise it. No one can convince me that my talents are useless and no amount of condescension and narrow-mindedness can make me change what I want to do with my life.

What do you want to rant about this week? 
- Bonnee.

12 comments:

  1. I have plenty of things I'd like to rant about, but typically I try to hold everything in my mind and let it decompress on its own. Most things become clearer with time. Perhaps not clear enough, but clearer still. I definitely feel that the creative arts are important. I think that high school English classes are pretty terribly designed (in the US, at least), but there will always be a need for higher-level education in the area. You learn, realize, comprehend, etc. so much more when you're being creative, as a byproduct of having fun and granting amusement to others through the act thereof. It's definitely not for everyone, but it's for someone.

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  2. I already did, but it wasn't nearly as well-organized or well-written as yours.

    This guy sounds like he was bored and was just trying to get you wound up. I've done a lot of tabling events over the years and there's always one person like that at every event. Sounds like you handled things well, and it also sounds like you've had...not an epiphany, exactly, but a moment of clarity? I think that will work.

    By the way, where can we Yanks go to read My Vagenda? It sounds even more interesting than ever.

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    1. I think 'a moment of clarity' is the best way to describe it.

      I'm going to see if I can upload the stuff I put in Wordly somewhere else. If and when that happens, I'll let you know. Thanks Jeff :)

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  3. Don't waste your time with people with negative vibes like that man. You could have told me that the author of Harry Potter made a Billion $$$ just using her skills of creative writing. And that many companies complain that university graduates can't write. Companies say that they can teach the skills of business to new employees, but not writing. That's why many American companies like to hire Liberal Art students. You don't have to justify why you study what you do. That's your life. You life writing, editing ect and hope to get a job in these fields. so go for it. And the important thing is to finish a university degree, not the subjects you studied. You can graduate from Deakin and apply for a job in the bank, get training to be a manager and move up in ranks, if that what you wish to do. Doesn't mean that if you study creative writing now, that you must be in this field. You have many years ahead of you with many changes, so are just now in an exciting phase of studying in university. With all the t-shirts you collect you can open a store ..:)

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    1. It continues to shock and sadden me when people with university degrees can't write properly. It's definitely something I strive to correct where I can and getting paid for it would be great. I hope to collect a few more t-shirts before I graduate. Thanks G.M. :)

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  4. Oh boy ... what a rude man. I will never understand why people think it's okay to be so openly confrontational and judgmental toward others. You handled it really well, though, and it certainly sounds like your further reflection ended up being a good thing, since it only reinforced your passion and belief in your program. I love the part you wrote about us all balancing each other out. What a fabulous, thought-provoking way to put it!

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    1. See, I don't mind people having their opinions as long as they're willing to accept mine. You don't want to study arts, then don't study arts. I'll do it.

      I do think it's true that the combination of creative and non-creative professions creates a balance. The world would be very boring without one, and a bit useless without the other and frankly, I'd rather be in a useless but fun world than a useful but boring world.

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  5. What a total buttface! I applaud you for handling it in a completely mature and collected matter. If it were me, I'd probably would've grabbed that stress ball and thrown it straight at his face.

    I totally get what you mean, about when people seem so dismissive about creative writing courses. I mean, I know people who are just condescending and bitch about how useless *ART* degrees are in general, let alone creative writing. I'm waiting for the day some jackass says that to me, so I can be like: "oh you think art is useless? Well then you can just forget about ever playing a video game/watching a film/television show ever AGAIN".

    But yeah, I like that your post was pretty spot-on with some really good points. Everyone has a particular subject they have a passion for and excel in, and just because some twat thinks one is less 'useful/practical' than the other, it doesn't make it true.

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    1. Lol stress ball to face contact would have been great.

      Admittedly, I joke about how little I have to do as an arts student, but only in situations I know the people know I'm kidding. But if someone actually said something like that to me in full seriousness and I wasn't under any obligation to act professional... well.

      I don't think anything someone studies can really be useless. I just have my preference and other people have their own preferences and that's the way the cookie crumbles. Thanks for visiting :)

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  6. Hey Bonnee!
    Thanks so much for following me on twitter =)! Just reading your rant made me inspired how you stand up for what you believe in! You truly are an inspiration by chasing after your dreams of becoming a successful published author. Don't worry about those naysayers! There will always be people telling us why bother, so it's up to us to show them why not? It's people like us who dare to question the status quo and chase after our passions to live happier and fulfilled lives, no matter what those naysayers say! =) I'm proud to be your friend and look forward to the day when I'll be reading your first manuscript book to be published =D and yes! Writing is the most underrated skill but most important skill to refine in every single occupation! Keep chasing after your dreams and show the world your amazing writing skills! =)'s Shirley

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    1. Awh, thanks so much for what you said here Shirley! I haven't been on blogger for ages, so I've only just seen this now. The naysayers can't stop people like us--we're too amazing for them. Thanks for visiting my blog! :)

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