Saturday, December 1, 2012

No. 551 – Zoo Station

Performer: U2
Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: Achtung Baby
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

To a certain extent, I can’t think of this song and not envision the start of the 1992 concert at the Pontiac Silverdome. This was the opening song, and it started with Bono singing in silhouette in front of a giant video screen. However, what I really think of is my flirtation with going back to school in 1994.

To a certain extent, my desire to go back and get a masters and possibly a doctorate in English had to do with getting out of Flint, but moreso it was affected by a movie.

You saw Dead Poets Society, right? The first 75 percent of that movie, it was on its way to being my all-time favorite movie. Although I never had an intellectual awakening like the students in that movie had when I was in school, I definitely could relate to it, and I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Being a professor of English seemed attainable and enjoyable.

So I decided to pursue that, much to the consternation of my former college adviser, Dr. Herzog. When I asked him for a letter of recommendation—required for my applications both to Michigan State and Ohio State—he assented but also pretty much told me not to do it. He said it was a difficult road to take and not something he would advise others to follow, even though, obviously, he had done just that.

He wasn’t necessarily wrong. It WAS very competitive and political, but—particularly if I were accepted to Michigan State—what better did I have to do with all my free time during the day? If I couldn’t get out of Flint, I might as well take advantage of the closeness of the school and the benefit of The Journal paying for my education.

I was confident when I sent off everything—with good reason. When I applied to undergrad school, I applied to only two colleges, both of which were tough academically, and got accepted by both—Wabash and DePauw. I chose Wabash, of course.

When I applied to J school, I applied to several schools—mostly out of the desire to cover my bases. Really, though, the only school I was interested in was Northwestern. I was accepted there, of course. I also was accepted by Marquette. I never heard back from Indiana or Missouri, but as soon as I heard from Northwestern, I didn’t care about any of the others, anyway.

So I never really had an educational failure. My grades were excellent; my writing after working in newspapers for six years was well-honed. I had letters of recommendation both from the academic and professional worlds. What could go wrong? Well, neither school accepted me, for one.

I couldn’t believe it when I got the rejection letters. Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t think it was possible that huge state schools would reject someone who graduated with honors from a top private college and had another post-graduate degree from a major private university. The credentials seemed impeccable. But that’s precisely what happened.

Of course, I could have applied elsewhere, but I didn’t think I could swing it financially anywhere else. So I let go of my professorial notion.

I was depressed for a while after that. I couldn’t get a job at a newspaper of magazine anywhere else, and now I couldn’t even get into school. I felt completely trapped.

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