Why I blog

When I started blogging again (you know, about a week and a half ago), I promised myself I would make every effort to post once a week. That really doesn’t seem like that big of a commitment, right? I used to blog every day! Yet here I am, looking at a calendar and discovering it has in fact been seven days since my last post. Time sure flies when you’re in grad school and working full time, even when having fun is not always involved. So you’ll have to excuse me if this post is even more stream of consciousness than usual.

This afternoon I finished a project for one of my classes looking at how my perspective on writing was (and continues to be) formed compared to how a particular teenager’s perspective on writing was (and continues to be) formed. One of the questions that we were to consider was what we believed the purposes of writing to be. In thinking over my answer, I gained a ton of new insight and self-reflections on why I write and what I’m trying to accomplish when I write. Here’s the list I came up with of my main purposes:

I write…

  • To force myself to think through my ideas
  • To communicate my thoughts and emotions in a deliberate way
  • To sway other people’s interests or opinions
  • To create art and beauty

As I mentioned in the presentation, the very best blog posts I’ve written accomplished all four of these things at once. Right this second as I type, I’m realizing that there’s another big purpose I forgot: to entertain. I want people to enjoy reading my blog so I spend time (the amount varying from a fair amount to a crapton) trying to make my posts entertaining. Well great. Now I’ve gone and thought of something cool to add and I’ve already turned it in! As my new favorite professor says, projects are due but never done.

This whole thought process coincides with the reasons why I decided to start blogging again. I want to be a great high school English teacher and a big part of that is helping my students to build their writing identities. Each one will be unique, but I want them all to in some way be creative, thoughtful, organized, confident, personal, flexible, and resilient. I want students to leave my classes knowing and being proud of who they are as writers.

That is no small task, but I think it starts with me knowing and being proud of who I am as a writer. How else can I do that but by writing myself on a regular basis?

So that’s the deep, profound answer to why I started blogging again. Also, I just really love it. For me, blogging is one of those things that you somehow get out of the habit of doing and then when you do it again you are like MAN! THIS IS AMAZING! Why don’t I do this every day?!? It’s right up there with soccer in being the best natural high I know. And blogging doesn’t even leave me out of breath or bathed in my own sweat (usually). So there’s another reason why I write – to bring myself joy (I really should have written this post before I submitted my project).

This is why I’m determined to somehow carve out an hour or two per week to do this blogging thing. That will bring the number of activities I do outside of work and school up to three. In the time it took me to write the last sentence I had automatically categorized each of those three activities into different type of outlets: blogging is creative, soccer is physical, having dinner with Cecily is social. Folks, this is what reading adolescent development and psychology textbooks will do to your brain.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go write an entire mock lesson plan and read five freakishly long chapters…

Posted in Becoming a Teacher, Writing | 2 Comments

Grad school!

My last post ended on a bit of a cliffhanger in which I announced I had decided to become a teacher and provided no further details. Welcome to the exciting conclusion!

I had spent months if not years looking for new job inspiration. When I finally found it, I wasted no time in researching the best option for getting my teaching license to teach high school English. There seemed to be two main program options for me since I already had a bachelor’s degree and didn’t want another one: a career switcher or a master’s degree.

The career switcher programs were aimed at people just like me who had already had one career and then decided to completely switch gears and become a teacher. But one of the biggest benefits, the speed in which you can get your license, was also one of my biggest concerns. Would I feel prepared to teach full-time after less than a year of education and less than a semester of student teaching? I decided no. After all, teaching was to be my new career for the foreseeable future, so rushing through the preparation didn’t seem like the way to go. Plus, having my master’s degree in addition to my teaching license couldn’t hurt.

There were only two real choices of master’s programs since I knew I wanted to stay in northern Virginia and go to the best quality school possible. In the end I chose George Mason University, even though it was slightly further away, because it seemed like the best program at the best value. They require all sorts of prerequisite classes in the subject matter you plan to teach before you even start the master’s program – that English major that I considered impractical in undergrad would have come in handy after all!

Within a month of first pondering the thought of being a teacher, I was enrolled in my first few prereq classes. Over the next six months I would take survey of American Lit, survey of British Lit, survey of World Lit, literature of science fiction, linguistics, and grammar, all offered by my neighborhood community college. Luckily all but the linguistics class could be taken online.

The literature classes were all awesome and reminded me just how much I love reading, dissecting, discussing, and writing about great literature. Of course the literature of science fiction class was by far the best thing ever; the moment when my professor referenced the Borg in a discussion of that week’s literature was the highlight of those six months and possibly my entire academic career.

Linguistics was somewhat interesting in that I had absolutely no prior knowledge of what exactly linguistics was, but annoying in that I actually had to, you know, go to class. For three hours a night, twice a week. And the grammar class was awful. So, so awful. Not because I’m bad at grammar – I’m good at grammar. But we had to do so little work, and even that was pitiful in its level of difficulty, that I felt scammed out of the $500 I paid for the class. There’s no way I spent more than four hours IN TOTAL doing work for the entire eight weeks. That’s less time than I spent in class in one week of linguistics. I guess I shouldn’t complain about not having to do work, but seriously. Give your subject matter some dignity, grammar professor.

Now I’m officially a grad student at Mason and that is a whole different animal. A big, fun, high-maintenance, fascinating, frustrating, inspiring animal. With teeth.

I am excited again. As soon as I’m done with class I want to call someone and tell them all the cool things we talked about (luckily my mom is just as fascinated by my tales from school as she was for the first 16 grades). I find myself with just as much to say and contribute in class on the subject of teaching as I once did in AP Lit. I lie awake at 1 a.m. unable to stop my brain from working on the lesson plan for my first day of class two years from now based on the reading I finished earlier that night.

Part of this excitement stems from the fact that I truly love learning in general, but I’m happy to realize that part of it comes from a true interest and passion for learning how to be a good teacher. If I had any lingering doubts about whether I would be interested in teaching, those are mostly gone now. Of course I still have some lingering fear that I won’t succeed at it, but at least I know I will be excited to try.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to freeze time so I can get all this reading done by tomorrow.

Posted in Becoming a Teacher | 4 Comments

Inspiration often waits to show up until after you’ve given up on looking for it

Hey. *Insert witty acknowledgment of how long it has been since my last post here.*

Collection of hashtags to update you on what’s been happening in my life so far in 2014 (because I know everybody loves hashtags, especially when they are used in great quantity): #returningtoDClife #parttimenanny #parttimewriter #youcompletemesoccer #vicariousconcussion #gettingclosertothebig30 #missedthecherryblossomsAGAINmom #tandembikingtourist #baseballisbestwithdad #concussionsreallysuck  #mechanicalbull #ziplining! #lostlivingexampleofwhatcaringis #oxfordcomma #noseriouslyconcussionsaretheworst

And one more that will be the subject of the rest of this post: #majorlifechange

I’ve never been a person with a ton of ambition when it comes to my job; most all of my aspirations in life have revolved around things outside of work. What I am is a planner, and a practical one at that. And when it came to school, I had ambition coming out of my ears. From a fairly young age I was thinking about where I was planning on going to college and what I needed to do in school to get there. As a 13-year-old, I literally sat down and wrote a 4 year plan of the classes I would take in high school to prepare me for college. By my junior year of high school, I was deciding what college major would be most helpful in getting a (paying) job that involved writing in some form. No being an English major working at McDonalds for this girl.

But since I graduated from college my ambitions for my career have been limited to #1: paying my rent and #2: looking forward to going to work at least half of the time. My first job after graduation was the only time I managed to do both at the same time, but it was a temporary gig. Afterwards I proceeded to succeed at #2 but not #1, #1 but not #2, and then #2 but not #1 again. I would say that failing at #2 is worse, except failing at #1 adds a level of stress that tends to dim the happiness of succeeding at #2.

So I’ve been thinking for a while now of switching career gears entirely. I joked that my massive road trip across the country last fall was a walkabout, but it’s actually not that far from the truth to say that I was trying to find myself – or at least the job part of myself. Rhode Island, Cleveland, hometown, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Arizona, Vegas, San Francisco, Colorado, collegetown: everywhere I went I found amazing people, incredible sights, and awesome adventures…but no career inspiration.

After months of travel, I returned to my hometown to spend Christmas with the family. The holidays came and went and I was getting ready to finally return to my life in DC…still no inspiration. There I was, loading down every inch of my little car with 4.5 months worth of luggage and souvenirs, when up walks the source of inspiration I should have been looking for the whole time.

My dad always puts a lot of thought into what he says. Quite the opposite of a person with no filter, he is very deliberate when he speaks: considering how best to say something, how the other person will interpret it, what they might say in response. He’s very good at this so 95 percent of the time you would never even notice he’s doing it.

Then there are the SUPER IMPORTANT conversations: the ones he’s been thinking about  for a while, the ones about the big life things. Those of us who know him well always know when those are coming. You might have already been talking about inconsequential things for a while or he might have just walked up to you; either way you know it’s time to shut up and really listen when you notice The Pause.

The Pause is no ordinary break in the conversation. It has its own aura. One of promise and significance, anticipation and depth. You can hear it, see it, feel it, taste it. This is a silence that is practically shouting.

So back to me trying to cram the last of my suitcases in the trunk. My dad is helping me like the master packer that he is, we might have even been chatting idly about such things as the best route to DC, I can’t remember. Suddenly I notice it: The Pause. I put down the suitcase in my hands and settle in to wait for the big reveal.

To be honest, I’m not even sure of the exact words he used (which is a shame since I’m sure they were chosen with care). Looking back, they all sort of meld into one simple, earth-shattering, life-changing question: “Have you considered becoming a teacher?”

The answer was no, I had never seriously considered it. Months later and I still can’t figure out why that is. Was I too young to see myself taking on the role of the teachers I looked up to? Was I too intimidated by the awesome responsibility? Was I too focused on writing being the main function of my future job? Was I too immature to appreciate the beauty of a pension and paid vacation?

Dad’s timing could not have been more right because suddenly I was in a car for 13 hours with nothing but time to consider my answer. I came to a few realizations pretty quickly: I love school. I love writing. I love reading. I love hanging out with teenagers. I love learning. I love sharing my passions. I love telling stories. I love paid vacation. I love retirement plans.

As the pro list grew and grew, I forced myself to consider the cons: Getting up early – every day. My public speaking skills sometimes fluctuating at the most inopportune times. Horror stories about the hours teachers put in, especially their first year. Students who are committed to hating reading and/or writing. The unknown perils and just how vast a category that could be.

I also wanted to make sure I didn’t just like the idea because my dad suggested it. As you might have noticed, I think pretty highly of my dad and his ideas. Sometimes it’s good for me to remind myself that the man once capitalized Hot Dog in the middle of a sentence for no discernible reason. But thinking back, I realized I had completely rejected several perfectly good pieces of career advice from him in the past. The instant and overwhelming feeling of rightness that had accompanied his teaching suggestion was unique.

That 13 hour car ride was all it took to confirm intellectually what I already felt instinctively: I was going to give teaching a try.

Posted in Epic Epicness | 6 Comments

Sometimes when you hit the road, it hits you back

So I’ve been absolutely horrible about documenting my recent travels, which is actually quite a shame since I’ve done some pretty awesome stuff. Hopefully I will convince myself to go back and do a post on such things as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, but for now let’s skip ahead to present day.

Yesterday I left Palo Alto, just outside of San Francisco, around 7:45 a.m Pacific time. This evening I arrived in Monument, just outside of Colorado Springs, about 9:30 p.m. Mountain time. In between I drove over 1,400 miles in about 21 hours, traveling across four (large) states and two time zones and going from an altitude of 0 feet above sea level to 11,158 feet, down to 5,430 feet and back up to 6,975 feet.

I had been dreading this 20+ hour trip pretty much since August, as it is the longest and by far the worst of the entire 4.5 month saga. Unlike several other long drives, I would be doing it alone, plus I would have to divide it into two days and I had no where to stay the first night. Plus there’s the whole driving-through-the-Rockies-in-November thing.

I mentioned to my world traveling sister that I needed a place to sleep somewhere in the general vicinity of Salt Lake City in the hopes that she would be able to work some of her crazy magic. And of course she was. She put me in touch with her friend Sarah, who lives just outside Salt Lake City. Sarah and her family made my trip so much better, not just giving me a place to stay, but making me feel really welcome and sending me off with the most amazing breakfast. Most importantly, they took very good care of my cacti.

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Allow me to introduce my faithful traveling companions who joined me in Phoenix: Jed, Donna, Leo, Josh, Charlie, Toby, C.J., and Sam (not pictured).

The plan for today involved making it to the Denver International Airport by 8 p.m., when Cecily was flying in to see me. Because really we could not be allowed to hit the three month mark of not seeing each other. That is not okay. My original route was about 8.5 hours long and included going north through Wyoming and then back south. That made pretty much no sense to me, but I was prepared to go with it anyway, mostly because it meant visiting my 34th state.

But Sarah’s husband prevailed upon me the error of my ways and convinced me to go south on a state highway through absolutely beautiful country for about two hours until catching I-70. It added 30 minutes to my drive, which again seemed odd since it was actually less miles. But hey, I had some time to kill before I needed to be in Denver and there were no tolls on the alternative route so I was sold.

The drive was incredibly beautiful and I spent several hours wishing Cecily was in my passenger seat with her camera. Then I got on I-70 and began to climb. And climb. And climb. Suddenly there was ice frozen on all of the guardrails. Finally at 10,600 feet I thought I could go no higher. I stopped for dinner and decided to kill some time for a while since I only had 89 miles to go and over 2.5 hours before Cecily’s arrival. INSERT GIANT TACTICAL ERROR HERE.

By the time I left, it was dark and I had just wasted an entire hour of daylight. To my astonishment, my GPS was estimating my time to the airport as one hour and 40 minutes. How could it take that long to go 89 miles on an interstate with a speed limit of 75? I soon found out when to my astonishment the road began to climb even higher. Eventually I entered a tunnel that was 11,158 feet above sea level! And that’s when things got really scary. That’s when we started going down.

Suddenly I’m driving down a mountain in the pitch black with a 7% grade, going around curves I can’t really see. Then I hit construction with lanes so narrow the suggested speed limit was 25. Then I saw the sign for deer crossings. By this time my knuckles are white from my death grip on the steering wheel, my eyes are glued to the tail lights in front of me for some warning of which way the road may curve next, my ears are in a quasi-popped state, the smell of burnt rubber is in the air as I brake to below the speed limit, and I’m taking deep breaths to try and avoid a panic attack. I think I went down around 4,000 feet in elevation in about 50 miles.

Besides being in an accident, it might have been the most terrifying driving experience I have ever had. And yes, it did take me the entire one hour and 45 minutes to get there.

Posted in Travel, Walkabout 2013 | 4 Comments

Moving on up!

A year after taking a deep breath, quitting my corporate job and jumping into the deep end of freelance writing, I’ve finally gotten my act together and created a website for the whole thing. It all started five days ago when I got an inspiration for a header image design (think banner ad for the top of the website) of all things. Pretty soon Cecily was in on the act and she brought the AWESOME that had been somewhat missing from my design. Then I finally started writing down the words to describe my business that have been floating around in my head for the last year.

I’m very excited about the whole thing and can’t wait to hear what you all think of it. But when I give you the link, you’ll understand why there is a bittersweet aspect to it. I’ve grown to love my the1stdraft.com domain over the years of having this blog – so much so that I decided to transfer it to my business website. If you look at the web address for this blog now, you’ll see that it has changed to blog.the1stdraft.com. This will probably mean that I will lose a few readers who have simply bookmarked the address, but hey, maybe they will be delighted to discover that they too can have some of the Megan writing magic.

Anyone who has signed up as a follower to this blog should not be affected by the change, so hopefully you got your email about this post just like normal. I would say if you didn’t to let me know, but in that case you’re probably not reading this right now so I guess we’ll just have to hope for the best.

To make things just a little more confusing, I will also have more of a business type blog on my website. It will be completely separate from this blog and probably slightly less ridiculous. Sad, I know, but we don’t want to scare potential clients away right off the bat, do we? That just means I’ll still be saving all my ridiculousness for this blog, which I know you all are thrilled about.

In conclusion, to reach this blog in the future you should go to blog.the1stdraft.com. If you’re already subscribed, you don’t need to do anything differently. That being said, I would love it if you would go take a look at my new website at the1stdraft.com and share it with anyone and everyone you think might be interested in what I have to offer. Then you can come back here and tell me all about what you think in the comments section of this post. I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

Posted in Epic Epicness | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

My addiction to road trips continues!

Would you believe me if I told you that the reason I haven’t blogged in almost 10 months is that while Cecily and I were driving through Missouri we got sucked into an unstable wormhole and have been trapped in an alternate dimension ever since?

If so, I have a few book recommendations for you.

Spoilers: we made it home! Unfortunately any further disclosure of details would result in this blog not only being taken down, but completely wiped from existence as if it was never there. And I like my gingerbread catastrophe post too much to let that happen.

Onwards to the next adventure, I say! Last night I created a minor uproar by casually mentioning on Facebook that I had just finished packing for a 5 month long trip. Sometimes I forget that just because my thoughts have been obsessed on this trip for so long, doesn’t mean I’ve actually talked about it out loud with everyone I know.

It all started with my sister, who for most of my life has been in the middle of one crazy awesome adventure or another. For the past decade or so, she has been trying to convince me to join her for a bit, first while she was a missionary nurse in Honduras and then when she got married and started living on a boat. I always had one excuse or another, but basically it boiled down to not being able to leave for an extended period of time because I had a) school/work to go to b) a lease I didn’t want to waste or c) both. Late last year I realized that when The Flying Crane left me to go to school in August I would have neither, since I had started working from anywhere with a computer and the Internet. So, finally, I took my sister up on the offer to come and stay with her for a while.

And thus it went: my mom pointed out that I might as well swing by and see them too, I decided to make good on a promise to visit the Chapmans again in Colorado, The Best Friend from college (let’s call her Snickers) vowed to meet me in Vegas…and I was off to the races. Suddenly I was going to be gone until the end of November and let’s be honest, did it really make sense for me to go back to DC then when I would just be going back to my parents’ house for Christmas? And that’s how Megan’s Walkabout 2013 was born.

No, I’m not going to Australia and no, I’m not trying to find myself. It’s just a cool name, and based on the fact that Cecily had never heard of it before, one that needs to be used more often.

Before I go over the whole itinerary, I want you to start humming Flight of the Bumblebee to yourself and picture me taking a deep breath and saying it faster and with more rambling than you thought possible:

First I’m going to Newport, RI for two and a half weeks because that’s where my sister’s boat is and I’ve never been to Rhode Island before and then I may go to Cleveland to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins although I haven’t mentioned this to them yet, then I’m going to my parents’ for the month of September and then to the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque in the beginning of October and actually I’m trying to convince my mom to join me for that leg of the journey so you should tell her it’s a good idea and then I’m meeting Snickers in Vegas for two nights and then we’re driving to her place in San Francisco and then we’re thinking about driving up to Portland to see my Uncles Larry and Greg if they’ll have us and then I’m going to Colorado to spend November with the Chapmans and then go see my friend Kate in Missouri and then back to my parents’ for the holidays and then home to DC by New Year’s.

Now you can say I told you in person because I have babbled through that exact monstrosity of an explanation about 100 times with my friends in DC to explain what in the world I’m actually going to be doing for five whole months.

Well I’m tired now and I hear they get up at 6 a.m. in these parts so I’m just going to summarize my journey today as quickly as possible: $46 in tolls (FORTY-SIX DOLLARS in 7 hours worth of driving), followed by a BL who gave me the valet treatment, a 2-year-old so bursting with excitement that she simply could not stop bouncing, a sister who immediately served up the most fantastic dinner, and an almost-15-month-old who is too young to be so good at giving kisses.

Worth every penny.

Posted in Walkabout 2013 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 16: Mizzou and local cuisine but no iPhone

I’m currently on a 5,000 mile road trip through 15 states with Cecily. The following is an excerpt from today’s post on our blog, destinationinspiration2012.com.

Today we took the very rare opportunity to sleep in a little bit, then headed to Columbia, Missouri, home of Megan’s alma mater, the University of Missouri. Along the way we both agreed that Missouri’s system of labeling their state highways with letters instead of numbers is so weird. Seriously, we saw signs that instructed us to take VV and Y to Emma. That just does not make sense.

Megan also experienced a series of disappointments. First off, her favorite Chinese place of all time apparently burned to the ground in her absence. The world’s best crab rangoon will never be eaten again. Luckily, she was able to recover a little bit with lunch at another favorite local place, Murry’s. From the first time she discovered their steak “sandwich” – which is actually just an amazing 8 ounce cut of meat on top of two pieces of garlic bread – she has been hooked. She lowered her expectations just in case, but that steak was just as fantastic as she remembered.

See here for the complete post!

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