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April 26, 2017

Why I’m Thankful for My History Degree

Earlier this week, I was invited to speak at a university about the craft of history and how I’ve used my skills and knowledge to thrive outside the traditional bounds of academia.

Seeing as how my business celebrated two years of profit and growth this month, I thought it would be a fun time to talk to these students about their hopes for the future and what the discipline of history has taught them so far. For those who aren’t aware, my company, Heritage Creatives, is a one-stop-shop for companies looking to preserve their stories for current and future stakeholders and leverage their organizational histories for branding or marketing purposes. It was exciting to see a robust group of thoughtful and interested students who, despite being bombarded with the notion that they should study something more “useful”, have chosen to pursue their passions.

In an era when anti-intellectualism is once again on the rise, I wanted to empower these kids who have chosen to take a degree that many view as unnecessary to our current society. I’m a tireless proponent of STEM, especially when it comes to getting more women students in these disciplines, but I also believe liberal educations are essential to our continued success as an enlightened, forward-moving society.

The value of liberal educations is being challenged constantly these days. Lots of universities are trying to lessen the number of liberal arts courses required within general education by arguing that students should have more courses related to their intended major (an argument that’s particularly popular with disciplines outside liberal arts), or that they should be more focused on vocational skills. I should point out that these arguments are coming from institutions that have historically been devoted to liberal arts, rather than those where students would naturally expect to get more technically-focused educations.

The thing people don’t always realize about liberal education is that “liberal” in this context isn’t the antonym of conservative; it is the antonym of constraint. Studying things like history, literature, psychology, philosophy, or the physical sciences may not be the most direct path to a career in this day and age, but these disciplines provide something far more important in the long run: freedom. Liberal educations teach graduates how to think critically, communicate effectively, seek answers to complex questions, understand the world around them, and develop a thirst for learning that lasts the length of their lives. Liberal educations help motivated students transcend intelligence and move toward intellect. Being a free-thinking society isn’t something that’s easily achieved or maintained; it takes constant vigilance and the commitment of citizens invested in life-long learning.

I’m incredibly proud of the education I received (and continue to receive) as a student of history, not because it enabled me to make millions of dollars or gain notoriety, but because I have the tools needed to always be free.

 

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2016

English language, a love affair.

One of the abiding glories of English is that it has no governing authority, no group of august worthies empowered to decree how words may be spelled and deployed. We are a messy democracy, and all the more delightful for it. We spell eight as we do not because that makes sense, but because that is the way we like to spell it. When we tire of a meaning or usage or spelling – when we decide, for example, that masque would be niftier as mask – we change it, not by fiat but by consensus. The result is a language that is wonderfully fluid and accommodating, but also complex, undirected and often puzzling – in a word, troublesome.

– my main man, Bill Bryson.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Temperance.

moving

Five months ago today, I boarded a plane bound for America. It wasn’t unlike the one I had stepped onto over three years prior, except that one was crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction (with a sojourn in Iceland, but that’s a story for another day). So let’s go back.

At the ripe age of 23 I was certain I had wrung all the life out of Nashville, the city I had called home for the past six years. Those four years of college had been great, but two short stints in the real world had left me disenchanted and served as all the confirmation I needed that it was time for a new adventure. As a typical Millennial, my understanding of patience was thin at best.

So I left. I packed my bags (and a subpar bicycle unworthy of that $100 oversized baggage fee) and moved to England. One year into my residency, I was asked in a job interview how I saw the next five years of my life panning out. I answered with conviction and confidence: I’m building a new life in England, of course. I was in it for the long haul.

Sitting here two years later typing away in the back yard of my Nashville home, you can appreciate the ever-so-slight sense of irony. As I process my three years spent in England and start to unpack those experiences, I find myself at a fork in the road. I could sit here and tell you the well-worn story of leaving, only to find out everything I was looking for was here all along.

But that’s boring, overdone and also not true in my case.

As it turns out, the thing I needed to find was temperance. Tempering the whims of youth is a dangerous business, for all too often we, the generation of all or nothing, struggle to find the middle ground.

I’ve always been known as being somewhat fearless. I relish the challenge of accomplishing something I really shouldn’t. For reasons unknown, this has usually worked in my favor (save for that time I decided to be a middle-school girls’ lacrosse referee having never played – or even seen – a game before. Did I mention I also had bronchitis and slept in my car through the entire orientation?)

The move to England felt logical; it was the next step in my great adventure and, as in the tale my father often recounts of the day my parents dropped me off at my freshman dorm, I never looked back. While the specifics of my time overseas are for another story, by now you’ve probably realized all did not go to plan.

Coming home to America, I struggled to find a clear sense of purpose for the first time in my life. I was battered, tired and experiencing a new and very foreign emotion: fear.

One week after moving back to Nashville, I wrote with more conviction than I felt:

At the start of 2015, I find myself newly single, living in America after three years abroad, relocating to a familiar yet foreign city, starting a business and entering my late twenties. For this reason, I will be patient with myself. Tonight I had a bottle of wine. Tonight I had two dinners. Tonight I painted a corner of my room for no other reason than I wanted to set up my bookcase and color coordinate the books lining its shelves, and this unpainted wall was pissing me off. Through all of this, I choose to embrace my surroundings. I choose to say I am moving forward, even if that means eating refrigerated pasta at 2am while organizing my books by ROY-G-BIV. I choose to say that though I am fearful, I will carry on.

Three months into relocating to the city where this story began, I am far from understanding the implications of these clips strung together in the lines above. I am far from having a neatly packaged story to tell about the last three years of my life. The lessons emerging, however, are quiet and small understandings of humility, patience and temperance. As I rebuild a life in Nashville, how can I be courageous yet not impulsive? What does it look like to carry on in spite of (and hell, to spite) fear? What does it mean to find myself starting anew in the same city I left three years prior?

Time will tell.

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