The other day, I was telling a story to one of my close friends and I haven’t really been able to get it off my mind since then.
So, what do I do? Write about it of course.
When I was in college, I had an adjunct professor who came from the great University of Texas.
I say it like this because, well, I went to a tiny little private school. Getting anyone from such a school like UT is like being in the presence of a celebrity.
But this guy sure did act like he was hot stuff. Not in the “I’m so good-looking” kind of way, but more like “I’m better than you, I am an award winning screenwriter and journalist” yadda yadda yadda. Yawn.
I really didn’t care, and honestly I made that super clear in all the classes he taught during the one school year (semesters Fall 2014 & Spring 2015).
The reason why I wasn’t pawning after him like all the other journalists was because I had him in one of my first classes of the semester. It was a Tuesday morning. Bright and early – 9:30 a.m. to be exact.
And yes, that is early for a college student. Ah, to go back to those days. LOL
Anyway, like 90% of my journalism classes, we were required to have a blog for this class. It could be one we already started, or we could create a new one. I had already started one from other classes and that was always the one I chose to continue off of. It was like my journalism portfolio.
I tried to delete it, but it could still be out there on the interwebs right now. Cringe at that thought.
I keep getting off track, but I promise this is going somewhere.
So, we were to write a real journalism story, turn it in, let it get critiqued by our professor, and then write a blog post. That was the assignment for the week.
The worst thing about writing stories in this class was that we had to talk about them in front of the class after we had them “graded” per se.
I got my story back with a ton of red markings and when we talked about my paper, I feel like my professor purposefully sought me out to tear me down.
He essentially questioned why I was a journalist – or was majoring in the subject.
He told me everything that was wrong, and when I tried to defend myself, I was shot down again.
I don’t like to act entitled, but I also don’t like being called out in front of my peers.
I was embarrassed. Ashamed. Disappointed.
And did you know what my blog post was about that week?
I knew my professor was going to read it, and normally I would not try to stir up something, especially in a class, but I couldn’t help myself.
I had been questioned for my motives… over a story I wrote for the paper, and recycled for this class. (I asked if I could do that before I actually did it).
Not only did I write about the disappointment I received from my professor, but I also scanned my paper with all those intimidating red markings – those red editing marks that haunted me – and I flaunted that shit like I owned it.
After all, I couldn’t be any more embarrassed than I already was. We were to publish our blog posts by Thursday at 11:59 p.m. and talk about them the following Tuesday.
Did I mention this was a very involved class? Lots of talking, debating and teaching.
Tuesday rolled around and I was one of the first to get to class – like usual.
I just hate being late, and if you’re exactly on time, you’re LATE in my opinion. Lol.
Professor was always late. He drove from Austin and sometimes even on a motorcycle.
I hate when people brag about things I just don’t bother to care about.
And like clockwork, I knew I would be the first blog post to be talked about – and sure enough – he pulled it up on the big screen. And that is exactly what we talked about.
So this was like 3 years ago and I honestly cannot tell you exactly what was said. I’m going to paraphrase.
He asked me why I wrote this post – and I told him, I was offended and embarrassed. And I blog about things that are passionate to me. It seems more real, especially when it’s happening in real-time.
And I will never forget the question he asked me after that: Then why don’t you apply that passion to your journalism stories?
I asked, what? And he told me, the reason he tore my story apart was because it lacked passion. It was a cut and dry story… but this blog post – something that was so out of my comfort zone – this was considered passion to him.
He honestly could not have cared less that I essentially called him out.
And in that moment, I understood.
He purposefully started a fire within me so that I would deliver what he wanted. What he could see in me as potential, but it just wasn’t cutting it for him as a journalist himself.
Yes, I get rage-y. Yes, I find my release in my writing.
And yes, I was beyond embarrassed that he called me out that first time in class. I was more embarrassed that I had turned in passionless work. For someone who craves passion, and tries to radiate it from the inside out… I was ashamed.
But I knew in that moment what I needed to do.
Fast forward to the next semester…
I was in a screenwriting class. I used to want to be a screenwriter. Be famous from behind the scenes. Not anymore, though.
I had the same professor. We ended up getting along really well, despite our first couple of weeks rocky start.
I sought him out for advice, and he was actually really funny. He knew what he was talking about, though I still saw him as a little arrogant.
From the first semester’s class, he told us all that he never gives out 100s as grades. He said there is no such thing as perfection, but you can get close – with 99s and 98s.
I honestly didn’t really pay much attention to that – it’s like 1-2 points. No biggie.
Screenwriting was my favorite class. We met once a week for three hours, watched a 2 hour movie, talked about it and then usually left early. Some days we wouldn’t watch anything and do hands-on work. Some days we would read other movie scripts.
Maybe I am just a nerd, but it was all fun to me.
Our final for this class was coming around, and we were to write a short-film script. 25 pages. It sounds bad, but in script form, that is short. Mine was a little longer than that.
And I am usually a bare-minimum type of gal.
I turned it in, and some of my peers asked what the highest grade was since he never gave out 100s. He said there was one person who got a 98. Ohhhhh-kay. I didn’t care.
He passed our portfolios back, and I opened mine to see a 98.
One of my peers and friends in the class looked over and said “you made the highest grade in the class – probably because you’re a teacher’s pet.”
That infuriated me. I wasn’t a teachers pet. I looked up to this professor because he had taught me so much. It wasn’t because I was looking for a high grade.
And I looked at him and said, actually it’s because ever since I took his class last semester in a different subject, I only ever write with passion. He taught me that. I don’t turn in anything less, because it shames me. Maybe if you learned that technique, you would have gotten a 99.
Or not, I didn’t care.
One of my favorite professors was one who I started out despising. My favorite classes were taught by him and I learned so much.
I tried so hard to get him to be the journalism advisor, but my school wasn’t having it.
It was sad. I learned more in that year than I can remember.
I was in the presence of greatness – haha, just kidding.
But that professor taught me that passion beats perfection any day – and since you will never be perfect, you might as well strive for that passion day in and day out.
Don’t settle for anything less. Speak up for what you believe. Drive that passion out into the real world – whether it be speaking, writing, singing, dancing – you name it. You do it.
Passion is what proves your worth. Passion is what gets you where you need to go.
This story was a lot longer than I anticipated, but it serves a good purpose. I hope this message reaches people who need it.
And most of all, I hope you find your passion. And don’t ever let it dull.
I was so thankful to have someone push that passion out of me, so I figured I could do the same for anyone else who may need it.
Signed and delivered,