big words

I was strolling through B&N one day and noticed that in the SAT prep section there were new materials, which were not part of my SAT study path. I had a tinge of jealousy seeing "SAT word" novels on the shelf. The titles like BUSTED and HEAD OVER HEELS accompanied cheesy cover art and promised stories of love and mystery among high school students. These "novels" are written around common vocab. words found on the SAT and those words even appear in bold type within the text. I was jealous because even though I have a BA in English Lang. and Lit. and love to read, I hated and struggled with reading throughout elementary, middle and high school.

My majoring in English was a surprise even to myself because I entered college loathing reading and writing. I even went to the writing center on campus to get assistance with my early college papers and I would come out knowing I had much work ahead of me. I was originally going to major in Psychology thinking that I needed this background for teaching. But, my heart was never in Psychology and when one of the best professors I ever had gave me a C, it pushed me to make a change.

He was one of the best professors, not because of his teaching, but because of our talks during my office visits. I went to him often for help because I was failing his class. He became my friend and gave me guidance. I learned about his family and his struggles in college and he helped me see that my world was not, in fact, collapsing around me. We didn't talk much about the class I was taking from him, these were more like therapy sessions. The strange thing about his role in my life that semester (and even later when I would go and visit with him) is that his specialty was in learning and cognition and he worked primarily with mice. He wasn't trained for the sessions we had and when he handed me chemwipes as I cried during my first visit, I knew he would be my friend.

After a few sessions in his office, the semester was ending and it was time for the final exam. I rocked the socks off of my final, but he still gave me a C for the course, I was one point away from a B- and passing the class. I was heartbroken and felt betrayed. When I went to see him after winter break to discuss my grade, he didn't flinch although he had previously and quietly said he would help me if I made a good enough grade on the final. I left his office quietly and quickly that day, there was no therapy session to work me through this one and I wasn't that upset, surprisingly. He knew what he was doing; he knew my heart was not in Psychology.

With the threat of having to retake that Psychology class to finish the major looming in the distance, I went on with my other classes. While studying THE EPIC OF GILAMESH for an anthropology class with a friend, I realized I had to change my major. I loved the analysis of psychology, but I hated the science of it. English, this is where I could find the analysis I craved without any science to confuse my brain. I crammed every English class available into my schedule. I stuck to mostly poetry classes as I thought this was my passion. I think part of me really liked how short poems where. I was still a little afraid of all that reading. But, I couldn't avoid it forever and I'm so glad that I had to read books like A RAISIN IN THE SUN, AS I LAY DYING, DROWN, NATIVE SON, CYMBELINE, THE COLOR PURPLE, and THE BLUEST EYE.

I wasn't the best at reading all the assigned readings. "Sir Gawain" and Chaucer didn't excite me and there were Colonial American passages that put me to sleep, literally. I still struggle with my love/ hate relationship with reading. I wish I were voracious at it. I think it's partly that it takes time for stories to unfold. I wish I could finish books in one sitting like a movie, but I read slowly. I read every word and say each one silently in my head. I know there are speed-reading methods, but I don't want to skip over words, I just wish I could read every word, faster.

A few years ago, I started a book journal where I write character maps and synopses of the books I read. It's an idea from my 10th grade English teacher and I find it good for me. I have physical proof that I've read a book and it jogs my memory if I can't remember a plot line or character details. In the beginning of the journal I noted words I needed to look up, big words not in my daily vocab. This lasted for about 3 books (OK just 1 really) and then the words I didn't know disappeared from the entries as if I've mastered the English Lang. Hardly, I just got lazy, realizing I probably would never use or see those big words again and just began to skim over them. But, sometimes, I crave bigger words in my head and I wonder if I read "SAT vocab." novels, would I cognize the context clues, ascertain the definitions and ameliorate my conversations? I doubt it.

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