After high school, I went to college because I never thought about doing anything else. As far as I knew, that was the natural progression of life, i.e., after high school, I would go to college.
I worked at my family's recording studio, and paid my tuition with my earnings. Tuition was ridiculously inexpensive by today's standards. I think it was $250 per class, so with three college course and books, it was around $900 per quarter (10 weeks) at UCLA.
I didn’t think much about what I would major in as far as a career choice, because I had known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a writer. In fact, I didn’t really think about writing as a “career” choice, because I was born in 1960, and as far as I knew, I would grow up, marry the man of my dreams who would support me financially, and we would have many babies, and I wouldn’t actually have to have a career. I would care for the babies while he worked, and I would have many leisurely hours to spend writing books under the roof of my beautiful home. At the end of the day, my husband would come home, enfold me in his big, comforting arms, kiss me, and ask me about my day, all the while looking at me with adoring eyes.
Yeah, nope. Didn’t happen. Let’s just say I was quite naive and had no discernment when it came to choosing a life mate. I didn’t choose wisely (except for the two beautiful babies part, which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.) But, I digress.
At UCLA, I decided to major in Philosophy. I loved it, especially Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I skipped my Linguistics class (which would fulfill one of my general education requirements outside of my major), because I was more interested in sitting out in the hallway re-reading Aristotle's book, over and over again. His book was about doing everything in moderation, which was very much the way I lived my life. But, it was also about having the courage to live life that way, and living from the heart, and being a good person.
After three years of joyfully studying Philosophy, I had to take Logic I, in order to graduate with a degree. Logic I was the most illogical course I had ever taken. It was filled with "<" and "> " symbols which replaced/interpreted basic sentence structure. Sentences were no longer written with my beloved words (as a writer who loved words as if they were my children), but symbols! Here’s an example of logic from www.britannica.com:
(Frankly, I would rather complete that last sentence with WTFs rather than wffs. Haha!)
Anyway, I went to my Logic I professor who told me to get tutoring from his assistant. Whenever I went to his assistant’s office (which was daily) she was never there. I had a fast approaching test, and still knew absolutely nothing about logic. So, I quit and enrolled in a different class.
Someone told me that I should change my major to Computer Science, because this was the way of the future. So I did. By golly, I would get serious about a career path! I would become a Computer Scientist!
The first day in class, Computer Science 101, we were to learn how to create a login name and password on the computer. I remember I used my name and my birthdate, which is exactly what we are told never to use these days. The computer was huge, but it did have a keyboard. I did exactly as instructed by my professor, and when I hit the button to enter my information, the computer went nuts! It started scrolling and scrolling by itself. The professor couldn’t even figure out how to fix it. The next day when I came back, that computer was still scrolling, and they couldn’t even get it to shut down! I was told by the professor, in a less than cordial tone, to leave the class and take another course.
The next day, to appease myself and rethink my college education, I went to the UCLA library to do some research on my favorite topic: the life and times of Sir Francis Bacon, who was a Philosopher and Statesman in the late 1500s-1600s, and Keeper of the Keys for Queen Elizabeth, and who, my Grandmother Bacon told me, was one of our ancestors. I truly believed he wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare, and set out to prove it by writing a book about it. I decided to skip the manual card catalog to find books, and tried my hand at the new computer catalog. I sat down and pressed a key according to the instructions on the computer. Immediately the computer started scrolling, just as it had done in my Computer Science class. In fact, not only my computer screen was scrolling, but ALL of the computers in the library began scrolling rapidly by themselves, with no one at the stations. I was terrified, and grabbed my backpack and got out of there as quickly as possible, as I was sure I would be blamed for “breaking” the computer system.
This lead to my next step. I would go back to my first love--words--and changed my major to English Literature. I packed my schedule with English Literature classes, and at one point was reading 2,000 pages per week, sleeping 3 hours a night, in order to finish my major. I’d already been in school for four years at this point, and would be lucky to graduate after my fifth year.
During my last final exam, in class with my all time favorite professor, Paul Sellin, he began handing out our final papers that we had written for his class, "Victorian Literature and Prose." Because of my “failures” in Philosophy and Computer Science, (and I forgot to mention my short stint with a Geology major, which ended in a D- test in calculus), I had been steered back to my greatest love, words, and I wrote my final paper in his class on the subject of “The Seductive Quality of Sir Francis Bacon’s Rhetoric.” Our assignment was to write a paper on the seductive quality of Victorian literature and prose, which was filled with all kinds of naughty and scandalous writings. There were plenty of obvious things to write about. But, I chose to write about Sir Francis Bacon (my other great love). Sir Francis’ essays were notoriously dry and boring. However, when I read them, I felt myself seduced/lulled into believing the perspectives that he shared on the driest of topics, such as an essay titled, "Of Travel."
Professor Sellin walked around the classroom as we took our final exam. I sat in the back of the room, always the shy student. He said, “One person in this class has written an exceptional paper. I wish more students would take a chance and write like this.” He then said, “Thank you, Summer Bacon,” as he handed me my A+ final paper.
So, all the while I thought I was a failure, just scraping by to graduate from college with at least a 3.0 (B) grade point average, as if that mattered at all. What truly mattered was that I was, by the grace of God, steered back to the life I was intended to live, engaging with my heart’s desire, which was to write. I’d taken a chance on writing that paper, not giving the professor what I thought he wanted from me, but giving him what I wanted to show him about myself. And, guess what? It worked. He loved it. And, dare I say, I believe he felt validated as a professor. It was because of his influence and safe and nurturing environment that I felt bold enough to take a chance.
Sometimes failure is just a sign post that says, “Don’t go down that dark alley way. It’s a dead end.” The smile on Professor Paul Sellin’s face, and the validation he provided me, was enough to catapult me right back into my heart, so that I would never forget who I am. I left college with a 3.0 grade point (barely), but I graduated with Honors. Not the kind of Honors that come with a gold tassel on my graduation cap, but Honors of knowing that someone saw and acknowledged the real me.